As economic global events continue to unfold in ways that indicate we are likely in the midst of a pivotal moment in business history, now seems like an opportune time to look back to the history books for some indication of how business leaders of the past approached the ever-changing dynamics of the marketplace. The annals of American business history are littered with all manner of economic trailblazers, all with a unique human parable applicable to our modern lives, even in this age of radically disintermediated information that often injects so much noise-to-signal static into our lives that quiet, fundamental messages of verisimilitude can easily be obscured or overlooked.
One such trailblazer, sometimes labeled a bombastic huckster, but ultimately our version 1.0 of the Transparent Businessperson (albeit, with conveniently opaque spots), was Phineas Taylor Barnum, the 19th century media alchemist, show business icon, and occasional political animal.
In his book “The Art of Money Getting” Barnum commits some of the axioms of his business life to text. Barnum wrote,“To get rich, is not always equivalent to being successful. ‘There are many rich poor men,’ while there are many others, honest and devout men and women, who have never possessed so much money as some rich persons squander in a week, but who are nevertheless really richer and happier than any man can ever be while he is a transgressor of the higher laws of his being.
“The inordinate love of money, no doubt, may be and is ‘the root of all evil,’ but money itself, when properly used, is not only a ‘handy thing to have in the house,’ but affords the gratification of blessing our race by enabling its possessor to enlarge the scope of human happiness and human influence. The desire for wealth is nearly universal, and none can say it is not laudable, provided the possessor of it accepts its responsibilities, and uses it as a friend to humanity.
“The history of money-getting, which is commerce, is a history of civilization, and wherever trade has flourished most, there, too, have art and science produced the noblest fruits. In fact, as a general thing, money-getters are the benefactors of our race. To them, in a great measure, are we indebted for our institutions of learning and of art, our academies, colleges and churches.”
This particular passage came to mind because of my experiences over the last few months with members of the ACCJ. Despite the fact that we are still mired in an economic malaise that has changed the way many of us do business, scores of ACCJ members continue to use their personal time and energy to contribute to the ACCJ business community, as well as non-business interests via a number of efforts, large and small, designed to contribute to the overall health of our global economy.
Interacting with so many driven industry leaders who have earned their way to prosperity and remain charged with meeting the demands of their daily corporate responsibilities, yet are mindful of the importance of contributing to the overall community has been truly inspirational. I’ve long suspected that it takes a special kind of person to do business in Japan as a foreigner, and my recent experiences interacting with the ACCJ membership continues to buttress that belief. Thank you all for your continued contributions, suggestions, and above and beyond the call of duty attention to creating a healthier business environment for us all.
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