( Originally Published 1879 )
MANY do with opportunity as children do at the sea-shore; they fill their little hands with sand, then let the grains fall through one by one, till they are all gone.
Four things come not back; the spoken word; the sped arrow; the past life; and the neglected opportunity. Opportunity has hair in front, behind she is bald; if you seize her by the forelock you may hold her, but if suffered to escape, not Jupiter himself can catch her again. Opportunities are the offers of God. Heaven gives us enough when it gives us opportunity. Great opportunities are generally the result of the wise improvement of small ones. Wise men make more opportunities than they find. If you think your opportunities are not good enough, you had better improve them. Remember you are responsible for talents, for time, and for opportunities; improve them as one that must give an account. Make hay while the sun shines. Gather roses while they bloom.
As a general rule, those who have no opportunities despise small ones; and those who despise small opportunities never get large ones.
Opportunity does not only do great work, but if not heeded is often most disastrous.
A shipmaster once said, "It was my lot to fall in with the ill-fated steamer, the 'Central America.' The night was closing in, the sea rolling high; but I hailed the crippled steamer, and asked if they needed help. 'I am in a sinking condition,' cried Captain Herndon, 'Had you not better send your passengers on board directly?' I said. 'Will you not lay by me till morning?' answered Captain Herndon. 'I will try,' I replied; 'but had you not better send your passengers on board Now ?' 'Lay by me till morning,' again said Captain Herndon. I tried to lay by him; but at night such was the heavy roll of the sea I could not keep my position, and I never saw the steamer again. In an hour and a half after the captain said 'Lay by me till morning,' the vessel, with its living freight, went down —the captain and crew, and a great majority of passengers, found a grave in the deep." There is so little time for over-squeamishness, at present the opportunity slips away; the very period of life at which a man chooses to venture, if ever, is so confined that it is no bad rule to preach up the necessity, in such instances, of a, little violence done to the. feelings, and of efforts made in defiance of strict and sober calculation and not pass one opportunity after another.
What may be done at anytime, will be done at no time. Take time while time is, for time will away, say the English. When the fool has made up his mind, the market has gone by; Spanish. A little too late, much too late; Dutch. Some refuse roast meat. and after-wards long for the smoke of it; Italian.
There is sometimes wanting only a stroke of fortune to discover numberless latent good or bad qualities, which would otherwise have been eternally concealed; as words written with a certain liquor appear only when applied to the fire.
Accident does very little toward the production of any great result in life. Though sometimes what is called a "happy hit" may be made by a bold venture, the old and common highway of steady industry and application is the only safe road to travel.
It is not accident, that helps a man in the world, but purpose and persistent industry. These make a man sharp to discern opportunities, and turn them to account. To the feeble, the sluggish, and purposeless, the happiest opportunities avail nothing—they pass them by, seeing no meaning in them.