I was having a conversation with a bright, young university student as he despaired over not knowing what the strategic Business term, “SWOT”, meant on a recent exam. I could have told my young friend that he needn’t worry about failing to remember it. What follows is an open letter to him. [Real name omitted.]
What I’ve found, over my professional career as a manager and business consultant, is that knowing something in theory is far less important than making it work in our real and chaotic life … which is never easy.
“I deal in dreamers and telephone screamers.”
— Free Man in Paris by Joni Mitchell
I think you’ll agree that there is a difference between ‘street learning’ and being ‘book smart’. What I’m advocating is being holistically smart, which I believe compliments the other two.
This approach hinges on developing, first, a personal raison d’être before adhering to any business “mission statement”. This becomes your corner stone and true North Star of your life. You must aim high to be everything you can be.
“You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.”
— Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
In a study of American university students, over 78% said they wanted to find meaning and purpose in their lives. With that understood, I’m about to SWOT you: increase your Strengths, reduce your Weaknesses, raise your Opportunities, and lower your Threats … because happiness is, and will always be, a reflection of your true self. And what if I told you that the secret to achieving this AND having a full and satisfying life, is to simply do things that help people. Am I saying that this strategy is guaranteed to make you rich? No, but wealth can be weighty without it.
Social Scientist, Dr. Charles Murray, in his book ‘Coming Apart’, states: “Show me someone who thinks deep satisfaction in old age comes from having been rich or famous, and I’ll show you someone that has never been old or famous.”
So, John, if you run your life based on meaningful service to others, then not only will your happiness increase, but it will also be the source of lasting wealth – material and otherwise. It’s a proven circle … what you give comes back to you.
“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don‘t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace; a soul generated by love.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the long run, only experience will confirm this for you, but I can tell you something that your heart will never let you forget. It’s when you look at the hurt in the eyes of those who misplaced their trust in you. Yet, when you are forgiven unconditionally – in spite of your selfish self – then it’s something that your soul will never let you forget. As one of Charles Dickens’s characters said so well, ‘Mankind was my business!’
I must warn you, however, that if you find yourself with some unprincipled individuals, who consider ‘Business as Usual’ to mean “Anything Goes”, then you’ve got a choice to make: get out if you can, or stay and see it as an opportunity to establish your own individual freedom to serve.
Dr. Victor Frankel, the author-psychiatrist, who survived the Nazi concentration camps of World War II, stated in his book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, “Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning to his life.”
Finally, learn to forgive yourself, as well as others. In my lucky world, nine times out of ten, I’ve been wrong about the intentions of others –half the time, they just aren’t thinking – half the time, neither am I. As for the rest, remember that music is a great healer.
“Don’t you ever ask them why. If they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”
–Lyrics, Teach Your Children, CSN&Y
Best regards all ways,