By Dave Smith
June 18, 2009
It seems that people either celebrate the individual or find comfort in a crowd. They either identify their own shortcomings when troubles arise - then resolve them - or they blame others, seeking excuses for disappointment outside of themselves. They either take risks after identifying a course of action or wait for someone else to pave the way, following safely behind their lead. Some people prefer to live in the comfort of their today-¦others seek to build upon today as they reach for tomorrow. Our current economic challenges tend to polarize these two positions, yet accepting the status quo as a “safe haven” almost always prevents one from moving forward.
We realize our future when we allow yesterday’s lessons to guide today’s thoughts as they are intentionally acted upon to create tomorrow’s reality. Though we may allow others to influence us, we must take responsibility for our thoughts, our plans and our actions - recognizing they will either define our destination or prevent us from moving beyond where we are. Some have tried to capture the essence of success by trying to please others, but rarely will an individual please everyone. While the formula for success is elusive, the formula for failure is to try to please everyone. We must serve our own values, principles and standards, living our lives with a singular clarity while acting out our beliefs, if we are to taste success.
Some prefer to “wish and hope” for altered economic conditions, desiring that success be handed to them without personal sacrifice or individual accountability. If our nation is to return to greatness, we must stop thinking about what we would do if we had the means, time, influence and educational advantages, and focus instead on what we can do with what we have. If we are to taste success we must stop complaining about what we lack, recognize and accept our current conditions, and willfully resolve to change. When we seek others to resolve our problems - to equalize life around us - without marshalling first our own strengths and gifts to bring to fruition things dreamed for (rather hoping for others to make real things not probable), we lose sight of our individual ability to create the future.
Economic reality is built upon a foundation of individual dreams brought to fruition by intentional actions directed towards the accomplishment of financially rewarding goals. When we teach an individual to fish rather than providing a meal, we maximize their ability to contribute rather than giving expecting a free ride. Building self-reliance rewards individual initiative. A society cannot expect sustainable growth if the drivers of its success are asked to perform without reward, nor will individuals contribute to sustainability if rewards are given without performance.
Our country was founded on the belief that nobody is limited in terms of what they can become as long as the means to their ends are unbridled. Perhaps we might be well served to measure our actions against an Ayn Rand quote uttered by the fictional John Galt in her novel Atlas Shrugged, “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
Dave Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids, MI, a not-for-profit provider of Human Resource solutions since 1939. He can be reached at [email protected].