John Bogle The Measure of a Man

Posted by Mike Kaaks

18 September 2013

I'm drawing on John C Bogle again - I've thought about writing one big piece capturing all the wisdoms of his book "Enough", and I might still do that. For now though there is a wonderful piece which adds to understanding the difference between being and doing, an issue which is central to a number of my beliefs about life and work.

In a chapter titled Too Much Focus on Things, Not Enough Focus on Commitment he reflects on the John Travolta film A Civil Action in which Travolta's character, a lawyer, commits everything he has in support of his clients and their children. The film closes with this lawyer in personal bankruptcy court. He lists his meagre possessions, to which the judge says "where are the things by which one measures one's life?" This really caught Bogle's attention. Let me quote…..

I almost jumped out of my seat at the profundity of the question. Where are the things by which one measure's one's life? But he no longer has any things. He has stood up for the worthy cause of children who have died and families who have been devastated. He has put his career on the line, and he has lost everything. Should we measure him by what he has, or by who he is? It seems rather out of character for Hollywood to deal with how we measure our lives. But the questions remains; what are the things by which we should measure our lives? I'm still searching for the ultimate answer to that question. But I know that we can never let things as such - the material possessions we come to accumulate - become the measure of our lives.

Beautifully put John.You've become one of the many people I would love to meet for an extended chat about life, it's wisdoms, and its mysteries.