Read CHAPTER VIII - THE PURPOSE OF LIFE of The Girl Wanted , free online book, by Nixon Waterman, on

“Nothing succeeds like success.”

Perhaps the true meaning of this old French proverb is that once we have a measure of success we are the more likely to achieve still more victories. The discovery that our strength, perseverance and determination have been capable of bending circumstances to our will and bringing to fulfillment the end for which we have wished and worked, gives us renewed courage and inspiration for the undertaking of new and larger duties.

We learn to do by doing. Achievement leads to still greater achievement. Orison Swett Marden, one of the world’s wisest of observers and deepest of philosophers, says, “The world makes way for the determined man.” And so it does for the determined woman, or the determined girl or boy.

Regarding this thing called “Success,” too many of us are apt to think that it means some one, isolated, remarkable achievement, that comes at the end of a long period of striving in some particular field of endeavor. This is not entirely true. Every great success is made of very many lesser successes that have preceded it. Just as the cap-stone at the top of the tallest building is held in its lofty position by every stone beneath it even down to the ones deep in the earth at the very foundation of the structure, which are indeed perhaps the most important of all.

So the thing which the world is pleased to call “Success” is built up by a thousand little successes on which it must finally rest. The building of a life success begins with the earliest dawn of being and must be carried on with as much care as a mason would give to the laying of the walls of a structure designed to stand for years. The mason knows that if he does not lay his foundations deep and firm, that if the walls are not kept straight and plumb, that if he puts faulty bricks or stones in the walls, the building will not be a success. The work at every stage must be a success or the completed structure must be a failure.

So it is in life. If our moments are not successful, the hours can never be so, and the days and years can but enlarge upon and emphasize their failure. “Every day is a fresh beginning, every morn is a world made new,” says Susan Coolidge. There is a chance for attaining success every hour and day of our lives.

Success is not alone for the great men of the world who find new continents, explore the poles, navigate the air, write great poems, paint great pictures, or who amass fortunes of millions of dollars. No, success is for any and all of us, here and now, any and all the time.

Were you prepared in your studies at school to-day? If you were, that was success.

Have you your music lesson well in hand for this afternoon? If so, that means success.

Have you been kind to everybody to-day, and with a pleasant word and a willing hand, done all you could to make life pleasanter and happier for those about you? If so, that is a fine moral success. And if you will multiply the achievements of to-day by the days that are in the years before you, you can see the result that you have a reason to expect, as your life’s work.

Success means doing all that we can do as well as we can do it. It may be work or it may be play. It may be something of seemingly little account or it may be something of importance, but unless we do it well, and to the best of our ability it will not be a success.

“Every day,” says Bunsen, “ought to be begun as a serious work, standing alone in itself, and yet connected with the past and the future.” And Ruskin still further emphasizes this thought in the words: “Let every dawn of morning be to you as the beginning of life, and every setting sun be to you as its close; then let every one of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others.”

We begin to achieve success when we do the things that are necessary for such achievement. Huxley expressed the whole secret of the matter when he said: “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, as it ought to be done, whether you like to do it or not.”

A good life, which is but another name for success, does not come by accident. Fortune may seem to favor it but it is the disposition to seize upon the opportunities that present themselves that make some lives seem more blest with “good chances” than others.

Self cultivation is the secret of most all attainments in the realm of human endeavor. As a matter of fact, all that others can do for us is as nothing to that which we may do for ourselves. Persons who do things usually have to work for results, or they have at some time had to work to acquire the habits that later on make it seem so easy for them to do fine things. “We think,” says J. C. Van Dyke, “because the completed work looks easy or reads easy, that it must have been done easily. But the geniuses of the world have all put upon record their conviction that there is more virtue in perspiration than in inspiration. The great poets, whether in print or in paint, have spent their weeks and months yes, years composing, adjusting, putting in and taking out. They have known what it is to ’lick things into shape,’ to labor and be baffled, to despair and to hope anew.”

With the dawning of every morning, life comes bringing to us a new and wonderful day to employ it as we will. Shall it be a fine, gratifying success, or shall it be a failure? Shall it be part success and part failure? There can be no doubt about it being a matter that is very largely in our own keeping.


Each golden dawn presents two gates
That open to the day;
Through one a path of joy awaits,
Through one a weary way.
Choose well, for by that choice is willed
If ye shall be distressed
At eventide, or richly filled
With strength and peace and rest.

“Every true life,” says J. R. Miller, “should be a perpetual climbing upward. We should put our faults under our feet, and make them steps on which to lift ourselves daily a little higher.... We never in this world get to a point where we may regard ourselves as having reached life’s goal, as having attained the loftiest height within our reach; there are always other rounds of the ladder to climb.”

So we know that the purpose of life is not to make a failure of it. And we know that we cannot make it a success unless we work toward that end. “The first great rule is, we must do something that life must have a purpose and an aim that work should be not merely occasional and spasmodic, but steady and continuous,” says Lecky. “Pleasure is a jewel which will retain its luster only when it is in a setting of work, and a vacant life is one of the worst of pains, though the islands of leisure that stud a crowded, well-occupied life may be among the things to which we look back with the greatest delight.”

There can be no interest where there is no purpose. How tiresome it would very soon become if we were compelled to make idle, useless marks upon paper, without any design whatsoever. But to be able to draw pictures is a delight that no one can forego. “The most pitiable life is the aimless life,” says Jenkin Lloyd Jones. “Heaven help the man or woman, the boy or girl, who is not interested in anything outside of his or her own immediate comfort and that related thereto, who eats bread to make strength for no special cause, who pursues science, reads poetry, studies books, for no earthly or heavenly purpose than mere enjoyment or acquisition; who goes on accumulating wealth, piling up money, with no definite or absorbing purpose to apply it to anything in particular.”

Perhaps we expect to-day, more than men have at any other time in the world’s history, that girls as well as boys, must look forward to doing something definite in life. It is not deemed sufficient for anyone simply “to be.” The whole world is now living the verb “to do.” The grace, strength, beauty and worth of womanhood is being enhanced with the constantly enlarging sphere of women’s work. The primitive, almost heathen, notion that the feminine sex constituted a handicap in the achieving of great success in a great majority of the fields of human endeavor is rapidly fading away. It can no longer stand in the light of the brilliant achievements women are making everywhere. Indeed, men are becoming well convinced that their presumed supremacy in many of the world’s spheres of work is being successfully challenged at every point. So general is this experience becoming that the present status of things might well be set forth somewhat after the following style:


The question used to be, ’t is true,
“What tasks are there for girls to do?”
But now we’ve reached an epoch when
We ask: “What is there left for men?”

They’ll keep enlarging “woman’s sphere”
Till man, poor, shrinking man, we fear,
Must grow quite useless, after while,
And go completely out of style.

This piece of frivolity can well be pardoned on account of its absurdity. The great work of the world is so broad, so deep, so high, that it calls for the best endeavors of all girls and boys, women and men. That the door of opportunity is henceforth to be open to all is an assurance that the work is to be more grandly and beautifully done than ever before. What women may do in the years to come is wonderfully set forth by what women have done in the past. All history is filled with the splendid achievements of the women of the world. A girl of to-day will find no reading more helpful and inspiring than the lives of such noble women as Martha Washington, Queen Victoria, Sally Bush Abraham Lincoln’s good step-mother Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Miss Louisa Alcott, Laura Bridgman, Charlotte Cushman, Maria Mitchell, Lady Franklin, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, and Florence Nightingale.

If the girls of to-day are to have larger rewards in the world’s work, they must fit themselves for the larger responsibilities. Every prudent girl will, of course, talk over the prospect of her future years with her parents, her brothers and sisters, her teachers, or with mature and responsible friends. So very, very much depends on laying the right foundations. But there are many qualities that must constitute parts of every enduring foundation.

Attention, application, accuracy, method, punctuality, good behavior, modesty, gentility, enlightenment, all of these and more are essential to success and for the highest achievement of the true purpose of living.

It has been well said that it is the repetition of little acts which constitutes not only the sum of human character, but which determines the character of nations; and where men or nations have broken down, it will almost invariably be found that neglect of little things was the rock on which they were wrecked.

Every human being has duties to be performed, and, therefore, has need of cultivating the capacity for doing them whether the sphere of action be the management of a household, the conduct of a trade or a profession, or the government of a nation.

The one fixed truth in the matter of character-building is the fact that steady attention to the little matters of detail lies at the very foundation of human progress.

The splendid trees that lift their branches heavenward depend for their sustenance on the tiny thread-like roots that come into very close relations with the soil and can thus take in the nourishment needed for the making of growth. This, the larger roots have not the capacity for doing. So in the growth of the human intellect and human character, it is the little actions, day by day, that really do the permanent building. With patient purpose to do successfully the many little tasks that confront us we can later on achieve the larger success awaiting us.

The world’s history is full of the triumphs of those who have had to struggle from beginning to end for recognition. Carey, the great missionary, began life as a shoemaker; the chemist Vanquelin was the son of a peasant; the poet Burns was a farmer boy and a day laborer; Ben Jonson was a bricklayer; Livingstone, the traveler and explorer, was a weaver; Abraham Lincoln was a “rail-splitter” and a farmer boy.

At the plow, on the bench, at the loom, these men dreamed of the future greatness, and step by step, day by day, they persevered until they won the full measure of success.

The great and good women of the world have won their distinction in the same manner. They cultivated the sterling qualities that made for success. They acquired the manners that attracted toward them help and strength of others interested in good causes and those struggling to advance them.

And the girl who is reading these lines, can, if she will, make her life a happy success. She may be praised by the world or it may be by the small circle of friends with whom she comes in contact. Her name may never be written in history but it may be fondly spoken by parents, sisters, brothers, schoolmates, friends. In a thousand gracious ways she can make the hours, days and years good and golden for her own precious self and for all who know her. She must be thoughtful and intelligently alert to the opportunities lying all about her ready to be fashioned into shining deeds. She must know that she is a precious craft on the sea of life and that she must not be permitted to drift from the harbor of youth and of home without a life pilot. And this pilot should be her own conscience, hedged about with the learning, the good breeding, the fine character that she herself, under proper guidance, must cultivate through the impressionable years of childhood and maidenhood. If she so wills it, beauty and grace and true worth are all hers. And let her greet and go forth in the freshness of each golden day, as indeed, she must greet life, itself, with a glad, hopeful, helpful


Oh, may I be strong and brave, to-day,
And may I be kind and true,
And greet all men in a gracious way,
With frank good cheer in the things I say,
And love in the deeds I do.

May the simple heart of a child be mine,
And the grace of a rose in bloom;
Let me fill the day with a hope divine
And turn my face to the sky’s glad shine,
With never a cloud of gloom.

With the golden levers of love and light
I would lift the world, and when,
Through a path with kindly deeds made bright,
I come to the calm of the starlit night,
Let me rest in peace. Amen.