This is not the class of men to be warned. These
are not victims of regularity ; they are missionaries to
it. Others, however, who believe that the present form
of regularity is the eternal pattern, who are in nervous
fear of being so regular that they succeed only in being
stupid, to them there might be given a stimulus to forego
the bugaboo Reputation, and let their native decent
impulses expand to fill the pattern they were meant
Depression, First Step
Back to Normalcy
TIMES of piping prosperity are often bad for busi-
ness. Strange as it may sound, this statement will
appear very plain and true upon a little consideration.
We may say what we please about the business condi-
tions which have hit the country during the last two
months, but the real damage was done when everybody
said that everything was lovely and the goose hung
By the same token, this period of depression through
which we have been going has been good for business.
The best thing that could have happened it did not
happen too soon. Business is on a better basis today
than it was three months ago ; it will be on a better basis
next month than it would have been had not a halt
These are simple ideas, but they are worth turning
You can see the good effects of poor business by
just looking at the stores, the corner stores, and the big
downtown concerns. It was not long ago that the ordi-
nary frugal buyer was somewhat in contempt. ( lerks
caught the contagion of the profiteers, and it was "Buy
it or leave it'' almost wherever you went. The morale
of salespeople slumped at a terrific rate, and that is a
pretty serious thing for business.
Not so very long ago the coal merchant sat in his
office with the air of a king dispensing favors. His
attitude in many cases was, "I don't know whether 1
will sell you or not I'll think it over." It was bad
for him and for his customers, \\lu-n any hu-uie>-
man in any line of business becomes independent ot tin-
public, or even thinks he is. it is a calamity tor his
In some industries all that has remained tor sale-
men and managers to do during the last few years has
been to take orders and deposits, and adopt, the air of,
''We may let you have it in about six months if you
deposit enough now." Orders came without effort.
Customers were doing all the clamoring and worrying.
Whereas once it was the customer who favored the
merchant by dealing with him, conditions changed until
it was the merchant who favored the customer by sell-
ing to him.
Now all that is bad for business. Monopoly is bad
for business. Profiteering is bad for business. The
lack of necessity to hustle is bad for business. Business
is never so good and sound and healthy as when, like a
chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching for
what it gets.
Things were coming too easily. There was a let-
down of the principle that an honest relation ought to
obtain between values and prices. The public no longer
had to be "catered to.'' There was even a "public-be-
damned" attitude in many places.
It was intensely bad for business, all that kind of
But there has come a change. The era of rampant
prosperity so-called died down. The reckoning-up time
came. Customers no longer besieged the doors. Indeed,
customers have a memory, and they remembered that
in the heyday of trade they were treated rather cava-
lierly. Many merchants are discovering today that he
was a wise man who was just as anxious to serve and
please his customers when trade was brisk, as he is now
when trade is a little slower.
The best point of all is that this period of slack-
ness is showing up the damage which false prosperity
did to business ethics and efficiency. A good business
is one that can sail along comfortably in the face of
adverse gales. Since 1914 almost any fool could do
business. There was more business to be done than
there were business devices with which to do it.
It will be generally conceded that the period of so-
called prosperity had a very deleterious effect on sales-
manship. Salesmanship is more than taking orders, but
that is about, all it has amounted to during the last six
or seven years.
DEPRESSION/ FIRST STEP BACK TO NORMALCY
When the rush of prosperity began to dwindle and
then to cease, and it became necessary to pull in the
collar rather than hold back in the breeching, then was
the test. It was found in many cases that salesmanship
had softened. The easy-chair and order-taking habit
had demoralized it. It could not stand for the rough,
hard work of going out and being refused, and being
So, it has been a blessing for business, all round,
this period of depression ; it has shown up the flabby
spots. It has disclosed those people who were content
comfortably to watch the wheels go round, but were
not. very handy in getting out and making the wheels
We were getting to a place where no one cared about
costs except the consumer and he didn't count. Not
only did no one make a move toward reduction of costs,
they actually dreaded to think of the time when it would
have t.o come. Business lav abed, like a boy who hates
to get up and go into the cold barn to do the chores.
Business was soft with too much good living.
Nothing has happened in our history to render out
of date the business philosophy of Benjamin Franklin.
Poor Richard's Almanac is still the best business com-
pendium. The old American virtues of thrift and in-
dustry have no successors or substitutes. Business suc-
cess is still a matter of making friends by scri'/cc, and
not a case of cornering necessitous people in such a way
that they will have to come to you.
Free trade still exists in the local sense. Trade will
always remain free regardless ol monopoly or combine.
Trade gravitates toward the man who lias the desire
and the will to please and serve those who need what
he can give. When a man gets bigger than his business,
when he begins to think that he has got things coming
his way, and therefore may relax, lie is in a bad state.
livery success! ul business is troubled with that sort
of disease complete satisfaction and relaxation. It
should be ruthlessly exterminated. If this disease
strikes the principal leader of the husMie-s, he should
retire or be removed as quicklv as am one else would be.
Thai kind of success is verv bad for business.
Youn</ men have been a^kin< r for a number of vear-.
whether there was any possible chance for them to start
for themselves in a world which is apparently so com-
pletely organized. Sometimes the answers were encour-
aging, sometimes not.
But now they can see for themselves. It is any
man's game now who will play it according to the old-
time rule of "value received." A business man is a
servant, and when he gets too rich, or too high and
mighty for that, then something happens, and some one
else gets a chance. And that is occurring on a large
scale now. Business is weeding out the over-ripe ones.
Thus it comes, reasonably enough, that a period of
bad business is really a good thing for business, because
it drives business back to its sounder fundamentals of
honor in negotiations, quality in merchandise, and will-
ingness in service.
It is a splendid lesson for the younger group of
business men. They will keep their heads better during
the next rise of commercial prosperity. They will be
taught, to trust more confidently in those principles of
business which are as indispensable in brisk times as in
And, on the whole, it has been an easy lesson. It
might have been much more severe. It will have been
worth all it cost to all classes of society, if only we have
sense enough to remember it.
We have been influenced too much by the grab-bag
philosophy. We are making careers, and that is incom-
patible with the practice of "getting while the getting
is good.'' Such getting is not good for long.
Flattery Used as Bribery
AMONG the dishonest ways of getting along is the
practice of working on the self-esteem of men by
praising them to such a point that they feel inclined
to favor you. Some crooks chloroform their victims to
rob them; others just suffocate their good judgment
with praise. The first method has at least the virtue
of directness ; the second, even at its best, is suspiciously
on the other side of frankness.
We have developed in this country a habit which
must be modified by honesty, and that is the habit of
back-slapping and indiscriminate boosting, the glad
hand and the oily compliment. These never did go
down with men of hard horse sense, but they had a
considerable and pernicious influence on young men,
because young men naturally thought that this was the
standard way to do things.
Now, this is a situation which more mature business
men have observed with something of impatience and
something of misgiving. It must not be assumed, how-
ever, that they regretted to see a more human tone come
in business relations. Nor must it be assumed that they
protest because their ideal of a business man is one who
is strong as steel and just as cold, who cannot be brut,
nor even melted except in the hottest fires.
There is just the danger, that returning from the
orgy of back-slapping and artificial good-fellowship
which has marked the last few years -the era in which
the "smooth" person ''got by" we shall revert to the
opposite extreme of coldness and brutality. Not at all.
Kxtremes are always to be avoided. Ihit whatever the
attitude, sincerity is desirable about all things. And
it is ju-t the lack of sincerity which made so much oi
this praise-mongering to be nauseating to plain uu-n.
There are two great barriers to the free intercourse
of minds, to absolute transparency ot conduct, and they
are, first, a designing attitude toward another; and
second, that which the designing attitude breeds, namely.
suspicion in the mind of the man against whom the de-
sign is laid. They are both unwholesome mentally, and
disruptive socially. They constitute the major part of
the silent warfare of life.
Now, all men like praise. If a man says he doesn't,
he should examine himself again. He may not like to
be praised to his face. He may be irritated by the
fawning form in which praise is offered him. He may
be angered by his knowledge that the offered praise is
insincere and has an ulterior motive. He may be sick-
ened by the hollo wness of it. A man who had done
something very well was once pained by the praise he
received. He said, "They all praised me for the wrong
thing." They had not considered his work enough to
see the real point in it. And what he wanted was not
the sticky sweetness of personal compliments, but dis-
criminating and appreciative consideration of his work.
All men like their good work to be praised but
that is quite a different thing. There is something
normal and wholesome about friends being able to meet
frankly in consideration of a piece of work.
So, if a man says he dislikes praise, he must define
what he means. When a man is able to praise his own
work to himself, to behold the work of his hand and
take pleasure in it, he is taking praise, just as much
as if he eagerly drank in compliments spoken by
Now, the evil of life consists in all these wholesome
and pleasurable sensibilities being misused to selfish
ends. No matter what department of human nature
you look into, the evil you see comes from selfish mis-
use. And so men have brought in evil through the gate
If you see that a man's weakness is flattery, and you
take advantage of that to manipulate his judgment and
his will, you are following precisely the same tactics
as the man who sees another's purse conveniently ex-
posed, and takes it.
If you see that a man is built of such malleable
material that a friendly, complimentary advance dis-
arms him and lays him open to your power, and you
deliberately thus disarm him for the accomplishment
of your design, whatever it may be, good or bad, you
FLATTERY USED AS BRIBERY
are working along a dangerous line; you are exalting
yourself to a place which no human being is entitled to
assume toward another for reasons of profit. It is a
serious thing to descend to this kind of strategy or
trickery even for the best purposes.
No one takes these tactics without sacrificing a great
deal of sincerity. And besides, they are not necessary.
There is nothing that this sort of strategy can accom-
plish, that frankness, honesty of purpose and even blunt
truthfulness of statement cannot better accomplish.
The straight open way is healthier for the mind of the
man who is making the advance, and it cements a better
relation with the man who is being advanced upon.
Now, inasmuch as there are still in the world many
hold-overs from the last regime, who still trust in the
strategy of the tongue, it is just as well that young
men, especially young business men, should be on their
guard. Instinctively, the majority of them are. There
is something inside the normal human being a sort of
spiritual submarine detector which warns of the ap-
proach of hollow words. Many lies are told : very few
lies get across. Many deceptions are planned ; compara-
tively few succeed. The interior detector sounds an
alarm in most people. They are protected.
But there is among young men a native kindness
which prevents them revealing the impostor to himself.
When it is said that very few lies get across, that is
true; but the liar does not know it ; people whose detec-
tor warns them do not always tell him what they think.
They sometimes act as if they believed the lie and so,
insincerity creeps in from the other side, too.
The young business man will more fully tru-4 the
older man who does not flatter him and who does not
follow his flattery with presumptions on the young
man's favor. Thousands of people, are that way: they
pay a compliment, and they believe that constitutes an
admission ticket to special privileges. Deny them the
privilege, and they go away saying quite opposite things
about tlie person they hoped to "work." It is the mean-
est kind of cadging, this passing of compliments, and
then wailing until the complimented man is so commit-
ted by the reception of the praises that he cannot say
''no'' without embarrassment. That is the meanest
kind of trickery. But young men who have been
tricked that way soon learn the technique of it and are
on their guard.
A certain delicacy of character would teach the
self-seeking person that it is a vast presumption to offer
praise to anyone, and the only consideration that can
justify it is its sincerity and unselfishness. Otherwise,
it is a profanation of one of the finest forms of human
, If a young man in business is wise he will pay less
attention to those who flatter his self-esteem, and more
to those who stir his energies. A good, well-balanced
critic who is looking to the success of the work and not
to the feelings of the men who may be at the head of
it, is the best kind of friend for a young business man
to have. And if the young business man is keen he will
see that such a one's interest and attention is the most
real, yet the most delicate form of friendship and
praise. It is strong. It. is based on frankness. AND
it will be there though failure and unfavorable criticism
overwhelm the project.
Divide between your flatterers and your friends, and
you already have a chart by which to sail.
Inflated Prosperity the Real
ONE of the aMiiinon habits people fall into is to ex-
plain everything by the term "business." We
explain depression by saying that "business is bad."
We explain far-reaching changes by saying that "busi-
ness is undergoing a readjustment." We look hope-
fully toward the time "when business will pick up
The mistake is rather childlike, as if we should de-
clare that the thermometer governs the weather. To
be sure, the thermometer is "down"' when it is cold, and
"up" when it is warm, but the thermometer is acted
upon by other forces ; it does not act upon them.
Business is a barometer. It registers various condi-
tions. But it is not the master-force in the world. It
is a sign of life and creative activity; more than that,
it is the sign that for the moment the interaction of
all the social elements has reached a degree of harmony
sufficient to give all men the happiness of being busy
and the satisfaction of being supplied. So, when it
happens that business is "down," like the thermometer,
it does no good to put it "up" by artificial means. The
thing to do is to change the general condition, whatever
it may be, and business will reflect the result as surely
as the mercury rises with the first mild days of spring.
Many other adjustments must occur before we get
the "business adjustment" which people believe is the
one thing necessary.
And these adjustments are now in process. 1 hat is
a point we ought to bear in mind : these adjustments
arc nou' gohu/ on.
People often say "things are at a standstill." No.
they are not. If we could see the whole economic
process, not merely the one point where it makes contact
with us as individuals in our jobs, we should see that
nothing is at a standstill, but that everything is moving
and changing even now, when everything seems to
What we call "hard times" are economically the be-
ginning of "good times." That is, a period of depres-
sion is not the tail end of the old era ; it is the introduc-
tory period of a new era. Now, that idea is worth get-
ting, for it shows us as by a light just how foolish we
mortals are in the matters which most vitally affect us
in our economic interests.
We think that this business slump is the end of the
old period ; it is really the beginning of the new. If we
had been wise we would have recognized that the fever-
ish prosperity of last spring and the preceding winter
were the real "bad times" of which we should have
been afraid. \Vise men told the people that, but did
anyone heed ? Only a few. That feverish, flashy pros-
perity during which money was spent in fast and
furious manner, and everybody was independent and
felt that he could walk out of his job any time he
wanted ; that complete let-down of all common sense in
expenditures and manufacture and labor that com-
prised our hard times ! But we did not know it.
That period had to end. That was the ruinous pe-
riod. All the damage was done then. And when it did
end, then readjustment immediately began. The slow-
down and stoppage was the first sign of healthy recov-
ery from the fever of irresponsible folly. The slow-
down was not the disease; it was the convalescence.
We were sick, sick during what we thought was the
heyday of our economic golden age ; so sick, that in our
delirium we mistook dangerous economic conditions for
Whatever disaster may be falling now is not a con-
sequence of present conditions, but of former condi-
tions. From this time forward, indeed from the time
the fever left us, the general economic condition has
been on the mend.
When people are able to see that the time to be
fearful is in times of irresponsible prosperity, in the
drunken revel of profiteering then, we may hope for
the prevention of periods of what we call "hard times."
The only way you can eliminate the periods of conval-
escence is by eliminating the periods of illness. And
INFLATED PROSPERITY THE REAL "BAD TIMES"
the only way to eliminate economic illness is not to con-
fuse it with economic convalescence, as the people have
done for a century.
The whole matter is so intertwined that you cannot
speak of it under such terms as "money," business,"
"credit," or the like. These only represent a special
angle of the general whole. The crucial readjustments
that take place at times like this are not fiscal at all,
but human. The whole secret of economic recovery
is stated in human, and not banking terms.
When a crowded excurs-ion ship is lurching too
heavily on one side, threatening to capsize, what is the
remedy? Readjustment of the burden. If all the peo-
ple have rushed to the port side, have half of them
return to the starboard side. This equalizes the burden.
It is evenly distributed, and thus more easily carried.
Something like that has happened to the economic
ship. Too many people crowded over to one side. The
City constitutes but a small part of the world. The
Manufactory constitutes only one part of the work of
the world. Yet everybody wanted to crowd into the
City, and to enter the Factory. And the result was that
an artificial congestion arose, and we called the fever
of that congestion by the delusive name of "prosper-
ity." All sorts of unnatural things came out of it.
Unnatural ideals of life. Unnatural exaggeration of
the value of money. Unnatural disproportion between
qualities of materials and the price asked for them.
Unnatural notions of what constituted "a good standard
of living." Unnatural waste of materials in cheap and
gaudy "luxuries," which were only toys. The whole
condition was unhealthy in the extreme, but because
there was a hectic flush upon its features, men thought
it was the color of "economic health." It was the con-
suming fever of economic dissipation.
You see, therefore, what line some of the readjust-
ments bad to take. People bad to do a lot of readjust-
ing themselves. What is the meaning of the "For l\ent"
signs in our cities and the deflation ot the rent
profiteers' balloons? Simplv this: people are readjust-
ing the inequalitv of the population between country
and citv. Thousands of people are going bark to the
real countrv. which lies outside the cities.
The people who are now going back to the country
are an advance guard. The time is coming when, if
industry needs them, it will go to the country and get
them, erecting pleasant little workshops beside the local
streams, and begin industry anew under natural condi-
tions. It is natural for people to like industry, to want
to work in industrial institutions ; but it is unnatural
that a million people should have to be packed in the
narrow area of the City in order to gratify that desire.
We must not think, therefore, that those who are
leaving the cities are the defeated ones. Not at all.
Heaven forbid that our standard of success should ever
be in the present type of city life! Those who are
going back are the vanguard of a new movement which
will continue until a proper adjustment has been
So, all these wholesome things are occurring now.
The whole situation is mending fast. No one will doubt
that the people are in a much more wholesome frame of
mind than they were a year ago. And there can be no
prosperity without this sound state of mind on the part
of the people. The first essential of prosperity has
therefore come back already: the fever has left the
Choosing and Being Chosen
MOST of the wisdom of the world was in the copy
books. The lines we used to write over and over
again, the homely old maxims on which we practiced
to obtain legibility of our p's and q's, were the essence
of human wisdom. They were the first-aid packages
which the philosophers made to assist men who might
need help out in the midst of the field of life. Most
of the books that have been written since the copy books
are only commentaries thereon ; they say with more and
harder words what we used to read in our first lessons.
li isn't learning, it is wisdom or plain sense that
helps one through. Any man can learn all that he needs
to know. No one ever learns more than he wants to
know. We never learn anything unless we want to.
Sometimes you will find a man with what appears to be
a lot of useless learning, and you discover that he accu-
mulated it not because of his interest in its special
departments, but because he thought that acquaintance
with a multitude of subjects added to his prestige. He
accumulated knowledge as he accumulated neckties or
The whole secret of a successful life is to find out
what it is your destiny to do, and then do it.
Now, that idea has several sides. When we speak
of what we "do'' we usually mean what it is we "do"
for a living. "What are you going to do when you are
a man?" we sometimes ask the children; it means at
what occupation are they to be engaged.
Well, we all have to work. Rut mo>t of us have