Leading Blog






12.08.08

John Bogle on What is Enough

Enough
We are about to begin a new year that is bursting with faith in hope. Whether that faith is justified remains to be seen. Yet you would be handicapping yourself if you did not read and reflect on John Bogle’s tour de force, Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life.

The book is a result of a fair amount of reflection by Bogle himself. He offers a critique of American society today and asks what is or should be "enough" in money, in business, and in life. It is a book about character. He writes that “not knowing what enough is subverts our professional values” and leads us astray in life in general. “We too often bow down at the altar of the transitory and finally meaningless and fail to cherish what is beyond calculation, indeed eternal.” Not having grasped the concept of enough, we have seen the “subversion of our character and values.”

We live in a time that values achievement over character. When the two collide, character often takes a back seat and relationships of all kinds are shattered. Bogle observes that while the financial represents the worst of it, what we see today is not just a financial sector problem, but a societal problem. There is really just too much greed everywhere.

He laments that we rely on numbers to give us facts that are really not facts:
As I have earlier noted, the most important things in life and in business can’t be measured. The trite bromide “If you can measure it, you can manage it” has been a hindrance in the building a great real-world organization, just as it has been a hindrance in evaluating the real-world economy. It is character, not numbers, that make the world go ‘round. How can we possibly measure the qualities of human existence that give our lives and careers meaning? How about grace, kindness, and integrity? What value do we put on passion, devotion, and trust? How much do cheerfulness, the lilt of a human voice, and a touch of pride add to our lives? Tell me, please, if you can, how to value friendship, cooperation, dedication, and spirit. Categorically, the firm that ignores the intangible qualities that the human beings who are our colleagues bring to their careers will never build a great workforce or a great organization.
Enough is really about discovering what is really important in our lives. While Bogel is optimistic, he says that he has “developed a profound concern that our society is moving in the wrong direction.” The only way to work our way through today's deep-seated problems is to return to values that “stem from principle, virtue and character.” It’s a call to redefine success in our own lives.
We have more than enough of the fool’s gold of marketing and salesmanship and not enough of the real gold of trusteeship and stewardship….We focus too much on things and not enough on the intangibles that make things worthwhile; too much on success (a word I’ve never liked) and not enough on character, without which success is meaningless….Our society cannot and should not tolerate the substitution of moral relativism for a certain form of moral absolutism, and its debasement in the ethical standards of commerce.
Related Interest:
  Fixing the Financial Crisis Once and For All

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:57 PM
| Comments (0) | Ethics , Personal Development



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