It’s Not About You…

“The be-all and end-all of life should not be to get rich, but to enrich the world.”– Bertie Charles Forbes

 In sixth grade, I enrolled in a “Career Guidance” course.  The purpose of the class was to begin exploring our options after we graduated from high school.  Our term project required us to choose from a list of jobs that our teacher provided and to research the accompanying educational pre-requisites, potential income, and health care benefits.

As a somewhat idealist twelve-year-old, using such a logical and structured approach to planning my future did not bode well with me.  Alternatively, I compiled lists of more existential benefits to the jobs I aspired to have one day.  But as it turned out, ‘character building’ or ‘ending poverty’ were not the kinds of benefits my teacher had in mind.  I felt disappointed (and, quite frankly, even bored) having to present to my class about dental plans and paid sick leave—things that were only benefiting me, nobody else.

As I grew up, I came to realize my perception of a career was starkly different from the dominant definition.  Generally, careers are considered to be an enumeration of personal and professional accomplishments.  Education is often nothing more than a means; a mandatory pathway to generating a substantial income.  As such, universities tend to be structured to facilitate a direct transition from student life to obtaining a job.

Ultimately, we’re socialized to believe that it’s all about us and our own success. Volunteerism may have a role within one’s career, but it’s generally considered something a person does ‘on the side’ (and often, it’s something we do to make ourselves feel good).  But I prefer to see a career as a lifestyle that includes the accumulation of the activities we engage in that enhance the lives of others.  I refuse to perceive post-secondary education as just being a pre-requisite for earning an income, but choose to see it as a tool that can equip us to serve the world better.

I knew I was in the right place on one of my first days at Not For Sale, when I heard my fellowship director say to someone: “it’s not about you—it’s about the movement.”  I couldn’t have felt more relieved to discover that I was working with someone who could see beyond what they could get out of an experience and were focused on what they could give. 

At the end of our lifetime, the work we chose to engage in, the education we pursued, and the way we spent our time should not have been just about us.  As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “we haven’t started living until we have risen above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

It’s not about getting rich.  It’s about enriching the world.


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