Do not let artisans discourage you from learning this or that trade because they have not made a success of it. They may tell you that a certain trade is overcrowded. Investigate a little and you will find that only the botch workman and chronic kickers are out of work. The cheerful, enthusiastic workman is idle only when misfortune overtakes the whole country.
We have here hundreds of mechanics who have no real heart in their work, and no sort of interest in the welfare of their employers. To be discharged is considered no disgrace, and to be in debt is no cause for worry. They work while the eye of a boss is upon them, and kill time when it is not. They growl at the workingman’s condition, but are solely responsible that they are not better off.
You will find them in one shop this week and in another the next, and their sad tales of being oppressed by bosses will make you shed tears—if you are green enough. It is a certain and undeniable fact that the poorest workman is the one who does the most complaining.
If you take up a trade push it to perfection. As an apprentice be prepared for many unpleasant things. To begin at the foot means more or less drudgery. Your inexperience will provoke ridicule, contempt, and sometimes abuse. Because you are a boy any man in the shop may feel free to order you about.
Be obstinate, sulky, and dilatory, and none of them will care how long it takes you to reach a higher round in the ladder. Be cheerful, obliging, and civil, and you will find every man ready and willing to speak a good word for you and help along your skill.
When you have become a finished workman bear in mind the well-worn but truthful maxim that a rolling stone gathers no moss. Steady work at fair wages is what piles up the dollars. A large share of our workingmen are ready to listen to the glowing accounts of the high wages paid somewhere else, and they spend a good portion of the year looking for the place.
Next to being settled in your mind be economical. One of the chief causes for dissatisfaction among mechanics and labourers springs from the lack of good management and the fact that so many of them are spendthrifts. In every city in the lands’ large proportion of workingmen chew or smoke or drink. Tobacco injures the system and robs the wallet. Drinks could better be replaced by cold water. Ten shillings per-week are taken from their wages to maintain injurious and selfish habits, and yet those who squander the most are loudest in their complaints about hard times.
The Australian Journal – September 1888