How to Be Successful in Any Career | Motivational Podcasts

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, makers of wearable inspiration for a better world. Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from How to Get On by Bernard Feeney, 1891.

If you were about to get a house built, you would naturally go to an architect, tell them in a general way what kind of house you required, and then inform them how much money you intended to spend on it. The architect would probably take some time to consider how your ideas and wishes were to be carried out. They would spoil some sheets of paper in sketching plans, each coming nearer and nearer to include and reconcile all your conditions. At last they would strike on one requiring no more corrections.

“Here is the ground-plan of your house; here the front, side, rear elevations. Here is your drawing-room, there your dining-room. Here your office, your kitchen and pantry; there, on the upper stories, your bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.” And the cost of the whole is kept within the amount you specified. The plan is complete, you are delighted with it, and you give orders for the immediate execution of the work.

Suppose, however, you determined to economize expenses by declining the services of an architect, and you employ a bricklayer to run up four walls with a certain number of holes in them for doors and windows. You then get a roof put on, and you find, when you look at the whole, that you have spent your money on an ugly, misshapen mass of brick and mortar.

Now, character is a kind of house that everyone has to build up around themselves. You must do it. Good or bad, refined or coarse, pleasant or unpleasant, character is always being built up, as an essential part of the work of life, ending only when we cease to live.

Some pull down in an hour the labor of years; and then they have to begin afresh from the foundation. Some get disgusted with the collapse of their work, and build in defiance of every principle of taste and beauty. Others, however, take courage from failure, and learn by it to prevent or avoid its causes. These are chiefly the successful builders, whose work is not only a joy and pride to themselves, but a beautiful model to others.

A good character is not only pleasant to the owner and their friends, but today it is also worth (in real financial terms) more than many university diplomas. This is due to the exclusive cultivation of the intellect in our public schools and colleges — in other words, of the unnatural separation of character and education. I do not, however, intend to go into this branch of the subject today. I merely wish to state an undeniable fact, that to get on in life, character must be built up carefully and patiently, with judgment and forethought.

Just as we must have a detailed plan of any building we intend to erect. So, too, we must have a plan of the moral structure called character, which we build around us, if we wish that structure to be worthy of us. This plan is called an ideal. Everyone has, consciously or unconsciously, some kind of ideal before their mind; but very few, unfortunately, aspire to realize it.

We are generally too indolent, too material-minded, to make much effort to become like what we admire as beautiful and good. And so we let ourselves drift down the current, receding daily farther and farther from the bright vision that beckons us to return.

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