Dare To Do What You Want To Do
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
I OFTEN hear it said that there are two classes of men—those who talk, and those who do. I also hear it said that the talkers fail; and that the doers succeed. For many years, I thought this was a wise old saying well worth repeating, until I realized that the men who repeat it most often are the talkers who spend much of their time telling others not to talk.
Both talkers and doers have failed in life ! And talkers, as well as doers, have succeeded greatly !
It is not talking or doing, but an "impelling consciousness," which determines success. By that term I mean consciousness so moved by desire to do what it most wants to do, that it dares to do it, and is spiritually honest about it.
Such a state of consciousness is mothered by courage and sired by daring. Courage is its mother—for it stabilizes and holds itself ready to defend its own. Daring is its father—for it is the spiritual masculinity which dares to do what it wants to do.
Thus, we return to the first personal determinant of success, individual freedom. The courage to proclaim and defend what one believes and the daring to do what one most wants to do, are the bases of greatness.
Others are recognizing this truth. A noted authority, Dr. Robinson, who has lately made an extended study of the lives of several great men, classified the qualities possessed by each. He finds that there is one, and only one, character quality which is common to all the great men whose lives he studied. It is courage, the "daring to be free."
The old saying that the doers succeed, and that the talkers fail, is not wholly true.
Whether they are talkers or doers, those who fear to defend their convictions and fear to do what they most wish to do, are always failures.
Those who have the courage to proclaim and defend their ideals, and the daring to do that which they most want to do, are the great successes.
Several great thinkers and talkers have rendered great service to the world and have become exceptional successes. For instance, William Jennings Bryan stands out as the most persistent, year-in-and-year-out talker the world has known. For thirty years he did little else but talk. Yet he succeeded greatly; as a leader he dominated the political party of which he was a member for more than a generation.
He rendered two great services: on the one hand, being the greatest talker, he led the nation to become rather tired of talking politicians, and this is a great service to us—a democratic people—for we are too prone to depend on talk. On the other hand, be-cause of his sublime courage, his personal sincerity, and his persistent and continuous advocacy of progressive policies, he did more to advance economic legislation and political and governmental procedure, than any other one statesman has done from the time of Lincoln to the present day. Bryan was a talking leader, but it was his courage to stand by his beliefs and his daring to pre-sent his convictions—whether about the crime of gold in 1896, or the crime of the monkey in 1926—which made him a success.
In contrast to Bryan, another great national leader of the same generation, has done much, and talked little. He has talked so little that the public does not yet realize the great service he has rendered to us and the world. If I should attempt to list the accomplishments of his thirty-five years of service, I would need a book to do it. If I here list but a few of the great things he did in one short period of two years only, you will be astounded, first because one man did so much so remarkably well, and second, because he talked so little about the work he did that we do not realize that he did it.
He was appointed to save a nation.
In thirty months, he created a self-governing democracy out of a people who had been enslaved under a brutal autocracy for 300 years. In two years, he formulated a national school system out of nothing to begin with ; he built two public school houses in every community of 500 people, although previously there had not been even one public school house in the entire country ! He secured school attendance of one-sixth of the entire population; he used one-fourth of the nation's revenues for educational work, and established the system so efficiently that the proportion of illiteracy decreased 52 per cent in six years.
In twenty-four months he changed the country—four times as large as Belgium—from the "pesthole of the world," as it had been called, to a health resort, and established his work of sanitation so permanently that the death rate a generation later continued to be less than that of the state of New York.
He supervised : the drafting of a national democratic constitution for a nation just emerging from centuries of oppression; the re-codification of a nation's laws and the re-organization of an entire national system of judicial procedure; the drafting of the first railway law enacted by a democratic nation providing for efficient regulation of private railways by the people; the drafting of the first national charities law; and the first constitutional provision compelling a nation to maintain, sanitary conditions favorable to national health.
Between one Christmas and the next, he re-established and extended a nation's telegraph system, he carried the telephone to rural communities where telephones were previously unknown; he re-organized a national postal system, increasing the number of postoffices 90 per cent and managing them so well that the postal system made a profit equal to 17 per cent of the nation's internal taxation.
In one year he established homes for the aged ; founded modern reformatory trade schools; established model asylums for the, insane ; founded model orphans' homes ; and—with all his other duties—took time to supervise, personally, the adoption of orphans by private families !
He reduced the national police force from 240,000 men costing $7,000,000 each year, to 1,400 men costing but a few thousand dollars. He completely overhauled the prisons of the nation, built model sanitary buildings in four months, and introduced as humane methods as any existing in the world.
He improved every harbor of the country; built wharves, docks, piers, and lighthouses; he constructed sewerage systems and water-works in each large city of the nation; built aqueducts ; improved the national highways ; and initiated the construction of a system of national railways.
NO, we were not taxed millions of dollars so that he could work these miracles!
Instead, he created the necessary means!
When he took charge, the country was a devastated agricultural nation, which had been impoverished by a generation of war-fare and brigandage. It had neither pass-able roads, nor means of communication, nor money, nor credit. For decades its expenditures had exceeded its revenues. Its treasury was bankrupt. Yet, in twelve months, he led its people to such prosperity, and so efficiently managed its national finances, that the country's revenues exceeded its expenditures. And, in two years, he had so developed the country's ruined industries and commerce that its custom duties provided 95 per cent of the nation's revenues, furnishing ample means for his gigantic improvements, which were paid for out of the revenues, in addition to reducing the internal taxation from $25 to 90 cents for each person!
Who is the doer who has done these wonders, and where did he do them?
The man is Leonard Wood. The place is Cuba. He is the doer who has done so much and talked so little of what he has done that it is probable we shall never realize the immensity of the service he has rendered.
Wood stands preeminent as the great nontalking-doer of the last fifty years, just as Bryan stands preeminent as the non-doing talker! Each, a great man; each, a great leader. Each attained phenomenal success in his own line.
And, just as it was not Bryan's talking which made him a success-for thousands of men talk and fail—but his courage and his daring, so, it was not solely his doing which made Leonard Wood the great success, but his courage and daring to do the things which others said could not be done !
The man, who has the courage to believe that he can accomplish miracles when others say it is impossible, the man who has the daring to do that which is necessary to turn his dreams into realities—such a man always succeeds, and succeeds greatly!
During the last fifty years, we have had another great leader, who differed from Bryan and differed from Wood. He was a composite leader. He swayed the country by words as few men have moved it; he lifted business to ethical heights it had never before attained; he inspired the people to dare to place human rights above property right.
Differing from Bryan, he was a great doer. He was the police commissioner of the largest city of America, an idolized leader in war; a great national executive; perhaps, our most strenuous doer ! Differing from Wood, he was a great talking leader, an effective orator, a prolific writer, and, a prolific user of the press. He was our great talking-doer, and doing-talker.
Perhaps in no other great leader have we such a remarkable combination. What Roosevelt did is so well known, that I need not attempt to mention here his great services.
But, what made him great 7 What is common to Bryan, to Wood, to Roosevelt? The sublime courage of each in upholding his ideals and the divine daring to do that which each most desired to do.
Perhaps no man in our public life has been quite so frankly daring as Roosevelt. No matter what the consequences to himself, if he felt there was something to be done, he did it.
A clever politician, he hungered for applause, yet, if something needed to be done, he did it, even though at the time he knew that the action would arouse criticism of himself, and cost him popular support.
For instance, when he saw the rush for wealth and the lack of daily faith in God, he felt that it was sacrilegious for us to use "In God We Trust" on our coinage; and he had the courage to dare to do what he felt should be done to awaken our people to greater spiritual consciousness of trust in God. As President, he then had the right to order that that inscription be removed from our coinage.
Two days before publicly announcing his order, he said in substance to an intimate friend, "It will create a furore. People will criticize me bitterly and denounce me, but the order will bring a great spiritual awakening. Next Sunday every minister in the land will be preaching `In God We Trust' from his pulpit. Congress will pass a law forbidding its removal. As a people we shall have a truer concept of our trust and dependence on God."
Marvelous daring ! The courage to do what he knew needed to be done !
More daring still was his frank assertion that he wanted to be President! I know of no other candidate for that office who has dared, publicly, to admit such a desire. Usually, a candidate is "willing to accept the Presidency, if it is thrust on him by the people!"
And, soon after election, every other Chief Executive of the White House has "let it be known" that the Presidency was a burden, that he cared not overmuch for the position, and that he preferred private life. But, Roosevelt had the courage of frankness and the daring of true honesty. Of his Presidency, he said, "I have had a bully time ! I have enjoyed every minute of it!"
Roosevelt was not a profound thinker. He, himself, was certain that he possessed only such qualities as are possessed by ordinary men. Yet, he was a great leader—a very great leader. Our recognition of his greatness is due to his continuous activity, his definite ideas of right, and his courageous daring to do what he knew to be right.
When he believed in an idea he had the courage to declare it, the heroism to stand by it, and the daring to do whatever was necessary to make that ideal become an actuality. Whether or not men agreed with him, they loved him for his moral courage, and it is this which inspires and helps us.
The stories of the lives of great men have always been helpful to me, and I used to wonder why. I knew that I could not imitate the lives of others, and yet, I always found "something" in the life story of every great man—something, which was inspiring and helpful.
Now, I recognize that the story of a great leader is helpful, because it reveals this truth—courageous daring is the primal determinant of success. The life story of each great leader awakens in us the impelling consciousness — that consciousness which dares to be free enough to do what it most wants to do. It dares you to succeed.
And, the lives of young men who dare—young men who are living today—inspire us as much as the stories of men who succeeded yesterday. I know many of them—young men—who are daring to succeed, and who are succeeding because they dare to do what they want to do. Each such success, whether that of a poor emigrant boy, or that of a rich man's son, is due primarily to daring ! And, sometimes, it requires more enduring courage for a rich man's son to do what he wants to do, than it does for a poor boy to hew his own path to success.
A few years ago at the close of an address I was delivering one evening, a youthful reporter from The New York Times came to the platform to interview me. As I turned from others and glanced at his face, I was astounded—for I recognized that he was the son of one of the Vanderbilts. He did not know that I knew who he was, and I gave no sign that I knew.
When the interview was finished—as one usually asks the name of the newspaper reporter who interviews one—I casually said, "And your name?"
Oh, it would have been so easy for that young man to have replied Smith, or Jones, or Brown ! But, he did not ! His boyish smile did not change, but the sensitive eye became steel, and with seeming indifference, he answered, "Vanderbilt." I knew that it took courage for him to do so, because on the one hand, hundreds of people were trying to "make use" of him, and because on the other hand, the press of the country was then ridiculing him as a toy man, a mere pretender, who was "playing" that he wanted to do a man's work in the world.
So, when he answered "Vanderbilt," I merely nodded my head as though it meant nothing to me, showing no more interest than I would have shown if he had said Robinson, or Johnson, or McGuire. But I was interested. I wondered if he would make good. I knew he possessed the daring of the moment, necessary to get into the game of life, but I wondered whether or not he possessed the enduring courage necessary to hold on for years.
I knew the obstacles which would be placed in his way—the bitter criticism, the scoffing, and even the sneering. I knew the difficulty he would have in holding a position, and in having his work accepted. I knew that he would be accused of wishing to exploit his name. I knew that few people would take him seriously, and I knew the divine courage -necessary to meet such an attitude—for, to bear up and keep on, when people laugh at you because they think you're only a toy-man, requires greater courage than it does to bear up under a great sorrow!
I was interested in watching young Vanderbilt's effort. I was interested, because I knew that he would not succeed unless he possessed soul-enduring courage, and the persistent daring which continues from day to day and year to year.
In spite of the opposition of his family, the ridicule of the press, the distrust of his ability by editors, the sneers of co-workers, he has kept on, working as few other men have worked—plugging, plugging, many hours a day—for seven years, at the time of this writing. Even when efforts were made to sweep away the business he built up, and when those efforts were in part successful, it did not down him.
He continued to dare to go on, and he is succeeding, succeeding in doing that which he most wishes to do—to stand on his own feet, to be a man independent of inherited income, a creator of new value to be added to the name, Vanderbilt.
Day by day it is becoming more certain that, when all other things are swept away, daring is the one quality necessary to again attain to success. The man who dares, succeeds.
You have probably read many of the books written by Orison Swett Marden. His books are inspiring, but one experience of one of his relatives means more to me than all the inspirational books ever written. It is the story of a man who lost all he possessed materially—not only money but position—in the panic of 1907.
Before that panic, he was president of a large insurance company of the middle west. He was one of the "moneyed men." His position was important. But, peculiar conditions during the panic tied up the affairs of his company to such an extent that he sacrificed all he had, rather than let the stockholders suffer. So, in 1907, he lost everything, except courage, and pride, and the desire to provide for his family.
He came back to New York with no mans —not even enough to keep his family for a month.
In prosperous times, a dozen positions would have been offered him, but-because of the panic—no executive positions were available. Every company had cut down expenditures to the lowest limit, so that they would not be forced into bankruptcy. Even old employees were kept on half pay. So, what chance had a new man, seeking a position—and an executive position at that?
There seemed to be no chance, but the former president screwed up his courage, banished all false pride, and began at the bottom, as an agent for one of the large insurance companies. He started up Broad-way, visiting every office on the way—actually canvassing from door to door.
That took courage!
It was the courage of divine daring—the daring to do what he most wanted to do—to provide for the immediate needs of his family !
Speaking to me of that first day, he said, "It was hard, of course, to think that I, the former president of a company, to whom men came for advice and direction-and that I, who had handled millions of dollars —was compelled to canvass from door to door. But, I knew that I must live. I had my family, and, thank God, I had the courage to do it."
Today, he is eminently successful, and is making at least two hundred and fifty thou-sand dollars a year !
Many men have come to me. Some have been despairing failures; others have been great successes—in business, in govern-mental affairs, and in the management of great organizations.
In the case of every failure, I have found that FEAR is the cause of the failure!
In every case of success, I have found that sublime courage—the daring to do what one most wants to do—is the cause of success!
If each soul dared to do what it most wants to do, dared to do the work it most de-sires to do, there would be no poverty and no failure. If you are failing in anything, dare to be yourself—dare to prepare for the work you most want to do!
Dare to succeed!
And you will succeed!