Chapter 1 — The Come-Back
Why not have what you want? Have you settled down with a notion that you can’t get it?
Are you accepting a disappointment as something you must suffer?
Do you look at the thing that you really desire as being far beyond your reach?
Do you carry around with you a heartache because you think your heart’s desire is finally and forever denied you?
Do you look on yourself as being down and out, with no chance to get back?
Do you think you are too poor to buy the things you like or even the things you need?
Have you done something that you think has brought a penalty on you—sickness, poverty, loss of freedom, grief?
Well, before you give it all up as hopeless won’t you just read along a little way in this discussion to see if your case is as bad as you think it is? I am not writing to sell you anything or to teach you anything or to persuade you of anything, but just to share with you the ideas that changed the life of a man who used to think as you do and who thought he had good reason to think so, but who has found out that he was mistaken and that life is not hopeless at all; and who believes that what helped him may help somebody else who is under a cloud similar to the one that he once lived under. Many things you want most are now within your reach.
It has been said that if a man were to offer twenty-dollar gold pieces for sale on the street at fifty cents each, there would be few buyers, because nearly everybody would leap to the conclusion that he was a fraud. If you will study the real reason why people instinctively feel that way, you will find in it the very secret of success in getting what you want.
You have heard it said a thousand times that “you can’t get something for nothing.” You may or may not think that you believe this to be true, but it is true, whether you believe it or not; and everybody deep down in his inner nature knows it is true. That’s why he is shy of any promise that promises too much. That’s why you are probably skeptical about the promise of this little piece of print. But just let this idea get a foothold in your mind: If it is a law that I cannot get something for nothing, then it must be true of this law, as it is of all genuine laws, that it works both ways; it must be true that I cannot give anything without getting something for it. Ever think of that?
Have you ever been surprised to find that when you liked or disliked a man or a woman, that person was sure to return the feeling you had for or “gave” to him? Have you ever noticed what a railroad company does that enables it to take in money? It gives transportation that is needed by people. Have you ever wondered why Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller are so rich? Whatever else you may think of them, you must see that the world gives them money because they give something to the world—the one, a good low priced car; the other, good oil at a reasonable price. What does a department store do before it gets regular customers? It gives service, courtesy, good will, a square deal, accommodation, and so forth, to a community, which brings in the trade as the direct and inevitable result. What does an employee do before he gets wages or a salary? He gives a day’s work or a week’s or a month’s. What gets him a raise? Giving a little more than he is paid for, nothing else. What does a farmer do before he gets a crop? He gives the seed to the ground and gives it water and care. How does an artist or a writer win fame? By giving the world a work of art or some great literature. How do I win a friend? By giving him friendship, and in no other way.
Sometimes people say—and maybe you are one of them just now—that there are people who get something for nothing; who give nothing for what they receive. Did you ever study such cases or do you take somebody else’s word for it, as most of us do in such matters? Well, are you from Missouri? If you honestly want to be shown, you are on the only sound ground that there is.
Now, who gets something for nothing? The man who finds an oil well in his back yard? The woman who marries a rich man? The miner who stumbles upon gold? The fellow who wins in the lottery? The thief who takes a purse or the contents of a bank vault? The swindler who cheats the unwary out of his property? The real estate shark who sells worthless lots for big prices? The bootlegger who makes his own liquor with wood alcohol, puts bogus labels on it, and sells it as “just off the ship”? The heirs who destroy the old will or forge a new one so that all the property comes to them? The counterfeiter who makes hundred-dollar bills out of mere paper and ink? The chap who raises a thousand-dollar check to $10,000? Do all-or any-of these get something for nothing? I used to think they did. Often it looks so.
But the more you watch the individuals who do these things, the more you’ll see that the law works with them just as it works with you and me. It’s law—just as truly as the law of gravitation is law—and I can’t break it. Neither can you. Neither can anybody else. Did you ever know a gambler who got rich? Did you ever know a burglar who had anything left after his pals, his fence, and his lawyers got through with him? Did you ever know a counterfeiter who had cars and a country home and a yacht? Did you ever know a woman who married for money and was happy?
“Maybe not,” you say, “but they got away with the profits of the crooked deal!” Did they? How long did the profits last? Do you know?
Did you ever know anybody to keep the money he won in a lottery? Did you ever know the “lucky” finder of oil or gold, who hadn’t given something for it, to profit by it?
If you will let go of the rumors and fabulous stories about riches’ coming to people for nothing, and get right down and investigate, you’ll be surprised. Study the history of “depressions.”
What is success in business made of? I mean any success in any business. Some persons will say, “Hard work.” But that is not always true. Hard work alone will not insure success. You know plenty of persons who have worked hard but have gotten almost nothing for it. Does honesty make success? Not necessarily. Does dishonesty pay? No! Terribly upsetting, isn’t it, to be told that neither crookedness nor honesty succeeds? Well, that’s where you and I have been making a mistake. We have swung like pendulums from one extreme to the other. First we’ve tried to succeed by one method, then by the other. When crookedness fails, men preach honesty; when honesty fails, the preachers are dumbfounded and other men turn bitterly back to crookedness. What is the reason? Simply that neither mere dishonesty nor mere honesty pays; nor mere laziness, nor mere hard work. Nothing really pays but obedience to law—not man’s law but God’s law.
Gravitation is one of God’s laws, isn’t it? Who uses the law of gravitation? Anybody? Does it make any difference whether he is good or bad, honest or dishonest, crooked or straight, saint or sinner, rich or poor, fat or lean, white or black? It does not; the law of gravitation works for him infallibly, invariably, inflexibly, eternally, regardless of who or what he is. Who uses the laws governing the burning of gasoline to drive a car? Who uses the laws of friction to stop a car? Who uses the laws of electricity? the laws of light? Does it make any difference whether one is handsome or homely, whether he is freckled or pallid, whether he smokes or drinks or swears or goes to church or tights or steals or kills or loves? It does not. A murderer can drive a car or stop it. A clown can ride in an airplane. A fool can start or stop a dynamo. An idiot can set a fire. A preacher or a moron can explode dynamite. A sister of charity or a woman of the street will burn a hand on a hot stove. Good or bad, saintly or vicious—law works alike for all, and everything works under law.
But some laws seem to be greater than others, to include others, to transcend others. For instance, the laws controlling the airplane seem to enable it to break the law of gravitation. Of course, they don’t; they simply enable us to counteract the force of gravitation. The laws of the radio release us from conditions to which we have thought ourselves limited by other governing laws—laws of sound transmission. By studying these things I see that so soon as I begin working by any law I begin to benefit by it, and no other law can stop me; because all the laws of nature fit together, work together, help one another—they never work against one another. The law of gravitation helps me to use the airplane, it holds me down against the air. If it did not, I’d be flung off the world into space, airplane and all—not to mention other things that would happen. When I start my car, the laws governing the action of the engine seem to overcome the laws of inertia and friction—but no law is broken. If it weren’t for inertia there would be no momentum; if it weren’t for friction my clutch would not grip and my tires would not take hold of the road. I do not break laws; I use them.
Now, a law that works at all always works. You say conditions affect laws? No; fog, for instance, only obscures the light of the stars to my eyes—the stars still shine. Static interferes with the radio only as it obscures the broadcasting for me; the broadcasting is there just the same. Law always works—anywhere—everywhere—now and forever. Two and two make four, by mathematical law, in New York or Kansas City, in Paris or Tokyo, in the cathedral or the prison, in the home or the dive, on earth or Mars, today or in Caesar’s time, now or in eternity.
If this law that I cannot get something for nothing, and that therefore I cannot give without receiving, is law, then it works with the same infallibility and continuity as all other laws. It makes no difference who I am, where I am, how much I weigh, what color my hair is, or what my character is, this law works for me just the same. It is commonly called the law of giving and receiving, and it can be stated this way: What I give out comes back to me—multiplied—always. The “Come-back” is like the yield from seed.
Now, if you agree so far, don’t you see where this has led you? It has led you to recognize that you are where you are today because of what you have given out. You are getting it back multiplied, just as I’m getting mine. But what else does it mean? It also means that what you start giving out now is also going to start coming back to you—multiplied. You can change the crop you are reaping, but there’s just one way to do it: you can change the seed you are planting—change the sort of thing you are giving out. I did. It works, and nobody can stop it; nothing can stop it, no circumstance, no apparent handicap, no apparent misfortune, no “bad luck,” no enemy, nobody who “has it in for you.” What you give out comes back to you—what you begin giving out begins coming back to you. Any man, woman, or child can transform his life by transforming the thing he gives out.
Of course the first question that comes up in your mind (it was the first in my mind) is “How long must I suffer for what I’ve already done?” That’s an interesting point. Suppose we think a minute about law: If I am working a problem in arithmetic, and I have been getting the wrong answer over and over and over again; and if I suddenly find that I’ve been trying to work the problem by the wrong method—contrary to principle—in opposition to law; and if I stop going contrary to law and work with law, how long does it take me to get the right answer? Suppose that I am learning to drive a car, and I try to start it by stepping on the gas without shifting into gear; the car does not start. But when I shift into gear—in other words obey the law governing the case—and then “step on the gas,” how long does it take the car to start? Suppose I have a boat with a hole in it; I find that when I put it into the water, it fills and sinks. Suppose that I obey the law governing boats, and stop the leak; how long does it take the boat to float? If I am locked in a room and don’t know how to unlock the door, I stay there till I learn how, do I not? But when I learn how to turn the key in that lock, how soon do I get out?
You may think out as many other examples as you like of how law works for you the moment you begin to obey it, of how obedience now cancels the mistakes of yesterday, or of last year. Then come back to our argument and think this one over: So true and far-reaching and fundamental is this law of giving and receiving that it extends into our thoughts. There’s a lot of talk these days about the power of thought, and some persons are disposed to sneer at it. But there’s more in it than these persons suppose, and they suffer because they don’t realize the power of thought. It is true, too, that what you think comes back to you, multiplied. Is there a laugh in that for you? Well, can you do anything without first thinking about it? Is any discovery or invention, any work of art or book, any newspaper or tool, any manufacturing or any crime, any deed good or bad ever performed without some one’s first thinking about it? In other words, everything that you do is first an idea in your mind. That is where it is first “created.” If you make a chair, or a plan, or a steamship, or a printing press, or a bomb, or a broom, it must first take shape in your mind, as an idea. As a matter of fact, the idea of a thing is the real creation of it; the physical putting it together afterward is a mere copy of the idea in your mind.
We are accustomed to think that a certain amount of time and energy is required to make the visible copy of the idea—the visible chair, or plow, or broom. But the more perfectly we think it out—that is, create it as a complete idea in mind—the more quickly and perfectly we can create it in visible form; and as we think it out better and better, we find that we require less and less time to make the visible thing-and less and less energy. Newly invented machines, for instance, are usually crude, cumbersome, heavy, and require a lot of power to operate them. But as they are perfected—that is, as they are thought out—they become lighter, simpler, more efficient, are operated by less power, and do their work more quickly. In this process the time always comes when the thing that once took a long period and much labor to make is made at a speed so high that the production is in some cases almost instantaneous. If, when we began making this thing we had understood all the laws of its making, we could have made it instantaneously without going through the process of learning how.
But that would have been a miracle! Exactly! The difference between what we call a natural process and what we call a miracle is largely a matter of the time required to reach the desired end. But doing a “miracle” is merely a matter of understanding the laws by which it is done. The first Ford car required months of grueling labor to build; today the Ford plants can make about five and one half cars a minute—or one about every ten seconds. Is that a miracle? Wouldn’t it have been a miracle to produce a Ford every ten seconds, say thirty years ago? What makes it possible today? Knowledge of the laws.
Knowledge of the laws involved in anything is not only the most valuable knowledge that we can have but it is absolutely essential. Mr. Ford never would have made a car if he had started with no knowledge of the law. But he began by using what he had—probably by using something that he had been told, or had read, about the laws of mechanics. As he used the knowledge that he had, his knowledge grew—just as your muscle grows as you use it—or as intelligence grows by use—or anything else. And wouldn’t Henry Ford have been foolish not to try out his first bits of knowledge about law?
Think this over and you’ll see that anything men ever achieve is accomplished by knowledge of the law. Health, wealth, happiness, success, prosperity, freedom! Anything you want literally will come to you if you will obey its laws just as literally as you obey the law of gravitation.
Now, of course you see the direction of this argument. A man’s work or a woman ‘s work is not primarily to do something hard that brings the sweat, breaks the nails, tires the muscles, and exhausts the wind—something that is drudgery. Not at all. The secret of getting what you want lies in obeying the law governing getting what you want.
What is that law? Why, it is just what we’ve been talking about—the law of giving and receiving.
Now, what is your first thought at this suggestion? You think, “What have I to give?” Perhaps you conclude that you have nothing. But Henry Ford had nothing—at the start—nothing but an idea. Heinz, the pickle man, of “fifty-seven varieties” fame, had nothing at the start—nothing but an idea. Woolworth, the five-and-ten-cent store man, had nothing at the start-nothing but an idea. Golden Rule Nash, the tailor, who built a business up from nothing to $12,000,000 in six years, had nothing at the start—nothing but an idea. But the curious thing about it is that these men all had the same idea. What was it? It was the idea of giving the world something that it needed—something of value. When they began acting on the idea by giving what they had to begin with, they learned how to give more, and so received more; and when they gave that, more came—until every one of them reached the point where he was successful and famous, and money rolled in upon him faster than he could use it.
It will work for you—this law. It has worked for me. It is working for you and for me whether we know it or not—whether we believe it or not. What you give out comes back to you—multiplied. If you don’t get what you want, it’s nobody’s fault but your own. If I don’t get what I want, it’s nobody’s fault but mine. The law works. If it works for me slowly at first, that is because I must learn by giving what I have, before I can get more knowledge of the law and thus have more to give. But if I will give what I have, where I am, to someone who needs it, I’ll gain the knowledge and the things that I need. As I go on giving, I rapidly rise toward the point where I shall do easily and instantaneously the thing that now takes me a long time to do—just as my hand gains skill and speed and ease with a hammer, or a drill, or a needle, or a baseball, or a boxing glove, or a hoe, or a tennis racket, or a camera, or a motor car, or a dynamo. Eventually, by using all the knowledge I have of law, in giving service to the world, I shall gain the ability to do seeming miracles—as Henry Ford, Ty Cobb, Wm. Tilden, Barney Oldfield, Mary Pickford, Thomas Edison, and Luther Burbank have done.
If you believe that the foregoing argument is sound, has it occurred to you that the conclusion is not new? It’s at least as old as the year 33 A. D. In other words, it has been taught to the world more or less ever since the time of Jesus Christ. In fact it was and is His teaching. Many people overlook the real teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. But listen: Didn’t He say, “Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over”? Whatever you think about Him religiously, did He know what He was talking about? Did He state a law?
We believe that Jesus of Nazareth did not merely found a religion, but that He taught a way to live—to live happily, successfully, prosperously. Didn’t He say, “I came that ye may have life, and may have it abundantly”? In other words, He taught not merely a way to be good and moral and honest and industrious and all that, but a way to live by the law that brings success and money and fame and love and all the other things that we want. And the law He taught was give—and give first—if you want to get anything. He voiced the Golden Rule “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” The wisest of the world’s cynics say that you have to pay sometime for whatever you get. Jesus of Nazareth says, practically, “Pay as you enter.” Select what you want, and pay first.
Maybe this sounds impracticable to you. It did to me. But try it out. I did. You’ll get results. I did. It won’t fail you. It hasn’t failed me. Why? Because there is just one maker of law in the universe and that is the power we call God, and that power made the law of giving and receiving. Give the best you have and look for the best in return. God challenges you and me to prove the promises He makes in the Bible, and these promises are simply statements of law that never fail of fulfillment. “Prove me now,” says God, “whether I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing greater than ye are able to receive.” His only condition is that we shall “give first”—that’s all. Commonly we do not take this sort of promise seriously; but it is sound and true. Is there anything wrong about the foregoing argument? God is the law. He is the law of love, which is only another name for the law of giving and receiving. If you will stop thinking of God as a joke, or as a terror, or as a myth, or as a dream, or as something far off and outside everyday life, and will think of Him as the Maker of the law of gravitation and of the law of love, one of which is just as real as the other—you’ll get somewhere.
If you want to know how, the whole secret lies in beginning. The way to do it is to do it. Right where you are, now, begin to give something good to the person nearest to you, and keep on doing it, no matter what you seem to get back at first. Do! Don’t talk! And you’ll lift yourself out of your troubles, no matter what they seem to be or how deeply you seem to be sunk in them. Try it. You’ll be surprised. I was. Try it as patiently and as hard as you would try to get a drink of water if you were very thirsty. You’ll get a return, a reward, that you don’t even dream of yet. You will! Don’t let anybody fool you about it.
And besides, if it doesn’t work, you don’t have to keep on with it. But you will keep on—if you give it a fair chance to prove itself. Because—it works.