Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 1: Succeeding in Life

The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 1: Succeeding in Life

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 26, 2011

For background and links to chapters in this series, see here



I should like to have you spend a day with me looking over some great city and studying its inhabitants. There we shall have a splendid opportunity to see how the people have been sifted out: the saint from the sinner, the successful from the unsuccessful, the rich from the poor, the intelligent from the ignorant, those who have achieved from those who have failed. In a small community this sifting process is not so obvious because there are not enough individuals to represent all types, and the country is likely to retain only those of medium success, whereas the extremes both as to success and failure are likely to drift cityward.

Let us take Chicago as our typical city to study. We shall first go west on Madison avenue. Here we shall find the residues of mankind. Many of the men we see have no place to lay their heads; they are dependent on shelter furnished by the city where they are allowed to sleep on the floor or on a board bench. In times of greater prosperity they may be able to earn enough to live in a cheap lodging house and to have something more than the usual cup of coffee and rolls. Here we find men who can do nothing except work under a boss. They do the odd jobs about the streets, and in favorable weather they become tramps throughout the country. They are likely to be unreliable int heir work as well as intemperate and immoral in their living; their conversation is coarse and vulgar.

After we have finished looking over this section of the city I think we shall understand pretty thoroughly how terrible it is to be a failure in life.

Now let us go to some other parts of the city: to sections of Michigan Avenue, Jackson boulevard, and Hyde Park and the vicinity of the University. Here we shall find men who have succeeded in the various occupations, merchants, bankers, physicians, lawyers, scholars, ministers, manufacturers. The comfort in which these people live, the cleanliness of their children, the absence of filth and disease, the intelligence and refinement which are so manifest in the conversation indicate that the entire life of some of these families has been very different from those we saw in parts of west Madison Avenue.

These extremes between achievement on the one hand and failure on the other may be found in almost any part of our country.

Which will you take? I should like to know if there is a single young man among those who may read this manual who would be willing to make a failure of his life. I believe I am safe in saying that no person who is mentally normal would plan to be a failure. Probably there are many, however, who will unconsciously allow themselves to drift through life because they do not definitely plan a course of action for their future. When they have finished their work on earth there is no place to classify them except to put them with those who have failed.

Let us stop right here and take stock of ourselves. Are we willing to be among those who drift into failure, or do we want to keep our aim constantly on achievement and be among those who, by carefully planning their lives and industriously carrying out their plans, are able to live happy lives and to accomplish something that is really worth while?

Anyone with the least imagination cannot help being thrilled at the opportunities that are before every red-blooded young man who lives in the modern world. There are ever so many possibilities ahead. The world is reaching out with open arms so invitingly to all who want to succeed, that the wonder is that every young man in the world is not filled with ambition and thrilled at the outlook that is before him. On the other hand there is also much to attract one to the life of idleness an ease, and there are temptations to fall into sin and intemperance and to try to get the good things of life without paying the price for them. Each young man must decide for himself which road he is going to travel.

Achievement as an Element of Success

A person cannot succeed in life by merely being passively good; in addition he must achieve something worth while. There was a time when a good deal of stress was placed on things that should not be done; the “thou shalt not” was considered to be the important rule of action, and the good man was thought to be the one who did nothing bad. More recently, however, while evil deeds have lost none of their hideousness, it has become more and more evident that each individual has an obligation to accomplish, something of positive good as well as to refrain from doing evil.

Compare for example a man like Thomas a. Edison who has spent a long life in developing thousands of devices that are valuable to mankind, with an individual who is equally free from sin but who accomplished nothing to make the world a better place in which to live. The value of a man like Edison to the world cannot be measured in money; he has added to the comfort of millions of people and has made it possible for them to remove part of the drudgery from life and to increase almost immeasurably the efficiency and the general well-being of the human race.

Vocational Adjustment and Success

Success and material prosperity are by no means synonymous terms, yet the ability properly to support and educate a family is certainly an item that is very much to be desired. some individuals doubtless prosper even though they have very little ability, and others with the best equipment in ability and training may by accident be placed in unfortunate financial circumstances; yet in the great average those individuals who have the roper vocational adjustment are the ones who are able best to provide for the material needs of those who are dependent on them.

There is a tremendous waste in the world due to the fact that many of the workers have not found the vocation for which they are adapted and are not trained in the work they are doing. If each of the forty million individuals in the United States whoa re engaged in gainful occupations was doing exactly the kind of work for which he is best suited, and he had the proper training for that work, the annual addition of wealth to the nation would be almost beyond computation. If the earning capacity of each individual were increased by ten cents a day, mor e than a billion dollars would be added to the earnings of the workers each year.

It is obviously impossible completely to readjust those of mature years who are already settled in their occupations; the relief must come through the younger generation whose careers are before them. You young men of Mutual Improvement age are the ones who must make the adjustment. Each year sees an army of young men entering the industrial field as wage earners. What a blessing it would be if each of them could be so directed in this choice of vocations and in training for this work that part of the great wastage of youth could be eliminated.


1. What are some of the elements of a successful life?
2. Relate some experiences you have had with successful and with unsuccessful men.
3. What are some of the paths that lead to success and to failure?
4. How is achievement related to success?
5. Discuss the way in which proper vocational adjustment may influence a person’s success in earning a living, in being a good parent, in being a good neighbor, in being a good citizen.


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