Rule 65. Small and steady gains give competency with a tranquil mind.
Here again we have a rule from Stephen Allen’s notebook of maxims. As mayor of New York City in the 1820’s, Allen had numerous opportunities to see the reality of this rule. Witnessing a time period when everyone searched for a easy buck and an easy life.
Through every time and in every place there will always be people looking to get rich quick. They look for the minimum amount of work with the maximum amount of return. Foolishly expecting to make something out of nothing.
Riches quickly gained are also quickly lost. Without the hard work and effort it takes to earn a reward, the prize has incredibly less value in the eye of its owner. Blood and sweat have a miraculous effect on our vision: The more difficult and hard an objective, the more it has to be earned, the more it is appreciated when achieved.
In Owen Wister’s book, The Virginian, the titular protagonist tries to teach this lesson to a wayward soul named Shorty.
“I can make more,” said Shorty, this time with stubbornness.
“Well, yes. Sometimes a man can—when he’s not worth it, I mean. But it don’t generally last.”
Shorty was silent. “I used to make more myself,” said the Virginian.
“You’re making a lot more now,” said Shorty.
“Oh, yes. But I mean when I was fooling around the earth, jumping from job to job, and helling all over town between whiles. I was not worth fifty a month then, nor twenty-five. But there was nights I made a heap more at cards.”
Shorty’s eyes grew large.
“And then, bang! it was gone with treatin’ the men and the girls.”
“I don’t always—” said Shorty, and stopped again.
The Virginian knew that he was thinking about the money he sent East. “After a while,” he continued, “I noticed a right strange fact. The money I made easy that I WASN’T worth, it went like it came. I strained myself none gettin’ or spendin’ it. But the money I made hard that I WAS worth, why I began to feel right careful about that. And now I have got savings stowed away. If once yu’ could know how good that feels—”
“So I would know,” said Shorty, “with your luck.”
“What’s my luck?” said the Virginian, sternly.
“Well, if I had took up land along a creek that never goes dry and proved upon it like you have, and if I had saw that land raise its value on me with me lifting no finger—”
“Why did you lift no finger?” cut in the Virginian. “Who stopped yu’ taking up land? Did it not stretch in front of yu’, behind yu’, all around yu’, the biggest, baldest opportunity in sight? That was the time I lifted my finger; but yu’ didn’t.”
Shorty stood stubborn.
“But never mind that,” said the Virginian. “Take my land away to-morrow, and I’d still have my savings in bank. Because, you see, I had to work right hard gathering them in. I found out what I could do, and I settled down and did it. Now you can do that too. The only tough part is the finding out what you’re good for. And for you, that is found. If you’ll just decide to work at this thing you can do, and gentle those hawsses for the Judge, you’ll be having savings in a bank yourself.”
Shorty did not listen to the Virginian’s wisdom. Turning to crime he made more, but got himself in a mess of trouble that ended costing him his life.
Earned money gives a man a feeling of self-worth that cannot be compared with. Regardless how much or how little, a great deal of satisfaction comes with seeing your small earning accumulate if you properly manage them. Not only that, you can rest your head easy with a tranquility easy money does not provide.
The methods by which money can be rapidly earned tend to take a toll on a person’s peace of mind. Legitimate or illegitimate, the games are played for high stakes. If won, it provides a large payday, but if lost, it could cost you everything.
It is better to make the money you are worth, putting in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage, than it is to tempt your fate with easy money. Quickly gained, quickly lost, the costs of quick money are hidden until it is too late. The volatile nature of the income infects your life, leaving you without peace.
Wealth built by saving a portion of your income requires no sleepless nights or days of worry, it only asks that you be patient.