The Training of an American: The Earlier Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, 1855-1913

By Burton J. Hendrick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
"THE FORUM"

I

THE next few years of Page's life represent his battle with that divinity whom most men find so tantalizing -- that is, success. Yet to Page success was no fickle or mysterious goddess; like most human procedures, advancement in life, if it came at all, was simple, direct, honest, dependent upon a few homely virtues, and not at all a triumph of the miraculous. When the struggle was over, and Page could view the several steps with detachment, he outlined the fundamental conditions in a characteristic letter to his sons. "Every man," he wrote, "who does anything out of the common suffers at some time a complete absorption in his task. At some time and for a period he does more work or more skilful work or more devoted work than others who do similar tasks; and he thus gains greater skill than others have, or a more intimate knowledge, or builds up a stronger enthusiasm. In some way he outstrips his competitors. And a lead or superiority once thus gained can with even reasonable industry and devotion be maintained.

"Men who do not suffer such complete devotion and absorption may go on in an even, commonplace way to a moderate success; but they will never rise out of the army of the common. They will always remain in the ranks, as, of course, most men do all their lives. You will find it an interesting subject to investigate -- how thoroughly and how enthusiastically the successful men whom you know have thus lost themselves in zeal for their work. Take

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