This section is from the "Practical Banking" book, by Albert S. Bolles.
It is generally true in mercantile life and in the learned professions, and always true in banking, that in order to insure success, a young man must have some end in view towards which all his exertions shall tend. Every young man should have some well-defined plan of life marked out before him, and all his energies should be directed to the realization of it.
Many have some general object in view, such as getting rich, or getting beyond hard work at some time of their life; while but few have a specific, noble mark, towards which they are aiming. This is the reason why there are so many second-rate young men to be found in every profession, and why so many men of riper years are neither one thing nor another—strung up and dangling between something and nothing—breathing in the unsatisfying east wind of a glorious mediocrity, and hoping that an undefined something may turn up one of these days, which shall relieve them and place them in an undefined blissful somewhere. According as a young man aims, so will his arrow fly. According to the energy with which he strives, and the talents which he brings to bear, so will he rise. But what are the objects to be aimed at by a young banker? For what end should he strive, and what is there ahead to reward his toil? What are the advantages of the banker's profession? The advantages enjoyed by persons in this profession, for the attainment of everything desirable in life, are very great, and the inducements held out by the profession to ambitious, enterprising young men, are enough to satisfy any reasonable person. A high eminence and a name are as sure of attainment as in any other business.
* The excellent ideas contained in this chapter first appeared in the Banker's Magazine nearly thirty-five years ago. Time has not impaired their value. They were written by George P. Bissell, a banker in Hartford, Conn.
It should be the object of every young man who enters the profession, to become thoroughly acquainted with every part of it. He should strive to become familiar with it all, from the great general principles down to the minutest detail. While in a subordinate situation, he should not be satisfied with merely doing the work which is laid upon him, but while in this situation, he should be fitting himself for the next place above him. His aim should be to rise as rapidly as is consistent with a healthy growth, till he has placed himself at the head of an institution; and then his ambition should be, to be first in his profession, to reach an eminence and carry his bank with him. To aim merely at a cashier-ship, or to be president, is a low aim; but to be known as the best cashier or president in the country, is an aim well worthy of any man, and is the only one which should satisfy a young man entering this profession. A young man can rise as rapidly and as surely in this, as in any other profession; he can also rise as slowly and as surely, and he can remain as immutably stationary, as in any other calling under heaven. There are plenty of stopping places adapted to all phases of mediocrity, and these stopping places are very tenacious of their prey. A man once fixed in any of them, is there for life.
No one should enter the business unless he is determined to reach the top of the ladder. If a man is not somewhat ambitious, and unless he can see through a pretty long transaction, he generally becomes a fixture. Any one can tell, in the course of his first year, whether he is adapted to the business, and whether he will succeed. If a young man begin to feel the trap-door of a second-rate station, or a subordinate clerkship, pressing him down as he is trying to ascend the ladder, let him make a desperate effort to raise it; but if he cannot succeed, let him at once betake himself to some other ladder, under some other opening.
Let no one enter this profession with the expectation of becoming suddenly, or even speedily, rich, for this expectation will be disappointed; neither let any entering the profession be afraid of ever becoming poor. Labor is generally liberally rewarded, and talent is generally appreciated. There are some, it is true, in banks, who receive but small pay, and who delve for years in subordinate situations, but such are generally men not largely endowed with talent, whose aim is nowhere, and who consequently are paid about as much as they are worth. A man of talents and energy is always sure of good pay; sufficient for all the expenses attendant upon a genteel style of living, besides a handsome margin for moderate investment for the satisfaction of that great maelstrom account generally known as "sundries." He is always sure of a competence.
A competence is all we can enjoy,
O be content where Heaven can give no more.