Friday, December 09, 2016

Book: Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer


This here is a classic self-help type book written by George Horace Lorimer to his son. I skipped some of the long winded stories but generally found the book be a very worthy read.

Here are some quotes, some of which I wanted to capture purely for their turn of phrase and wonderful use of the english language:
  • What we’re really sending you to Harvard for is to get a little of the education that’s so good and plenty there. When it’s passed around you don’t want to be bashful, but reach right out and take a big helping every time, for I want you to get your share. You’ll find that education’s about the only thing lying around loose in this world, and that it’s about the only thing a fellow can have as much of as he’s willing to haul away. Everything else is screwed down tight and the screw-driver lost.
  • I didn’t have your advantages when I was a boy, and you can’t have mine.
  • Some men learn the value of truth by having to do business with liars; and some by going to Sunday School. Some men learn the cussedness of whiskey by having a drunken father; and some by having a good mother. Some men get an education from other men and newspapers and public libraries; and some get it from professors and parchments—it doesn’t make any special difference how you get a half-nelson on the right thing, just so you get it and freeze on to it.
  • ...it isn’t so much knowing a whole lot, as knowing a little and how to use it that counts.
  • I can’t hand out any ready-made success to you. It would do you no good, and it would do the house harm. There is plenty of room at the top here, but there is no elevator in the building.
  • I can give you a start, but after that you will have to dynamite your way to the front by yourself. It is all with the man.
  • I got two dollars a week, and slept under the counter, and you can bet I knew just how many pennies there were in each of those dollars, and how hard the floor was. That is what you have got to learn.
  • Good-by; life’s too short to write letters and New York’s calling me on the wire.
  • I think you’ll find it safe to go short a little on the frills of education; if you want them bad enough you’ll find a way to pick them up later, after business hours.
  • Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.
  • Of course, I knew that you would make a fool of yourself pretty often when I sent you to college, and I haven’t been disappointed. But I expected you to narrow down the number of combinations possible by making a different sort of a fool of yourself every time.
  • ...in the office your sentences should be the shortest distance possible between periods
  • ...some things that are laying mighty heavy on my mind this morning.
  • ...the fellow who’s got the right stuff in him is holding down his own place with one hand and beginning to reach for the job just ahead of him with the other. I don’t mean that he’s neglecting his work; but he’s beginning to take notice, and that’s a mighty hopeful sign in either a young clerk or a young widow.
  • ...you must write before eight or after six. I have bought the stretch between those hours. Your time is money—my money—and when you take half an hour of it for your own purposes, that is just a petty form of petty larceny.
  • Very few men are worth wasting time on beyond a certain point, and that point is soon reached with a fellow who doesn’t show any signs of wanting to help.
  • It isn’t the little extra money that you may make for the house by learning the fundamental business virtues which counts so much as it is the effect that it has on your character and that of those about you,
  • Yours of the 30th ...strikes me all wrong
  • I don’t like to hear you say that you can’t work under Milligan or any other man, for it shows a fundamental weakness. And then, too, the house isn’t interested in knowing how you like your boss, but in how he likes you.
  • But all that apart, you want to get it firmly fixed in your mind that you’re going to have a Milligan over you all your life, and if it isn’t a Milligan it will be a Jones or a Smith, and the chances are that you’ll find them both harder to get along with than this old fellow. And if it isn’t Milligan or Jones or Smith, and you ain’t a butcher, but a parson or a doctor, or even the President of the United States, it’ll be a way-back deacon, or the undertaker, or the machine. There isn’t any such thing as being your own boss in this world unless you’re a tramp, and then there’s the constable.
  • When a packer has learned all that there is to learn about quadrupeds, he knows only one-eighth of his business; the other seven-eighths, and the important seven-eighths, has to do with the study of bipeds.
  • There’s nothing helps convince some men that a thing has merit like a little gold on the label.
  • I accepted him at par
  • I am a little slow to trust my judgment on my own
  • The fun of the thing’s in the run and not in the finish.
  • Beauty is only skin deep, but that’s deep enough to satisfy any reasonable man.
  • A real salesman is one-part talk and nine-parts judgment; and he uses the nine-parts of judgment to tell when to use the one-part of talk.
  • ...you will never become the pride of the pond by starting out to cut figure eights before you are firm on your skates.
  • Never run down your competitor’s brand to them, and never let them run down yours
  • I don’t want to bear down hard on you right at the beginning of your life on the road, but I would feel a good deal happier over your showing if you would make a downright failure or a clean-cut success once in a while, instead of always just skinning through this way. It looks to me as if you were trying only half as hard as you could, and in trying it’s the second half that brings results. If there’s one piece of knowledge that is of less use to a fellow than knowing when he’s beat, it’s knowing when he’s done just enough work to keep from being fired. Of course, you are bright enough to be a half-way man, and to hold a half-way place on a half-way salary by doing half the work you are capable of, but you’ve got to add dynamite and ginger and jounce to your equipment if you want to get the other half that’s coming to you. You’ve got to believe that the Lord made the first hog with the Graham brand burned in the skin, and that the drove which rushed down a steep place[…]
  • You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction. You’ve got to eat hog, think hog, dream hog—in short, go the whole hog if you’re going to win out in the pork-packing business.
  • They started me out to round up trade in the river towns down Egypt ways, near Cairo.
  • As I first remember Josh, he was just bone and by-products. Wasn’t an ounce of real meat on him.
  • Buck up!
  • ...when you’ve soaked up all the information you can hold, you will have to forget half of it before you will be of any real use to the house. If there’s anything worse than knowing too little, it’s knowing too much.
  • 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.
  • 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. A mistake sprouts a lie when you cover it up. And one lie breeds enough distrust to choke out the prettiest crop of confidence that a fellow ever cultivated.
  • Some salesmen think that selling is like eating—to satisfy an existing appetite; but a good salesman is like a good cook—he can create an appetite when the buyer isn’t hungry.
  • Doing the same thing in the same way year after year is like eating a quail a day for thirty days. Along toward the middle of the month a fellow begins to long for a broiled crow or a slice of cold dog.
  • But 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.
  • I dwell a little on this matter of appearances because so few men are really thinking animals. Where one fellow reads a stranger’s character in his face, a hundred read it in his get-up.
  • Now, I want to give you that tip on the market. There are several reasons why it isn’t safe for you to trade on ’Change just now, but the particular one is that Graham & Co. will fire you if you do. Trading on margin is a good deal like paddling around the edge of the old swimming hole—it seems safe and easy at first, but before a fellow knows it he has stepped off the edge into deep water. The wheat pit is only thirty feet across, but it reaches clear down to Hell. And trading on margin means trading on the ragged edge of nothing. When a man buys, he’s buying something that the other fellow hasn’t got. When a man sells, he’s selling something that he hasn’t got. And it’s been my experience that the net profit on nothing is nit. When a speculator wins he don’t stop till he loses, and when he loses he can’t stop till he wins.
  • When I sell futures on ’Change, they’re against hogs that are traveling into dry salt at the rate of one a second, and if the market goes up on me I’ve got the solid meat to deliver. But, if you lose, the only part of the hog which you can deliver is the squeal.
  • ...the fellow who can’t read human nature can’t manage it.
  • It makes me mighty sick to think that we’ve been sitting back on our hindlegs and letting the other fellow run away with this trade.
  • A manager needs an assistant to take trouble from him, not to bring it to him.
  • There’s a point where economy becomes a vice,
  • ... while I’m too old to run, I’m young enough to stand and fight.

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