WilsonW“You are not here merely to make a living”

“You Are Not Here Merely to Make a Living” is a sign at the desk of a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter in a photo in the January/February issue of Columbia Journalism Review. In the words of CJR, “You Are Not Here Merely to Make a Living” is a “distillation of the idealism that shapes the way many journalists…think about what they do and why. …the mission is to try to improve small corners of the world.” More than a job, their occupation is a calling. The CJR opines, “’You Are Not Here Merely to Make a Living’ is a sentiment not likely to be found at Goldman Sachs or at a lot of businesses.”

More’s the pity. While business obviously must make a profit to survive, when the mindless pursuit of the almighty dollar is your sole aim, when what you do does not make the world truly a better place, then something important is lost. I say this as a life-long business person, entrepreneur, MBA, attorney, and CPA. Few are more steeply embedded in a life of commerce than I. Yet I also believe strongly in the social compact, in giving back to the community, in creating meaningful value, in being trustworthy, in acting honorably, in treating all with respect and dignity.

Here is the full quotation: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.” — Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of United States; 1856 – 1924.