Sunday, March 4, 2012

Turning 70

"Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time." ~Jean Paul Richter

On February 25, I turned 70, which is a milestone I never thought I would reach. All of a sudden, one day I just woke up, and I was having my 70th birthday party.

As I prepared to celebrate this big birthday, I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about my life and what I have accomplished. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to do a great many things in my 70 years, having been a father, a professor, an entrepreneur, a writer, a community volunteer, a leader and a mentor.

As I think back over my life and try to imagine which of these things will have a lasting impact, it is pretty simple. In addition to my kids and grandkids, who are my legacy, the things that have given me a real sense of value over the years are those where I helped others without expecting anything in return.

During the course of my job at the Jim Moran Institute, I helped thousands of entrepreneurs, and the same can be said of the hours I spent doing volunteer work. In six years as a counselor at 211 Big Bend, Leon County's crisis hotline, I helped many people through many very difficult positions, and as chairman of the board of both Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend and Florida Commerce Credit Union, I received zero pay but have always gotten tremendous satisfaction out of knowing that my efforts really helped people.

It turns out that the old cliche that you get more when you give from the heart is so true. Sure, I have done well financially as I understand the value of saving and investing wisely, however, it is not the financial gain that has given me joy in my life. Rather, it is the belief that by giving of myself without expecting anything in return, I have truly been able to help people. I have been so blessed and have received so much as a result.

I am sure some of you are saying, "Okay, Jerry. How does this relate to being an entrepreneur?" I think that the lesson I would like for entrepreneurs to take from this column is that making money is great and a worthy goal, but a higher goal is helping people in need.
Consider the entrepreneurs you know that are truly successful. One thing they all have in common is that they go out of their way to make sure they give back to the community both as individuals and as a company.

Businessmen have gotten a bad rap lately for being solely interested in making money. Without question, there are some out there who are only concerned with this, but many realize there is a greater good in helping their community become better.

Now consider how you can reach out and help people in need. The people you help could be your employees, friends or just strangers. Whatever form of altruism you choose, I promise you will see the value when, down the road, you look back on what you have accomplished in your life.

You can do this!

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