Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reading into Things

So I have finished one book only to begin into another one. I started on John Adams yesterday and find it to be (not a surprise though) a great read. David McCullough knows how to write good books (1776 being another favorite of mine).

Ran across a good quote, which I butchered horribly earlier today when trying to recall it.

[John Adams'] ambitioi[on] to excel - to make himself known - he had nonetheless recognized at an early stage that happiness came not from fame and fortune, "and all such things," but from "an habitual contempt of them," as he wrote. (p. 19)

I find that to be a very deep understanding of emotional passion. Being a college student - a business student at that - I see scores of friends, acquaintances and strangers attempting for nothing short of fame and fortune.

But is the desire to be rich, the desire to be famous or well known bad? I find another workable observation of Adams:

He drew inspiration from his Roman heroes. "The first way for a young man to set himself on the road towards glorious reputation," he read in Cicero, "is to win renown." "Reputation," wrote Adams, "ought to be the perpetual subject of my thoughts, and aim of my behavior." (p. 46)
The reputation that you live with - and die with - will ultimately be your history. Each person obviously decides what makes them happy and what keeps them going. But after reading a bit about the Enron scandal in Conspiracy of Fools and reading about the greed of a certain Andy Fastow, I find that not having a contempt for greed can have very real and serious consequences. More examples need to even to be cited, for everyone has a good understanding of what greed and power can do to people.

But trying to win friends by calculated actions - trying to appear humble or willing to be 3rd chair - isn't where I interpret this to mean either. Motives that aren't true are easy to be seen as counterfeit and will win you no true supporters. But combine these two excerpted quotes and it reads more like a proverb:

The first way for a young man to set himself on the road towards glorious reputation, is to win renown and to have an habitual contempt for fame and fortune.

Maybe I have created a perversion of two isolated and independent quotes. But from my perspective, it seems to be sound advice.

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