Making It – When and How Boys Transition Into Successful Men

Young men are constantly worrying lest they be failures and nonentities. Every man will count for all he is worth. There is as steady and constant a ratio between what a man is, and what he can accomplish, as there is between what a ton of dynamite is, and what it can accomplish. There is as much a science of success as there is a science of mathematics…

An Excerpt from You Can Be a Great American! 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness (a Growing Up Great Guide for American Boys and for the Parents and Teachers Who Love Them), by W. F. Markwick and W. A. Smith

Entry #25 in the Raising Great Americans Project! Click Here to learn More!



From Boy to Man:




It is the pushing fellows who get well to the front.

–William Black

The tricky, underhanded individual pays higher for all he gets.

–W. M. Thackeray

A man ought to be something more than the son of his father.

–J. Staples White

Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part, there all the honor lies.


The darkest hour in the life of any young man is when he sits
down to study how to get money without honestly earning it.

–Horace Greeley


If we have seen that the first transition period in life is that which marks the passing of the child into the youth, then we may safely speak of the second transition period as that which marks the passing of the youth into the man.

Usually there is involved in this change the leaving of the parental home; the selecting of a business or profession; and, sometimes, the establishment of a new home, and the assuming of the cares of family life. It is, therefore, of importance that we should guard all the several interests of this period with more than ordinary care, and especially that we should acquaint ourselves with those facts and principles which have successfully guided others through a similar experience.

First of all we must make a careful study of our possibilities. Young men are constantly worrying lest they be failures and nonentities. Every man will count for all he is worth. There is as steady and constant a ratio between what a man is, and what he can accomplish, as there is between what a ton of dynamite is, and what it can accomplish. There is as much a science of success as there is a science of mathematics. A great deal depends on the matter of laying in supplies, accumulating primary stuff. A man is never too young to have that fact put before him, and never too old to have it rehearsed. He will understand and appreciate the truth of it before he gets through life; and it is a great pity for him not to have, at least, a little appreciation of it near the beginning, so as to frame his initial years in accordance with it.

Let, therefore, nothing escape your observation–deem nothing below your notice. Dive into all depths, and explore all hidden recesses that will render you a master of every department of any business or profession you may engage in. The man who can render himself generally useful has always a better chance of getting on in the world. Whatever you thoroughly acquire will be a source of satisfaction and profit to you throughout your future life. It will save you many an anxious hour by day, and many a restless one by night. Remember that the whole is made up of parts, and that the parts must be well understood before you can master the whole. You will never be able to manage your business successfully without a thorough knowledge of it in all its details. Resolve, therefore, at the very commencement of your career, to acquire such knowledge.

Young people sometimes say, “I shall never get an opportunity of showing what is in me, for every business is now so crowded.” Shakespeare has answered this when he said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” As a matter of fact opportunities come to all, but all are not ready for them when they come. Successful men are those who prepare themselves for all emergencies, and take advantage of the occasion when the favorable time comes.

A good many young men excuse themselves from ever becoming anything, or doing anything, by the fact that they always live where it is low tide. Perhaps that is because it is always low tide where they live. At any rate, the more we learn of the history of the men who have succeeded, the more apparent it becomes that if they were born in low water, they patched up their tattered circumstances, and beat out to sea on a tide of their own making.

If you would be a success in the business world, then you must master everything that you lay your hands upon. Bear in mind that this is your own interest, as well as your duty toward your employer. Think nothing below your attention; do not be afraid of drudgery. Investigate all, comprehend all, grasp all, and master all. Business, like an ingenious piece of machinery, is made up of many complicated parts. Analyze it, therefore, thoroughly search all its parts, and know for yourself how they are put together.

You may cherish the hope that you will one day be an employer yourself. It would be very desirable if we could repose unlimited confidence in the words and acts of our fellow-men; but, unfortunately, the condition of the world is not as yet sufficiently advanced to enable us to do so. Where you will find one that you can trust, you will find many that need watching. If you should be unacquainted with some of your business details, you must trust to others, and may in consequence be deceived. A few months of careful attention to it at the commencement of your career will secure you against deception throughout the whole of your life as an employer.

Then you must also be careful to remember that dividends in life are not paid until the investment of personal effort has been made. Sowing still antedates reaping; and the amount sowed determines pretty closely the size of the harvest. Whether it be young men or wheat fields the interest can be depended upon to keep up with the capital, and empty barns in October are the logical consequence of empty furrows in spring. The young man may as well understand that there are no gratuities in this life, and that success is never reached “across lots.”

Success means, all the way through to the finish, a victory over difficulties; and if the young aspirant lacks the grit to face and down the difficulty that happens to confront him at the start, there is little reason to expect that his valor will show to any better advantage in his encounter with enemies that get in his way later.

Young men are apt to imitate each other. Let your conduct be such as to bear imitation; otherwise you will lead those who are younger than you to form injurious habits, and be the means of leading them away from the path of duty. It is an obligation you owe your seniors. In the discharge of their duties they will have to depend upon you to a certain extent; and if your part is not properly performed, the whole system must unavoidably suffer derangement.

If the mind is temperate in feeling, deliberate in choosing, and robust in its willing, character becomes set and enduring. If, on the contrary, feeling is volatile, choice fickle, and the will flabby, one quality after another awakens momentary admiration and impulse; ideals succeed each other as the vanishing visions of a dream; life is passed in a state of perpetual inward contradiction; and failure, both for yourselves and for your imitators, is almost sure to follow.

No young man can remain long in this unsettled or transition state; but he must become something. You will therefore do well to be careful how you tread this probationary ground; for it is really the one great opportunity of your lives so far as concerns the formation of your general characters. Use it thoughtfully and well, and your manhood will be stronger, richer, and more helpful, all through your later years.

This Article is an Excerpt from You Can Be a Great American! 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness (a Growing Up Great Guide for American Boys and for the Parents and Teachers Who Love Them), by W. F. Markwick and W. A. Smith, which is available from Better Days Books in quality hardbound, sturdy trade paperback and convenient .PDF e-book editions starting at just $4.95.

Industry, Ambition, Self Control, Self-Respect, Courtesy, Faithfulness, Courage, Duty, Honesty, Enthusiasm, Humility, Patriotism… In every era of our Nation’s history, the true alchemy by which ordinary boys have been transformed into Great American Men has always and only occurred where these indispensible moral principles have been successfully applied. In an age like our own, where such manly ideals are openly mocked and derided by our popular culture, it’s time to turn to the past to recapture a clear vision of what it takes to be a Great American, and the true moral and ethical ladder that leads reliably to its attainment.

You Can Be a Great American: 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness was first published in 1900, under the title The True Citizen, How to Become One, and contains 39 essential lessons in manhood tailored to each age and transition in a boy’s life, from infancy to adulthood. It is the clearest roadmap to American Greatness ever compiled for the youth of our Nation, and remains as life-changing today as it was when first published, over 100 years ago.

Whether you are an adult raising boys in a Traditional family setting, the single parent of a son, or a boy abandoned to no or poor parenting, left to grab your own bootstraps and lift yourself up to a life of achievement, success and All-American Greatness (or an adult who knows a boy in such sad straits), You Can Be a Great American!: 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness is the only guidebook you’ll ever need.

Also available through in quality trade paperback and Kindle e-book download editions.


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