HOW TO BE HAPPY THOUGH
RICH - OR POOR
I was once caught in a gale when paddling in a birchbark canoe across a lake in Upper Canada. It was a pretty exciting experience while it lasted, but well worth while.
We had voyaged along rivers and streams, sometimes in
the smooth, sometimes through the rapids, but always amid the ever-changing glories of forest scenery.
It was a new experience to come out of our stream on to the wider expanse of the lake and, after starting out in sunshine, to find ourselves presently under a darkening sky involved in a rising gale and a choppy sea.
The frail little canoe, which before we had merely looked
upon as a vehicle for carrying us along the river, was now our one hope of life. If she shipped a sea, or if she touched a snag (and there were plenty of them about) we were done for.
Our paddle, instead of being looked on as a mere propeller, became our one means for dodging the attacks of waves and of keeping us going. All depended on the handling of that one implement.
"In a four-hour run across an open bay you will encounter over a thousand waves, no two of which are alike, and any one of which can fill you up only too easily, if it is not correctly met," writes Stewart E. White, in that delightful book of his, The Forest; and he proceeds to tell you
exactly how you deal with them.
"With the sea over one bow you must paddle on the
leeward side. When the canoe mounts a wave you must allow the crest to throw the bow off a trifle, but the moment you start down the other slope you must twist your paddle sharply to regaln the direction of your course.
"The careening tendency of this twist you must counteract by a corresponding twist of your body in the other direction. Then the hollow will allow you two or three strokes wherewith to assure a little progress. The double twist at the very crest of the wave must be very delicately performed or you will ship water the whole length of your craft.
"With the sea abeam you must paddle straight ahead.
The adjustment is to be accomplished entirely by the poise of the body. You must prevent the capsize of your canoe when clinging to the angle of a wave by leaning to one side.
"The crucial moment, of course, is that during which the
peak of the wave slips under you. In case of a breaking comber thrust the flap of your paddle deep in the water to prevent an upset, and lean well to leeward, thus presenting the side and half the bottom of the canoe to the shock of water.
"Your recovery must be instant, however. If you lean a
second too long, over you go."
The author goes on to tell successively, in similar detail, how to deal with a sea coming dead ahead, from a quarter or from dead astern.
In every case all depends on your concentrated attention, pluck and activity. The slightest slackness and down you go. But the contest has its compensation. "Probably nothing can more effectively wake you up to the last fibre of your physical, intellectual and nervous being. You are filled with an exhilaration. Every muscle, strung tight, answers immediately and accurately to the slightest hint. You quiver all over with restrained energy. Your mind thrusts behind you the problem of the last wave as soon as solved, and leaps with insistent eagerness to the next. It is a species of intoxication. You personify each wave; you grapple with it as with a personal adversary; you exult as, beaten and broken, it hisses away to leeward. 'Go it, you Son of a gun,' you shout. 'Ah! you would, would you ?- think you can, do you?' And in the roar and the rush of wind and water you crouch like a boxer on the defence, parrying the blows but ready at the slightest opening to gain a stroke or two of the paddle. You are too busily engaged in slaughtering waves to consider your rate of progress. The fact that slowly you are pulling up on your objective
point does not occur to you until you are within a few hundred yards of it. Then don't relax your efforts; the waves to be encountered in the last hundred yards are exactly as dangerous as those you dodge four miles from
Yes - and it is just the same with a busy life.
THE INTENTION OF THIS BOOK
The whole thing-the early voyage through the easyrunning stream, and then coming out on to the broad lake, the arising of difficulties, the succession of waves and rocks only avoided by careful piloting, the triumph of overcoming the dangers, the successful sliding into a sheltered landing-place, the happy camp-fire and the sleep of tired men at night - is just what a man goes through in life; but too often he gets swamped among the difficulties or temptations on the rough waters, mainly because he has not been warned what to expect and how to deal with them.
I have quoted a few of Stewart White's practical hints
from his experiences in paddling through sea-ways: I want in the following pages to offer you similar piloting hints from my own experiences of dealing with the different snags and waves that you are likely to meet with in paddling
through your life-ways.
Among these rocks and breakers are those that can be
labelled in the terms of the old toast, "Horses, Wine and Women," with the addition of Cuckoos and Cant. You are bound to come across most of them in your time. In the following chapters I propose to show you there are good as well as dangerous points about these rocks, and also how by "rovering" you may not only get round them, but also derive advantage and make your way to success.
HANDING ON ADVICE
It always seems to me so odd that when a man dies he takes out with him all the knowledge that he has got in his lifetime whilst sowing his wild oats or winnlng successes. And he leaves his sons or younger brothers to go through all the work of learning it over again from their own experience. Why can't he pass it on so that they start with his amount of knowledge to the good to begin with, and so get on to a higher scale of efficiency and sense right away.
It is with that sort of idea in my mind that I feel induced to jot down a few of the difficulties that I have come across in my time, and tell how I have found it best to deal with them. I don't say "how I dealt with them," because sometimes I went the wrong way to work, but I saw afterwards through my own mistakes what I ought to have done.
So this book is not intended for experienced men to
read. I warn them off. It is for you young men that I write, you who have got the sense to look ahead, anxious to see where you are going and what you are to do in life. And I must say I think that you of the new generation are a bit more level-headed in this direction than your predecessors in the past.
I suggest that we call this book "Rovering to Success".
You will see the further reason for the term in the last
By Rovering I don't mean almiess wandering, I mean
finding your way by pleasant paths with a definite object in view, and having an idea of the difficulties and dangers you are likely to meet with by the way.
You must expect a good many of these snags.
I have myself tasted some of the bitters and many of the
sweets of life, in most parts of the world, so you need not suppose that I am talking entirely through my hat in putting these ideas before you.
Life would pall if it were all sugar; salt is bitter if
taken by itself; but when tasted as part of the dish, it savours the meat. Difficulties are the salt of life.
Goethe's mother gave a good principle for life when she
said, "I seek no thorns and I catch the small joys. If the door is low I stoop. If I can remove the stone out of my way I do so. If it is too heavy I go round it"
In other words, she didn't butt in, looking for trouble,
but took things as they came and made the best of them.
And that is the way to reach success.
THE ONLY TRUE SUCCESS IS HAPPINESS
What is success?
Top of the tree? Riches? Position? Power?
Not a bit of it!
These and many other ideas will naturally occur to your
mind. They are what are generally preached as success, and also they generally mean overreaching some other fellows and showing that you are better than they are in one line or another. In other words, gaining something at another's expense.
That is not my idea of success.
My belief is that we were put into this world of wonders
and beauty with a special ability to appreciate them, in some cases to have the fun of taking a hand in developing them, and also in being able to help other people instead of overreaching them and, through it all, to enjoy life - that is, TO BE HAPPY.
That is what I count as success, to be happy. But
Happiness is not merely passive; that is, you don't get it by sitting down to receive it; that would be a smaller thing - pleasure.
But we are given arms and legs and bralns and ambitions with which to be active; and it is the active that counts more than the passive in gaining true Happiness.
TWO KEYS TO HAPPINESS
The rich man has his limitations. He may have two or
three houses and dozens of rooms in each, but he can only occupy one of these in turn, since he only has one body.
He is no better off than the poorest in that way. He may look at and admire the sunset, enjoy the sunshine, or the view, but the poor man can do that just as fully.
If the poorer man has the sense to do two things in life
he can enjoy it just as well as the millionaire, and probably better.
The first is:
Not to take things too seriously, but to make the best of what you have got, and to look on life as a game, and the world as a play-ground. But, as Shackleton has said, "Life is the greatest of all games; but there is the danger of treating it as a trivial game.... The chief end is to win through honourably and splendidly."
The second is:
To let your actions and thoughts be directed by Love. By Love with a capital "L" I don't mean falling in love and so on. I mean the use of the kindly spirit which you show when you do good turns to other people, when you are kind and sympathetic, and when you show gratitude to others
for kindness done to you. That is, Good-will. And Good-will is God's will.
A HAPPY PEOPLE
The happiest people I know as a nation are the Burmese;
their brightness and cheeriness are proverbial. Kindness to animals is one of their greatest "weaknesses"; no Burmese will kill an animal even if it is to put it out of pain. He will not eat flesh; and he generally treats animals almost as pets. Men, women and children all seem to enjoy with equal gaiety the beauty of their country, the flowers, the sunshine, and the forests, with smiles, singing
and laughter. They are singularly free from money-grubbing, almost to the extent of being what some people might call lazy. They are content to raise of money or
crops just what is sufficient for their wants; and for the lest they merely go in for enjoying life. But that enjoyment is not entirely idle enjoyment. Every young man goes through a period of training as a Phoongyi or monk; however well-off he may be he becomes for the time being penniless in voluntary poverty. He lodges austerely in a monastery, giving himself up to prayer and meditation, and taking up the teaching of boys in the ethics of religious knowledge. And he learns to render help in the best way to those who need it. So that when he comes out into the world he is a man with a sense of service for others and possessed of simple-minded tastes such as will make him a good citizen.
Fielding Hall, in writing of the Burmese in his Soul of a People, has said:
"Wherever else they may succeed or fail as individuals,
the Burmese nation will always be the greatest in the world -because it is the happiest."
Happiness is within the reach of everyone, rich or poor.
Yet comparatively few people are happy.
I believe the reason for this is that the majority don't
recognise happiness even when it is within their grasp.
Did you ever read The Blue Bird by Maeterlinck?
It is the story of a girl named Myltyl and her brother
Tyltyl, who set out to find the "Blue Bird of Happiness,"
and they wandered all over the country searching and
searching but never finding it, till in the end found that
they need never have wandered - Happiness, the Blue Bird,
was there where they chose to do good for others, in their
If you think out and apply the inner meaning of the
legend it is a help to finding happiness within your reach
when you thought it was in the moon.
Lots of fellows look on their work as drudgery, and even
their daily journey to and from their work as a grind.
And they keep looking forward to their holidays as the
time when they will be having some real enjoyment. Too
often when the holiday comes it is rainy and cold, or
they've got the 'flu and the long-looked-for outing turns out
The truth is it is no use putting off happiness for some
future day, but the way is to enjoy your life all the time.
The wise man does not bank only on a vague Heaven in
the dim future. He relises that he can make his own
Heaven for himself here, in this world, and now; and that
the better Heaven he makes now, the better is he building
for the future. So eventually he will enter into the true
Heaven prepared for him - the haven of rest and peace and
PLEASURE IS NOT HAPPINESS
Many people think that "pleasure" is the same thing as
"happiness". That's where they take the wrong turning.
Pleasure is too often only a distraction. You may take
pleasure in looking at a football match or a play, or in
reading a good story, or in criticising your neighbours, or
in over-eating, or getting drunk. But the effect is only
temporary; it lasts but for a time. Indeed, in some cases
the reaction is anything but pleasurable - there is the
headache next morning!
Happiness is another thing, it sticks by you and fills
your life. You find that Heaven is not just a vague something somewhere up in the sky, but is right here in this world, in your own heart and surroundings.
Arnold Bennett defined happiness as "satisfaction after
full honest effort".
But there is more in happiness than that. For one thing,
as he admits himself when he says that "almost any marriage
is better than no marriage," there is intense happiness in
the loving comradeship of a mate and the eager trustmg
companionship of your children.
The late Sir Ernest Cassel, who most people would point to as "a success in life," confessed to failure in the end. He had gained great riches and power and position and had achieved successes beyond the ordinary in his commercial, industrial and sporting activities. But at the end of his life he admitted that the great thing - happiness - was missing. He was, as he put it, "a lonely man."
"Most people," he said, "put too much belief in the
theory that wealth brings happiness. Perhaps I, being well
to do, may be entitled to say that it is not so. The things
that are most worth having are the things that money cannot buy."
There is at any rate some comfort and encouragement
in that remark for the man who is poor.
So there is also in the Cingalese proverb, which says,
"He who is happy is rich, but it does not follow that he who
is rich is happy."
THE POOR RICH
My wife and I did a queer kind of trip once. We went
for a walking-tour on the edge of the Sahara Desert, where
it breaks up into the arid stony wilderness of the Aures
Mountains. We had with us our two mules to carry our
camp-equipment, and two armed Arabs as guides and
In the course of our journey we crossed the road made
by the French which runs to the desert town of Biskra, and
here in place of the usual strings of camels meandering
along, we saw motor-cars tearing across the plain.
Inside were tourists being rushed to their destination - the big hotel in Biskra - without knowing anything of the
joys of tramping it, of finding your own food (even to the
spotting of tiny cracks in the soil which told of truffles
underneath) and cooking it in the open and bedding down
at night under the stars.
As we saw them, with one impulse we both ejaculated,
Yes, if you have riches you miss a terrible lot of fun.
ACTIVE WORK BRINGS HAPPINESS
But even the happiness of a home would not entirely
fill the bill because it does not extend sufficiently far beyond
self and therefore risks being selfishness. And selfishness is
the root of discontent.
True happiness is like radium. It is a form of love that increases in proportion to the amount that it gives out,
and that is where happiness comes within reach of everyone - even the very poorest.
The Rev. Canon Mitchell wrote, "Don't ask God to
make you happy, ask Him to make you reasonably useful,
and I think - I really think - that happiness will then come
of its own accord."
Happiness seems to me partly passive but largely active.
Passive, because the appreciation of the beauties of nature, of the glory of the sunset, of the majesty of the mountains, of the wonders of animal life, of the scent of the camp-fire, coupled with the joy of a happy home, produce a sense of gratitude to the Creator that can only be satisfied by some active expresslon of it; the effort to be helpful to others largely supplies the want. It is the active doing of good that counts.
A joyful home coupled with ability to serve others gives the best happiness.
A boy was brought up before the bench, as being incorrigible; he urged
as his excuse that is was God's fault. "If God did not want me to be bad, He would save me and make me good."
It reminds me of one of the Boer commanders who, when
he was captured by our troops, inveighed bitterly against
President Kruger for not having supplied him with sufficient
He said that when he asked for it the President gave
him the characteristic reply: "If God wants us to win the war
we shall win it whether we have artillery or not." To this he
had replied, "That is all very well. God has given you a
stomach with which to enjoy roast goose, but He expects you
to do the plucking and cooking of that goose for yourself."
There is a truth underlying this. God has given us in
this world all that is needed to make life enjoyable, but it
rests with us to make the most of it or to make a mess of it.
But we only have a short time to live, and it is essential,
therefore, to do things that are worth while and to do them
now. One step is not to be content to have your life and
ideas wholly wrapped up in bricks and mortar, trade and
politics, money-making and other man-made transient
things that do not matter.
But look round and learn as much as you can of the
wonders of nature, see all you can of the world and its
varied beauties and the interests that God offers you. You
will soon realise which are worth while and which are not to
a life of happiness.
In my own case I had for years past said to myself "In
three years' time I shall be dead. I must therefore get this
and that in shape and finished, or it will be too late."
This habit has led me on to hustle and get things done
which might otherwise have been put off till to-morrow.
Incidentally - and I am very thankful for it - it led me to
visit various parts of the world without that fatal waiting
for a "better opportunity".
In a sort of day-dream I once saw my arrival, after I
had done with this life, at the Gate and St. Peter questioning
me. He said to me in a kindly way, "And how did you like
"Japan? I lived in England."
"But what were you doing with all your time, in that
wonderful world, with all its beauty spots and interesting
places put there for your edification? Were you wasting
your time that God had given you to use?" So I promptly
went to Japan.
Yes, the thing that troubles very many men at the end
of life is that only then do they see things in their right
proportion, and too late they recognise that they have
wasted their time, that they have been doing things that
were not worth while.
PADDLE YOUR OWN CANOE
There is a tendency for you as a young man starting out
into life to feel that you are but one of a crowd, and so
can drift along with the rest and you will be all right, like
the lady who, when remonstrated with by her spiritual
adviser with the warning that her present life would lead
her to hell, replied: "Well, other people have to bear it.
So must I."
Well, that is a rotten bad tendency. Remember, you are
you. You have your own life to live, and if you want to
be successful, if you want to be happy, it is you who have
to gain it for yourself. Nobody else can do it for you.
When I was a youngster a popular song was "Paddle your
own Canoe," with the refrain
"Never sit down with a tear or a frown
But paddle your own Canoe."
This was meant as giving guidance to going through life
- and very good too.
In my picture of you, you are paddling your canoe, not
rowing a boat.
The difference is that in the one you are looking ahead
and sending yourself along all the time, while in the other
you are not looking the way you are going but trusting
to the steering of others, and consequently you may bump
into snags before you know where you are.
Lots of fellows try to row through life in that way. Lots
more prefer to sail passively and to be carried along by the
wind of luck or the current of chance; it is easier than rowing - and quite as fatal.
Give me the fellow who looks ahead and actively paddles
his own canoe - i.e. shapes his own course.
Paddle your own canoe; don't rely upon other people
to row your boat. You are starting out on an adventurous
voyage from the stream of childhood, along the river of
adolescence, out across the ocean of manhood to the port
you want to reach.
You will meet with difficulties and dangers, shoals and
storms on the way. But without adventure life would be
deadly dull. With careful piloting, above-board sailing,
and cheery persistence, there is no reason why your voyage
should not be a complete success, no matter how small the
stream in which you make your start.
SELF-EDUCATION IS NECESSARY
Remember that on leaving school you have not been
educated fully to become a man. Mainly you have been
shown how to learn.
If you want to win success, you must now finish your
education by educating yourself. I suggest that this should
take three main directions, viz.:
To make yourself capable for the responsibilities:
- of your profession or trade.
- as a future father of children.
- as a citizen and leader of other men.
When I left school I found that I was, as it were, in a
dark room, and the education I had been given was as a
lighted match which showed how dark the room was, but
that a candle was available for me to light with that match
and use for my future guidance in the room.
But it was only one room in this world of many rooms.
It is well to look into the other rooms, that is into other
lines of life in neighbouring centres or other countries, and
see how people live there.
You may discover that though your own room seems
dark and dismal, there are ways of letting in more sunshine
and better outlook if you choose to use them.
But in making your life a success in this way, you will
be doing a bigger thing than bringing about your own
personal happiness - you will be doing something for the
It may seem odd to you that one single fellow, and one
who is not a big bug, can help the nation. But it is a fact
all the same.
God made men to be men.
On the other hand civilisation, with its town life, buses, hot-and-cold water laid on, everything done for you,
tends to make men soft and feckless beings.
That is what we want to get out of.
You often see it said that the Public School education
which the more well-to-do boys get is no good. It is good,
but not so much for what is taught in the class-room
as for what is learnt on the playing-field and out of
A boy there learns that clean play and true sportsmanship, straight dealing and sense of honour, are expected
of him by his comrades. They discipline him. Until he
has earned the right to make his voice heard, he gets
very definitely put in his place. In other words, he is
"licked into shape". There is a considerable hardening
process about it which is all good for him in the end.
In the old days the Spartans put their boys through a
very rigorous training in hardness and endurance before
they were allowed to count themselves as men, and so do
many savage tribes of the present day.
In Central Arica, in the South Sea Islands, among the
aborigines of Australia, one still sees it in full swing. I have
known it too with the Zulus and Swazis and Matabele,
where the trainlng took the form of sending a boy out alone
into the bush, when he arrived at the age of young manhood, in order to prove himself.
He was painted white with bismuth, which cou!d not be
washed off and which lasted for some weeks before it wore
He was given an assegai or short spear, and that was
all, and was turned loose to live as best he could in the
He had to track, stalk and kill his game for his food
and clothing, and make his own fire by rubbing
sticks for striking sparks, and to keep himself
hidden, since the rule was that if seen by other men while he
was still white, they would kill him.
Well, a fellow who came out of that ordeal and returned to his kraal at the end of it was acclaimed as having proved himself no longer a boy and
was given his status as a man.
Unfortunately, for the ordinary boy in civilised countries, there is nothing of this kind. We badly need some such training
for our lads if we are to keep up manliness in our race instead of
lapsing into a soft and sloppy, nation.
That is why I say that if you choose to prepare yourself for success as I suggest in these pages, you will not only be doing yourself good, but you will be doing a good thing for the country, "You'll be a MAN, my son," and you will thus be making one more man for the nation.
And what is more, your example will spread and others will make themselves men like you.
GO FORWARD WITH CONFIDENCE
Well, I've indicated to you in outline some of the
"rocks" that you will meet with in the course of your
voyage through life. There will be others.
But this I can tell you for your comfort, that I have been up against a good many ugly-looking rocks in my time,
but in every case I have found that as one got round
there was a bright side to them.
Over and over again I have had something bad in prospect, but when I have gone into it the results have been very much better than I expected.
This has happened so often that now I rather welcome
a black outlook, as I feel certain that it is going to turn
out much better than it appears at first sight.
I have got a little totem hanging over my writing-table. I have it there because it is an inspiring little figure.
It helps to tune one up when there's an ugly or a difficult job on hand. It is a man on a horse, tackling an ugly-looking
dragon. St. George is his name.
I have got a lot of drawings, both ancient and modern, of him.
There is one I like better than the rest, not because it is a better picture, for it isn't; but because in it St. George
is shown with a devil of a grin on - he is tackling the dragon
with a smile, cheerily, and he means to win. And that is the
way to tackle any difficulty however ugly it may look.
So don't be content merely to defend yourself and to
ward off the worst of what you may be facing, but go at
it with a determination to defeat it and to get advantage
out of it some old how.
WHAT OTHER FELLOWS HAVE SAID
The best way to succeed in this world is to act on the
advice you give to others (Anon.). (Sounds rather like a hit
The great thing in the world is not so much where we
stand as in what direction we are moving (Holmes).
Success does not depend so much upon external help as
on self-reliance (Abraham Lincoln).
Be not a shrub but a cedar in your generation (Sir Thomas
We are not what we think we are, but what we think,
we are (Anon.).
The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be happy as kings.
(R. L. Stevenson.)
Hump your own Pack (Canadian saying).
Happiness is more than a grin on one's face, it is the
glory in one's heart. It is the consciousness that one's
machinery is working perfectly at the job for which it was
designed (R. Parlette).
PADDLE YOUR OWN CANOE
For a man 'tis absurd to be one of a herd,
Next Chapter Index
Needing otheis to pull him through;
If he's got the right grit he will do his own bit
And paddle his own canoe.
He'll look without dread at the snags on ahead,
Wine, Women and Highbrows too;
He won't run aground but will work his way round,
With a smile, in his own canoe.
So love your neighbour as yourself
As the world you go travelling through,
And never sit down with a tear or a frown,
But paddle your own canoe.