"Give us a man who is not easily thrown off his guard, or off his balance," is the cry when danger threatens. The man who can think clearly and act wisely when others get excited is the man who is everywhere sought to save the day in a crisis; he is always wanted for important positions, because, in emergencies, which are always likely to arise, everybody feels safer in his hands.
It is the man who knows what to do when others are disconcerted, who is cool when others are excited, that is wanted; the man who is not easily flustered when pressure is brought to bear upon him or when he is obliged to assume great responsibility.
People who easily lose their heads, and who go all to pieces in an accident, or when any great strain is brought to bear upon them or anything very unusual occurs, are weaklings, and are not to be depended upon in an emergency.
There is something superb, something we cannot help revering and admiring in a person who can stand perfectly calm, unmoved, and serene when others become excited, lose their heads, and have no control over their acts.
To keep a level head in all circumstances and under all conditions, to keep it when others lose it, to maintain an even judgment, good "horse sense," when others around one are foolish, is a difficult thing. It shows a great reserve power, that which characterizes the poised, self-controlled man and woman.
What a magnificent example of serenity and poise under all conditions we have in the iceberg at sea! No matter how hard the tempest rages, or how hard the mountainous billows dash against its sides, it does not tremble or quiver, or give any signs of having been touched, because seven-eights of its enormous bulk is below the surface of the water. Its immensity is securely balanced down in the calm of the ocean depths, beneath the agitation of wave or tempest. It is this tremendous reserve below the surface, this powerful momentum, which makes the exposed part of the iceberg bid defiance to the elements.
One of the most difficult things for a young man to do is to keep a level head. It is so easy to lose one's balance, to get a "swelled head" over a little prosperity, to lose one's ambition for forging ahead by a raise in salary. A little ease and comfort are great tempters, great destroyers of ambition. It is a difficult thing to keep a level head when the storms of temptation and financial difficulties are raging about one; but it is easier than in prosperity.
There is something in human nature which braces up against adversity, which stiffens up when the world goes hard and makes one tug the harder; but somehow ease, comfort, and the thought of prosperity take the spring out of the ambition. The motive to push ahead, to struggle, to strive, is usually weakened by the feeling of satisfaction that one has achieved something worthwhile, that one has gained what they started out to get.
The test of a large, well-balanced person is that he or she does not change materially with changed conditions. Financial losses, failure in their undertaking, sorrow, do not throw them off their balance, because they are centered in principle. Nor are they puffed up by a little prosperity.
There is one thing a person ought to be always able to do, no matter in what circumstances they may be placed, and that is, to keep on their feet, and, if they fall, to fall on their feet, and under no circumstances lose their balance. If a person can keep calm and act deliberately when others are confused and excited, they have a leading part to play in life.
It gives them a tremendous power in their community, because it is the level-headed person who keeps an even keel in any storm, that is sought for in great emergencies, looked for in the crisis. The shaky individual, the waverer, the person who is never certain of themselves, who topples over when the crisis comes, who loses their backbone in a panic, is only a fair-weather person, and, like a timid girl, could sail a ship only on a smooth sea.
A balanced person has good judgment, and this implies symmetry of development of the various faculties. And strength of character and of mind come from the harmony of evenly-developed faculties.
In a perfectly-balanced mind no one faculty is developed out of proportion to the others.
In a perfectly-adjusted machine every part is made with reference to every other part. The movement of every wheel in a perfect timepiece must be exquisitely adjusted to the entire watch, and each must be suited to every other wheel in the watch. You would not boast of your watch because it had a very powerful mainspring while all the other parts were very delicately constructed and were not intended for so much power. We value a watch in proportion as it keeps perfect time, for this is its purpose.
How rare it is to find among city youth a really good business head, well-balanced, normal, without any great weakness which cuts the average down to mediocrity. A superb, well-balanced head, with faculties keen, judgment clear and sound, a mind that is not made one-sided by prejudice, not weakened by superstition, is a rare thing.
Many youths are one-sided from lack of good, sensible, all round training. Someone faculty, which happens to be predominant, is forced in its education, and the weaker ones, which ought to have exercise in order to keep the balance of all the faculties, atrophy from disuse. The training and education of the great majority of youths are not calculated to develop symmetry of faculty, balance of mental power. There is a great discrepancy between the physical and the mental training; or someone faculty is forced out of all proportion until the balance is lost.
The great object of early training should be to maintain the balance, to get equipoise of faculty, symmetry of evolution, because only in this way can good judgment be developed, a sound mind produced. For those who have not reached maturity, one-sided development, forced special training, is one of the greatest curses of modern life. No wonder our insane asylums are over-run. The one-faculty-development is responsible for a large part of the lost balance, the lack of symmetry, the poor, weak judgment of many of our people.
Mental poise indicates power, because poise is the result of mental harmony. One-sided minds, no matter how brilliant in some particular faculty, are never balanced minds, any more than a tree is harmonious which has sent practically all of its sap, its nourishment, into the development of one huge branch, so that other parts of the tree have suffered from starvation.
The poised physician or surgeon in a critical case where a life hangs in the balance always has the advantage of the excitable one who is full of fear and loses their head. Mental poise gives strength to the lawyer. The poise of mind suggests great reserve power. It is the lawyer who maintains their equanimity and perfect mental equipoise in a great trial, while the little attorneys rant and fume, who carries weight with the jury.
It was Webster's great mental equanimity that made him the colossal figure he was in the Senate and at the Bar. His consciousness of great mental power gave him tremendous advantage over weaker men who doubted their ability to cope with him.
Mental poise gives us a glimpse of the possibilities of the coming man, of man when all of his faculties shall be symmetrically developed, so that his life will express harmony instead of discord.
The greatest forces in the universe are noiseless, are perfectly poised. Scientists tell us that there is force enough in a few acres of growing grass to run all the machinery of the world, and yet, like all the other forces of nature, it is absolutely noiseless. The most delicate ear cannot detect any friction, the slightest lack of harmony, in the works of Nature.
The strongest characters are never noisy. They are balanced, poised, serene. The water in a little mountain brook dashing down over the rocks will make more noise than the mighty Mississippi River. Weak characters, like an empty wagon, are noisy. They fuss and fume and accomplish but little. The effectiveness of our work depends upon all our faculties working in harmony. We often see a man without any apparent talent or brilliant faculties get ahead much faster and succeed much better in life than others of apparently greater power, because his faculties are in harmony. One does not fight against another, neutralize another, or counteract its achievement.
To produce an ideal man capable of bringing to bear the greatest amount of personal power is the great aim of race development. This man will be proportionate, symmetrical, balanced. Wholeness will be characteristic of him. The ultimate aim is not to produce the greatest artist, lawyer, merchant, or statesman, but the greatest man—symmetrically developed, strong because of the harmony of all his faculties. It is much better to have mental balance than brilliancy. It is better to have comparatively small ability well-balanced, than to be a one-sided genius.
All our faculties are so tied together, so interrelated that whatever affects one, affects all the others. The improvement, therefore, of any one quality of the mind, like the improvement of the judgment, strengthens all the other good qualities, whereas the weakening of one tends to weaken all the others and to lower the standard of the whole.
A boy does not realize that if he forms the habit of not sawing the wood straight or of not driving the nail true, or of leaving the sled or the toy half finished, this defect will not only drag itself all through his career, but will also demoralize all of his other faculties, weaken his judgment, affect his industry and his ambition, and lower his general standard of life, because of this law of interrelationship of faculties.
The boy brought up on the farm has a great advantage over the city-bred youth, in that he has been compelled to develop common sense by exercising his own ingenuity in a thousand ways to extricate himself from dilemmas in the woods or on the farm because there was no possibility of getting help. He has been forced to make the sled or the toy which he could not afford to buy, and has learned to use tools with skill in making and repairing things about the farm or the house. All these things have tended to develop his horse sense.
All around, level-headed men are scarce. They are always at a premium. We find many splendid men, who are wonderfully competent in many faculties, but who are always doing strange, un-businesslike things. Their poor judgment is always tripping them up, so that their character is like the course of a crooked river which often runs back on itself in its course through an uneven country. The reputation of being erratic or a little bit off in your judgment, of doing foolish things, so that people cannot rely upon you, is fatal to advancement.
If you are one-sided, unbalanced, no matter how able you may be in some special line, sound business men and women will not care to have anything to do with you, for they know you might do very foolish things and make serious mistakes under pressure and in an emergency, just the time when a cool head is needed.
The country is full of broken, disappointed lives, lives that are all tattered and torn, in which victories have been swallowed up in defeat, effective strokes marred by unfortunate slips, lives in which there is no well-put-together work, but a great ambition coupled with a total lack of system and ability to save the result of great efforts.
There are plenty of these careers that are as checkered as a crazy quilt, just because of a lack of mental balance and good sense to insure continuity.
Employees are often surprised at the advancement to a responsible position of one of their number who is less brilliant than many others. The employer, however, is not looking for brilliancy; but for good sense, soundness of judgment, level-headedness.
The employer in their search for a level-headed, practical man, a man who can do things, and not merely dream about them, often passes by the college graduate, the fine scholar, the genius. He knows that the stability of his business, the bulwark of his establishment, depends upon employees with good judgment, good horse sense. Common sense in practical life has the right of way. It ranks far ahead of brilliancy or education.
The man who worries, who fusses and fumes and who goes to pieces over trifles, exposes his weakness, his lack of self-control. It is an indication that he has not discovered himself, has not come to himself, does not know his God-given power, that he has not claimed his birthright of harmony, of power, that he has not discovered that he was designed to be prosperous and happy, to dominate. It shows that he has conquered only a little corner of himself.
We take it for granted that the person who cannot control themselves cannot control others, that they are not suitable for leadership.
The well-balanced person must have a profound respect for themselves, for if they do not, they will do things that are absolutely inconsistent with poise of character. The person who does not think well of themselves will express in their manner uncertainty, doubt, anxiety, more or less mental confusion.
Confidence, a sense of assurance under all circumstances, are among the chief considerations with great business men and women. We have heard bankers and the men at the head of great concerns ask about an applicant for an important position, "Is he a man you can tie to? Has he reserve? Has he courage, stamina, staying qualities? Can you depend on him in an emergency? Has he the grit that never yields? Has he good, sound principles?"
Most young people do not realize how much their success depends upon their general reputation. It will make all the difference in the world to you, my young friend, what people think of you, how they estimate your ability, what your reputation is for honesty, and "square dealing," and a good, sound judgment.
Your level-headedness and honesty locate you in actual life. Every employer is looking for men and women to fill important positions. Capital is timid, and is afraid to risk money or merchandise with a person who is merely brilliant. But men and women who have credit and are in a position to help you to capital, are always looking for hard business sense. If you lack that, no matter how smart you may be, how cunning or shrewd in securing business, or how good an advertiser you may be; no matter how good a person you may be or how well you may stand in your community or your church, the capitalist will distrust you.
One reason why the majority of people have such poor judgment, especially employees, is because they do not depend upon it. Unused faculties never develop any more than do unused muscles. The habit of using good judgment in everything no matter how trifling, will multiply efficiency a thousandfold.
You can get along without a college education, if you must—without a great many things, if necessary,—but you cannot get on in the world without good judgment.
Multitudes of students are turned out of colleges every year with a large amount of theoretical knowledge, but they have not had a particle of training along the line of good judgment.
We often hear people say that they cannot understand why Mr. so and so has had such a mediocre career, or has been a failure, when he had such a brilliant mind. But, it does not matter how brilliant a man may be, if he lacks sound judgment, he is all the time slowing or preventing his own advancement.
It is the rarest thing in the world for a man with good judgment to fail, even if he is not brilliant, for though he may make occasional mistakes, he will get on his feet again. But the man who makes brilliant strokes now and then, and is all the time slipping up because of poor judgment, will not get on nearly as rapidly as the one much less brilliant, but with sound judgment.
No matter how brilliant, men and women with poor judgment are always slipping back and by their foolishness losing a large part of what they gained by their brilliancy or their good qualities.
If you want to get the reputation of being a level-headed person, you must act like one. Most people are constantly doing things —especially little things —which do not meet with their approval, which they do not consider the best things to be done, under the circumstances, but they do them. In acting thus they lessen the probability of doing the level-headed things the next time.
When we feel strongly impressed to do a certain thing, or to do something in a certain way, and we do not do it, or else do it in some other way than that in which we are impressed to do it, we are lessening the probabilities of our doing the wisest thing in the future.
In other words, if we form a habit of always doing the thing we ought to do, doing it in the way we honestly believe to be the best way, and never allow ourselves to shirk responsibility or to fail to do the best thing because it interferes with our comfort or leisure, we shall, after a while, get into the habit of doing the wisest thing.
We constantly hear people make remarks like this: "I know that I ought to do this thing today, but I do not believe I will, or "I do not feel like it." And they, perhaps, procrastinate, or let the thing slide along, and do just the opposite to what they know they ought to do.
Everyone who expects to make the most of themselves, to make their life a success, must take themselves in hand just as they would a pupil or a child, and, no matter how disagreeable or hard it may be, discipline themselves to do the right thing always, the wisest thing, and not let themselves off with the easy thing or allow themselves to do a thing the wrong way.
A very successful man, who found that he was getting into a habit of letting things slide along, doing the easiest and putting off the hard, difficult things, suddenly realized that if the habit became fixed it would seriously handicap his career.
He turned completely around, forced himself to begin his work early in the morning, and always to do what he felt that he ought to do and in the way which appealed to his best judgment, regardless of whether or not it interfered with his leisure or comfort. The result is that within a very short time he has made himself a strong, vigorous character, and now finds it comparatively easy to do what he ought to.
But he says that unless he had taken himself in hand, and trained himself as a teacher would a pupil, forcing himself to do the right thing, the wisest thing, regardless of whether it was the easiest or not, he would practically have wrecked his career, because he was naturally inclined to indolence, and to take things easy, to postpone the disagreeable, the difficult task, and to do the agreeable, easy thing first.
Great characters have ever felt the necessity of this stern self-discipline.
If you always force yourself to do what you know you ought to do, instead of listening to your inclination, or consulting your comfort or convenience, you will very materially strengthen your character and your judgment, and you will also increase your reputation for level-headedness.
The trouble is that most of us use second or third best judgment, instead of our first, because it often fits our comfort and convenience to do so.
Deplore it as we will, we are most of us lazy, and we like to get out of disagreeable tasks. We do not like to do things which interfere with our comfort, things which tax and perplex us.
Because we have taken the easy road so often, most of us have fallen into the habit of avoiding the difficult, of shunning the disagreeable, and of procrastinating, putting off the uncomfortable.
Now, the way to avoid the sting of a nettle is to grasp it vigorously, quickly. The way to take the sting out of a disagreeable task is to do it quickly, vigorously; not to dilly-dally with it, not to play with it and torture ourselves, but to get right after it, to attack it, wrestle with it, with determination to accomplish it.
Courage is an indispensable quality in our success; but if it is not balanced and regulated by prudence, cautiousness, it will run away with us and lead us into all sorts of foolhardy things. Boldness is a great quality when it is held in check by proper cautiousness and guided by good judgment.
I know a man whose courage is very much over developed and his faculty of caution is very deficient. He does not know what fear means, and he plunges into all sorts of foolish operations which do not turn out well, and he is always trying to get out of things which he has gone into hastily. If his prudence had been equally developed with his courage, with his boldness, he would have made a very strong man.
Even the highest moral faculties, like benevolence, may ruin a man if he does not have good sense. It might lead him to give away everything he has, and not even provide for his family; and in that way great development, even of the highest faculties, may defeat their beneficent ends. I know another man who is the perfection of kindness, who would do anything to help anyone in trouble; but he entirely lacks the restraining, regulating quality of prudence, good judgment, and he gives away everything he has, and even robs his family of the comforts of life. He does not mean to, but he is not well-balanced.
Whatever you believe or do not believe, do not get morbid or cranky upon any subject, for it is inevitably fatal to advancement.
Some of the ablest young men and young women I know have been fearfully handicapped in their efforts to get on because they have developed morbid tendencies.
People who are carried away with fads and fancies, who become morbid and cranky, are usually very susceptible to suggestion. If there is any new fad that is epidemic in the neighborhood, they always catch it. It has its regular run with them like the measles, and they are all carried away with it until something else takes its place.
Now, all of these mental peculiarities, cranky notions, do not belong with a level head. They indicate one-sided development. They do not accompany good judgment or soundness of mind, and this is why their victims are always placed at such a disadvantage.
Morbid people are narrow. They lack breadth, sympathy, generosity. The magnanimous, charitable soul does not think that they are right and everybody else is wrong. He gives everybody a fair chance. He is charitable and broad and generous towards those who differ with him, knowing that he is just as liable to be mistaken as they are.
I know a handsome, splendidly educated young lady so morbid on religious subjects that she has become a nuisance by always harping on religious matters. She is almost ostracized from society, and has lost about all her friends. She does not realize that people do not understand her, and has grown so morose and melancholy that her family are very much alarmed about her. She has a great deal of ability and is extremely attractive. She is also a fine teacher, and loves to teach, but she cannot get a school because of these morbid tendencies.
And the worst of it all is that she has settled down to the conviction that she is peculiar, and that she cannot get rid of these peculiarities. If she would only stoutly plan to be normal, and persist in being like other people, and not allow herself to dwell upon things which have been such a serious injury to her, she would soon regain her reputation and largely overcome her morbid tendencies.
But she insists upon carrying religious tracts in her pocket wherever she goes and handing them out to strangers, and especially to those she sees under the influence of drink or who bear the marks of dissipation, till everybody who knows her avoids her, because they do not like to enter into unpleasant discussions on religious subjects.
Many people persist in always airing their peculiar beliefs, their fads and fancies, at every opportunity. Many regard this as a sacred duty. They feel that it would be cowardly not to declare themselves, or to hide their beliefs and theories.
We are only considering the results of morbid tendencies upon one's chances in life.
The fact is that people are afraid of those who are morbid, because it indicates a lack of balance, indicates weaknesses. They are prejudiced against all peculiarities, because they have in mind the normal standard.
Employers are always afraid of people with morbid minds. They are afraid of personal peculiarities that indicate departures from the normal.
I have in mind a man of estimable qualities, who has gone daft on the subject of foods. He is one of the most intelligent men I know, but you cannot talk with him five minutes without his trying to draw you into a philosophical discussion of food values, and to convince you that the real reason you are fat or lean, have dyspepsia, poor sight, or rheumatism, is because of too little or too much of certain constituents in your foods and drinks.
He will proceed to go into the chemistry and the physiology of foods until you will get disgusted and leave him, and endeavor to keep out of his way in the future.
Another acquaintance, a man of great ability, has become morbid upon the question of medicine. Every time you see him he will have some new remedy which he believes will revolutionize the physical condition of the race, if people would only persist in trying it. Yet he came near ruining his own health in his experiments, and, although a man of great general ability, he carries little weight in his community, because everybody points to him as a crank.
A wealthy man refused to pay for a yacht built for him not long ago by a boat-builder with a great name, because it had too much sail for the ballast. The skipper of the boat testified at the trial that he did not dare put out all the sail, except in moderate weather, because of the danger of capsizing.
The boat was alright in pleasant weather, but dangerous in bad weather.
There are plenty of people like this boat. They have too much sail, too little ballast for bad weather. They make a big show, lots of pretense, but they have no reserve. They are not reliable in an emergency. They lack stability.
The great problem of the racing yacht builder is to secure the greatest speed consistent with safety. The lines of the boat must not only be constructed so as to cause only the least possible resistance to the water, but the builder must also provide against the possibility of sudden squalls or a heavy sea.
Every man and woman should have good sense, good judgment, to steady their conduct in any emergency, so that they will not lose their head and topple over under provocation, but keep cool and carry a steady hand, no matter what happens.
The compass of one's judgment must point as true in a storm as in the sunshine.