___

___

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who will be the Horatio Alger of China?

While searching for a classic trading text on Scribd, I came across this 109-year-old tome on the success of 19th and early 20th century entrepreneurs called, How They Succeeded, in the related books sidebar.

Looking through the table of contents, one finds an interesting array of business, artist, and educator profiles and plucky little subchapter titles emphasizing the virtues of hard work, thrift, and foresight. Admirable traits to be sure, though the Horatio Alger-type bootsrapping tales of personal success and luck are usually mocked in the politically correct schoolrooms of today.

How They Succeeded

For those of us schooled in the cynical view of free enterprise and the dastardly deeds of the robber barons (and most of us who attended American schools in the last 40 years were purposely imprinted with that bias), it may seem a bit comical to look at a chapter on John D. Rockerfeller and find subheading titles such as "His Early Dream and Purpose", "There Was Money In a Refinery", "Hygiene", "Foresight", "Philanthropy", and so on.

Still, as I read through an early chapter on Marshall Field, one of the great merchants of my home town, Chicago, I'm attracted to the story of Mr. Field's rise in business and how his personal success coincided with the growth of our fair city.

There are sound business lessons here, and the themes of devotion to work and purposeful sacrifice with a clear goal in mind are a refreshing tonic at a time when an ever growing number of people are looking to game the system and enrich themselves off the work and savings of others.

Will we find a good deal of whitewashing of some of the economic and social injustices of the past, acts that helped a few of the industrialists profiled here along to great wealth and power? It's very possible, and we'll have to read and compare these optimistic tales with the views handed down to us by some economic historians.

However, as I think about the valuable lessons in some of these old tales of business success, I wonder if a similar tradition of rags-to-riches stories will take hold in that other rising economic power of the East. Who will be the Horatio Alger of China
(or better yet, the Orison Swett Marden) and what stories will he or she tell?

Related articles and posts:

1. Classic quotes and timeless wisdom from, How They Succeeded - Finance Trends.