Thursday, December 27, 2012

1922: Why I Quit Being So Accomodating

mikecanex | Three things were very clear to me in that night of self-examination five years ago. First: A man’s chief loyalty must be to the woman who has joined her life to his; to the children who call him father; and to the business which feeds and clothes and houses them all. In my easy-going willingness to befriend the world at large, I was sacrificing my wife, my children, and my employer far more than I was sacrificing myself. As I look back, I marvel that my wife and the children should have borne with me as uncomplainingly as they did.
What was true of my family was true of the business as well. I thought I was being friendly to the customers of the house. As a matter of fact, I was too often being friendly to the customers at the expense of the house. It is a common fault in salesmen. They let a thousand trivial demands on the part of the men to whom they sell take their time and energy from the business of the men for whom they sell.

Second: I am convinced that indiscriminate charity, whether one gives money or time — which is life itself — merely pauperizes the recipients. The business and social world are full of respectable panhandlers, who will take and take and take, just as long as they can find anyone to give. I gave to them for years, at the expense of those who had a far better claim upon my generosity. I am still willing to help any man who honestly needs help. But as for the strong, perfectly well, and perfectly capable human beings who have chosen to ride through the world on someone else’s back, they will have to look for another beast of burden. They can buy their own theatre tickets, write their own letters of introduction, make their own hotel reservations, use somebody else’s office instead of mine for their engagements, and borrow money from the banks which are in business to lend.

And, finally, I am persuaded that no one ever achieves anything worth-while in this world unless he has so great a respect for his work that he compels all other men to respect it. Unless, in a word, he commands his time. Read the life of a great scientist like Agassiz. Was he forever at the world’s beck and call? Not for a single day. To letters inviting him to write, or to lecture for money, he replied that he had no time for those things. He was the custodian of a certain number of days — a number far too small for the great task he had laid out for himself — and he would not be diverted even for an instant.

I was explaining this point of view to a good old aunt of mine one afternoon and she exclaimed: “But, Joe, it is so selfish for a man to put his work ahead of everything! It’s unchristian.”

“On the contrary, it is Christian in the very finest sense,” I replied. “What was it that Jesus said when his parents rebuked him for his failure to keep his engagement with them on that first journey down from Jerusalem? ‘Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?’ He demanded. He had work to do — great work and little time in which to do it. Even He was no exception to the eternal rule that achievement comes only through the subordination of every power to a great ideal; and that no man is really obliging who does not first discharge in full his obligations to his work.” Fist tap Dale.

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