Three Feet & Fifty Cents

Source: Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat. Every person is guilty of this mistake at one time or another.

An uncle of RU Darby was caught by the “gold fever” in the gold-rush days, and went west to dig and grow rich. He had never heard that more gold has been mined from the brains of people than has ever been taken from the earth. He staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel. The going was hard, but his lust for gold was definite.

After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, and told his relatives and a few neighbors of the “strike.” They got together money for the needed machinery, had it shipped.

The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.

The first car of ore was mined, and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts. Then would come the big killing in profits.

Down went the drills! Up went the hopes of Darby and Uncle! Then something happened. The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there! They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again—all to no avail.

Finally, they decided to QUIT. They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. Some “junk” men are dumb, but not this one! He called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the project had failed, because the owners were not familiar with “fault lines.” His calculations showed that the vein would be found JUST THREE FEET FROM WHERE THE DARBYS HAD STOPPED DRILLING!

That is exactly where it was found! The “Junk” man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine, because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up.

Most of the money which went into the machinery was procured through the efforts of R. U. Darby, who was then a very young man. The money came from his relatives and neighbors, because of their faith in him. He paid back every dollar of it, although he was years in doing so.

Long afterward, Mr. Darby recouped his loss many times over, when he made the discovery that desire can be transmuted into gold. The discovery came after he went into the business of selling life insurance.

Remembering that he lost a huge fortune, because he STOPPED three feet from gold, Darby profited by the experience in his chosen work, by the simple method of saying to himself, “I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say ‘no’ when I ask them to buy insurance.”

Darby is one of... [the most successful life insurance salesmen in the country]. He owes his “stickability” to the lesson he learned from his “quitability” in the gold mining business.

Before success comes in any person’s life, he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat, and, perhaps, some failure. When defeat overtakes a person, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to QUIT. That is exactly what the majority of people do.

More than five hundred of the most successful men this country has ever known told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them. Failure is a trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning.

It takes great delight in tripping one when success is almost within reach. …

Shortly after Mr. Darby received his degree from the “University of Hard Knocks” and had decided to profit by his experience in the gold mining business, he had the good fortune to be present on an occasion that proved to him that “No” does not necessarily mean no.

One afternoon he was helping his uncle grind wheat in an old fashioned mill. The uncle operated a large farm on which a number of black sharecrop farmers lived. Quietly, the door was opened, and a small child, the daughter of a tenant, walked in and took her place near the door.

The uncle looked up, saw the child, and barked at her roughly, “What do you want?”

Meekly, the child replied, “My mammy say send her fifty cents.”

“I'll not do it,” the uncle retorted, “Now you run on home.”

“Yas sah,” the child replied. But she did not move. The uncle went ahead with his work, so busily engaged that he did not pay enough attention to the child to observe that she did not leave. When he looked up and saw her still standing there, he yelled at her, “I told you to go on home! Now go, or I'll take a switch to you.”

The little girl said “yas sah,” but she did not budge an inch. The uncle dropped a sack of grain he was about to pour into the mill hopper, picked up a barrel stave, and started toward the child with an expression on his face that indicated trouble.

Darby held his breath. He was certain he was about to witness a murder. He knew his uncle had a fierce temper. He knew that black children were not supposed to defy white people in that part of the country.

When the uncle reached the spot where the child was standing, she quickly stepped forward one step, looked up into his eyes, and screamed at the top of her shrill voice, “MY MAMMY’S GOTTA HAVE THAT FIFTY CENTS!”

The uncle stopped, looked at her for a minute, then slowly laid the barrel stave on the floor, put his hand in his pocket, took out half a dollar, and gave it to her. The child took the money and slowly backed toward the door, never taking her eyes off the man whom she had just conquered.

After she had gone, the uncle sat down on a box and looked out the window into space for more than ten minutes. He was pondering, with awe, over the whipping he had just taken. Mr. Darby, too, was doing some thinking. That was the first time in all his experience that he had seen a black child deliberately master a white adult.

How did she do it? What happened to his uncle that caused him to lose his fierceness and become as docile as a lamb? What strange power did this child use that made her master over her superior? …

Strangely, the story of this unusual experience was told to me in the old mill, on the very spot where the uncle took his whipping. Strangely, too, I had devoted nearly a quarter of a century to the study of the power which enabled an ignorant, illiterate child to conquer an intelligent man.

As we stood there in that musty old mill, Mr. Darby repeated the story of the unusual conquest.

… [Moments later, he] retraced his thirty years of experience as a life insurance salesman, and frankly acknowledged that his success in that field was due, in no small degree, to the lesson he had learned from the child. Mr. Darby pointed out:

“Every time a prospect tried to bow me out, without buying, I saw that child standing there in the old mill, her big eyes glaring in defiance, and I said to myself, ‘I’ve gotta make this sale.’ The better portion of all sales I have made, were made after people had said ‘NO’.”

He recalled, too, his mistake in having stopped only three feet from gold; “but,” he said, “that experience was a blessing in disguise. It taught me to keep on keeping on, no matter how hard the going may be, a lesson I needed to learn before I could succeed in anything.”

This story of Mr. Darby and his uncle, the child and the gold mine, doubtless will be read by hundreds of people who make their living by selling life insurance, and to all of these, I wish to offer the suggestion that Darby owes to these two experiences his ability to sell more than a million dollars of life insurance every year.