Schwab’s 10 Commandments of Success

Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939) was an American industrialist, a steel magnate in charge of Bethlehem Steel. While Schwab was not always a successful individual in his personal life (he was notorious for gambling, partying, and extramarital affairs), he was certainly successful in business. Perhaps if he had carried his 10 commandments of success over into his personal life, he would have avoided much in his later life.

I read Schwab’s 10 Commandments of Success in Charles Panati’s Words to Live By: The Origins of Conventional Wisdom and Commonsense Advice and thought them remarkably sound.

  1. Work Hard. Hard work is the best investment a man can make.
  2. Study Hard. Knowledge enables a man to work more intelligently and effectively.

    I’ve heard the phrase “Don’t work hard, work smart” a bazillion times. But I think I like Schwab’s variation better. Do work hard–but study hard too. Only when we marry brain work and brawn work can we accomplish great things.

  3. Have Initiative. Ruts often deepen into graves.

    This stopped me in my tracks. Have initiative. I’ve heard “Take initiative”, I’ve heard “Demonstrate initiative”, but “Have initiative”? I like it. Take seems to me an external thing that one is grasping for. Demonstrate seems to be an attempt to conjure up something from within. Have, on the other hand, indicates possession. I possess initiative. It is something internal.

  4. Love Your Work. Then you will find pleasure in mastering it.
  5. Be exact. Slipshod methods bring slipshod results.
  6. Have the Spirit of Conquest. Thus you can successfully battle and overcome difficulties.
  7. Cultivate personality. Personality is to the man what perfume is to the flower.

    This was another stop-me-in-my-tracks statement. Cultivate personality. How often do we act as though our personalities are fixed? “I am what I am and there’s nothing you can do about it.” We excuse our bad habits and bad manners, saying that it’s just the way we are. But while our personalities may be innate, that does not mean that they cannot be trained, cultivated. Cultivate your personality by hoeing down the weeds, training the vines to grow along a trellis or support, and watering the most pleasant portions.

  8. Help and share with others. The real test of business greatness lies in giving opportunity to others.
  9. Be Democratic. Unless you feel right towards your fellow men you can never be a successful leader of men.

    Feel right? You mean I have a choice about how I feel towards others? How often do I complain about those under my leadership, putting them down for not following well? But perhaps if I respected them more, expected more of them, I might be more successful as a leader. It’s something to think about.

  10. In All Things Do Your Best. The man who has done his best has done everything. The man who has done less than his best has done nothing.

    I can’t do more than my best–but anything less than my best isn’t worth doing. Someone once said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Oh that I would place that kind of priority on doing my best work–always.

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