Of course, self-reliance and dependability are two, quite different characteristics. But, you will readily agree that they should be companions. We have all seen fellows whose self-reliance had no basis of ability, training, or experience. In fact, some there are whose self-reliance is found firmly footed upon their lack of all three of these elements,—upon an utter failure to recognize either the demands of the problem, or the limitations of the individual,—upon their ignorance. If that is what you are building upon,—you'd best make rafts instead of sky-scrapers or power plants. As a foundation it is "Unstable as water,——-."
Upon what must self-reliance be based, in order to be safe? Did I err, above, in naming ability, and training, and experience? Isn't that more than is necessary? Would not any one of these be a sufficiently safe foundation, if it were of large extent?
Ability. Downright, inherent, available energy. Intelligence. both mental and motor. That, without which, the world would stand still economically, mentally, spiritually. That which expresses itself in word and in deed, in literature and in life. But,—it is a potential thing rather than kinetic. It needs releasing, directing into useful channels, harnessing, even curbing, else it is equally probable that it will die of inaction, or become destructive, rather than productive. Surely, ability is essential, but it is not enough.
Training- These are days when the untrained mind becomes less and less useful. No one advertises for unskilled workmen. We need men who know what the job is, how it is to be done. what the best methods are, even what the accomplished task stands for. Our experts must understand the principles hack of the processes if we are In trust them with our work, our goods and even our safety. How low easily untrained and inexpert workers can bungle the whole task! What would the man with no training do if he were called upon to calculate the stresses in a bridge member? To plan a crop rotation? To treat a patient? To write a sermon ? To balance an account ? To assay a sample of silver ore? And you can easily extend the list by one hundred and one other things.
What, indeed, would he do? Well, nothing,—plain nothing. Or even less than nothing, for without training for these particular service demands, he might, by his errors, even cause much unnecessary trouble and danger.
Experience. This is the fire in which we heat-treat our working tools. It will melt soft metals which are unworthy of the tempering process. It will burn to ashes imitations cleverly made of wood. It will make keener the fine-edged cutting tool, and temper the strong spring.
Experience tries out all of our abilities, our training; our ideas, our foibles: our personalities, our characters. It is a testing and proving process. Without it, who knows his worth?
A safe and sane self-reliance, therefore, is a growing thing. It progresses from limit to limit, and is the result of a careful study and a conservative evaluation of one's own abilities, his training and his experience. It is a necessary part of the life of any successful man.
"If you don't trust your own judgment, don't blame the boss for feeling the same way,"—but, get busy on the task of proving yourself to yourself.
Are you better for being at the University? Is the University any better for your being here?
Let me quote President Coolidge: "No man was ever glorified for what he got, but rather for what he gave,"
Don't hesitate to do your best for fear you'll burn up the world. You'll be surprised and humbled to find how very weak and impotent your best proves to be. Upon the other hand. don't hesitate to do your best for fear it may not register. You'll be surprised and gratified to learn how far-reaching and effective an ounce of real superiority is. Can you compound this paradox?
If you are going to become great, is it too early to begin