I heard this advice from my dad and I believe my two brothers heard it too. I believe it may have have been inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If -.” Before everything else Dad was an electrical engineer, especially an electrical engineer. He set this career goal when he was seven Unlike my mother and I, he was not an English major nor inclined to the literary, but he did enjoy reading war history. He was a man of science and technology. I doubt if he knew or cared about the poem but as a strong Victorian, born of Moravian farmers, he believed in will, determination and stick-to-it-iveness.
Most poignant for me is the second stanza— truth best learned early:
If you can dream —and not make dreams your master;
If you can think —and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
. . . you’ll be a man, son!