I grew up believing that everyone had equal opportunity, and what we made of that opportunity was up to us. I believed I was the product of my choices, and you were the product of yours. People struggled only because they made bad choices.
I continue to believe in the vital importance of individual choice.
But we are not offered the same choices.
These days, when I look at my own modest accomplishments, I see them as byproducts of my natural skillset, my interests, my circumstances, my opportunities, and my friendships. I don’t think of myself as “a winner” or “a loser.” I think of myself as a writer.
I no longer see life as a game played against others.
Have you ever known a person who saw everyone as either “a winner” or “a loser?” I have walked with such people and heard their secret song:
“Get all you can.
Can all you get.
Sit on the can.
Poison the rest.”
I blame Charles Darwin. Wasn’t it he who told us we are animals? If you believe in this survival-of-the-fittest, “predator and prey” concept of humanity, then Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Epstein did nothing wrong. Winners are predators. Losers are prey. The weak are food for the strong.
Let me make this clear: a healthy human mind is not the mind of a predator, or of prey.
The sociopath and the psychopath have the mind of a predator. And the person with “a victim mentality” has the mind of prey.
I believe you and I have a higher purpose.
Most of us go through a Survival phase where we’re just trying to make ends meet. We have to keep gas in the car, food in the pantry, a roof over our heads, and “Oh god, is that insurance premium due again?”
Ever been there?
If we are lucky, we later move into an Acquisition phase in which we acquire more money, a nicer home, a better car, and take actual vacations. This Acquisition phase is often ornamented with accomplishments and recognition.
If you create ad campaigns, you must understand the difference between the motives of customers in the Survival phase and their motives in the Acquisition phase.
The most emotionally healthy among us move into a Distribution phase which is marked by a sort of reverse bucket list. We no longer focus on what we can acquire. Our attention is turned toward what to do with what we’ve got.
Emotionally healthy people want to make the world a happier place.
It has been my observation that sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists never move beyond the Acquisition phase. Every breath is a hungry gasp for more wealth, power, and fame in the secret hope they might establish a dynasty. People who never move beyond the Acquisition phase of life tend to become increasingly predatory. Every unpleasant task is “someone else’s job.”
“You can judge a man’s ethics by the condition in which he leaves a public restroom.” – Fred Eisenberg
Noblesse oblige is the inferred responsibility of privileged people to act with generosity and nobility toward those less privileged. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have a strong sense of it. Most billionaires do not.
In a future, perfect world, those whose natural skillsets, interests, circumstances, opportunities, and friendships elevate them to wealth and power will focus their minds on the creation of jobs for those among us who simply need someone to believe in them.
Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. In our world, the first obligation is to the shareholders. “Maximize profits.” If there is a second obligation, it is not immediately clear to me.
I have noticed that men often tell the truth when they are at the end of their days.
The Biblical book of Ecclesiastes is the memoir of Solomon as he approached the end of his life.
John Huey sat at the dying bed of Sam Walton. The remarkable book that emerged from those 2 weeks was Sam Walton: Made in America.
Lee Iacocca wrote Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
John Steinbeck wrote Travels with Charley.
And James Michener wrote This Noble Land.
Few of us receive a warning that the end is drawing near. But if you do, what advice will you leave for the next generation that will occupy this planet?
Roy H. Williams