Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son - by John Graham

The first thing that any education ought to give a man is character, and the second thing is education. That is where I'm a little skittish about this college business. There are two parts of a college education--the part that you get in the schoolroom from the professors, and the part that you get outside of it from the boys. That's the really important part. For the first can only make you a scholar, while the second can make you a man.

It isn't so much knowing a whole lot, as knowing a little and how to use it that counts.

Some men learn all they know from books; others from life; both kinds are narrow. The first are all theory; the second are all practice. It's the fellow who knows enough about practice to test his theories for blow-holes that gives the world a shove ahead, and finds a fair margin of profit in shoving it.

The meanest man alive is the one who is generous with money that he has not had to sweat for.

It's not what a man does during working-hours, but after them, that breaks down his health. A fellow and his business should be bosom friends in the office and sworn enemies out of it. A clear mind is one that is swept clean of business at six o'clock every night and isn't opened up for it again until after the shutters are taken down next morning.

A business man's conversation should be regulated by fewer and simpler rules than any other function of the human animal. They are: Have something to say. Say it. Stop talking.

Remember that when you're in the right you can afford to keep your temper, and that when you're in the wrong you can't afford to lose it.

When you have been in business as long as I have you will be inclined to put a pretty high value on loyalty. It is the one commodity that hasn't any market value, and it's the one that you can't pay too much for.

I don't know anything that a young business man ought to keep more entirely to himself than his dislikes, unless it is his likes. It's generally expensive to have either, but it's bankruptcy to tell about them. It's all right to say nothing about the dead but good, but it's better to apply the rule to the living, and especially to the house which is paying your salary.

Superiority makes every man feel its equal. It is courtesy without condescension; affability without familiarity; self-sufficiency without selfishness; simplicity without snide.

Tact is the knack of keeping quiet at the right time; of being so agreeable yourself that no one can be disagreeable to you; of making inferiority feel like equality. A tactful man can pull the stinger from a bee without getting stung.

The only way to show a fellow that he's chosen the wrong business is to let him try it. If it really is the wrong thing you won't have to argue with him to quit, and if it isn't you haven't any right to.

The easiest way in the world to make enemies is to hire friends.

When a fellow knows his business, he doesn't have to explain to people that he does. It isn't what a man knows, but what he thinks he knows that he brags about. Big talk means little knowledge.

When you make a mistake, don't make the second one--keeping it to yourself. Own up. The time to sort out rotten eggs is at the nest. The deeper you hide them in the case the longer they stay in circulation, and the worse impression they make when they finally come to the breakfast-table.

It isn't enough to be all right in this world; you've got to look all right as well, because two-thirds of success is making people think you are all right. So you have to be governed by general rules, even though you may be an exception. When a fellow gets to the point where he is something in particular, he doesn't have to care because he doesn't look like anything special; but while a young fellow isn't anything in particular, it is a mighty valuable asset if he looks like something special.

There are two unpardonable sins in this world--success and failure. Those who succeed can't forgive a fellow for being a failure, and those who fail can't forgive him for being a success. If you do succeed, though, you will be too busy to bother very much about what the failures think.

A man who does big things is too busy to talk about them. When the jaws really need exercise, chew gum.

Enthusiasm is the best shortening for any job; it makes heavy work light.

Consider carefully before you say a hard word to a man, but never let a chance to say a good one go by. Praise judiciously bestowed is money invested.

Never threaten, because a threat is a promise to pay that it isn't always convenient to meet, but if you don't make it good it hurts your credit. Save a threat till you're ready to act, and then you won't need it.

When you're through sizing up the other fellow, it's a good thing to step back from yourself and see how you look. Then add fifty per cent. to your estimate of your neighbor for virtues that you can't see, and deduct fifty per cent. from yourself for faults that you've missed in your inventory, and you'll have a pretty accurate result.

There are two things you never want to pay any attention to--abuse and flattery. The first can't harm you and the second can't help you.