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by [?]

I once made an entire doll’s house, two stories, four rooms, kitchen and bath, with hand-carved stairways and electric lighting throughout, the walls entirely weatherboarded, put in the carpets, papered the walls, hung lace curtains at the windows and painted the exterior, and all between two paragraphs of a story. I spent three months on that little trip after goat-feathers, and in the meantime Arnold Bennett probably wrote three novels of several hundred thousand words each, gained an international reputation, and passed me on the road to fame like an airplane passing a snail. George Ade kept pegging away at his “Fables” with the regularity of a day laborer, and Peter Finley Dunne ground out his “Mister Dooley” like an unwearied sausage-grinder.

On my wall, alongside my desk, I have a calendar, and the sheet that faces me is that for the first week in March, 1916. It says “Concentration. Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus. Alexander G. Bell.” That is the whole matter in a nutshell, but the only use the motto has been to me has been to permit me to look at it and think about it when I ought to be thinking of the story I was trying to write.

So far as I am concerned, the most important person in the world is myself. The most important success in the world is my success. The most important money in the world is my money. A whole lot of the most important debts in the world are my debts. The same is true of you and your success and your money and your debts.

I hope you are not near fifty years old. I hope you are nearer twenty, but whatever your age I can tell you that chasing after goat-feathers is mighty poor business. The time to investigate interesting by-paths is when you are on a vacation, but the New York-Chicago Express gets there by staying on the track. The minute it starts climbing some interesting country lane after daisies and buttercups the coroners begin to gather and the claim agents flock together, and some slow but sure old freight train, plugging along on the next track but sticking to it, toots a couple of times and passes by.

If I am ever the boss of a school board I shall insist that no child graduate until he can foot correctly a pile of numbers four deep and forty high, and do it the first time. I have been a bookkeeper in my day, and I have footed a column of figures twenty times and got ten different results. I can go up a column of figures, starting like a race horse–“Seven and six are thirteen, and five are eighteen, and two are twenty, and–and I wonder if I put a stamp on the letter I mailed this morning–I wonder if Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays–I wonder if a bomb from an airplane would go through from the roof of my house to the cellar–cellar–cellar–well, I’m glad I’ve got eight tons of coal in, but I’ll have to get more in as soon as I can–and six—-” Then I have to begin at the beginning again with “Seven and six are thirteen, and five are eighteen—-“

The reason children don’t get their examples right in school is because they don’t concentrate on the matter in hand, and the reason men don’t get their lives right is because they don’t concentrate on the matter of making good at what they know is the business of their lives–success. If you stop a moment and think of the men you know who are not successes, but who might be successes, you will find they are goat-feather gatherers. Anything that leads a man aside from the straight path to his goal is a goat-feather. Every useless side line is a goat-feather. Every unnecessary distraction is a goat-feather. Nine tenths of the things I do are goat-feathers.