Author's Note on Life is a Business
Date: Originally Published in 1972; updated by author’s son in August 2020
In 1972, my father originally wrote this essay about his father-in-law, my grandfather. This essay says a great deal about both my father and my grandfather and I am sharing it with some minor edits for historical accuracy and context. These minor edits do not diminish the valuable lessons for us all.
My father-in-law, Morris Fishman, was a great man. He came to the United States in 1921 with the clothes on his back and a sick younger brother to look after. He was a deserter from the army of the Czar. He worked hard, and did not rise from rages to riches. However, he did support his family, and provide his children with educations and the knowledge of his love and concern for their welfare. He managed to save enough to provide reasonable comfort, if not luxury, for himself and his wife during their bonus years. In this regard, his life was much like that of the innumerable immigrants who have come to this country over the last one hundred years. So why is he so great?
Morris not only worked hard but observed and learned something about life and people. From this experience he developed a philosophy which I have come to appreciate. Central to this philosophy is one of his favorite sayings: “Life is a Business.” By “Life,” of course, he meant that part of our life exclusive of business and professional activities – i.e., our personal life. His point was that if we gave the same careful and dedicated attention to this part of our lives as we give to those activities whereby we earn our living, perhaps there would not be so many of us experiencing personal tragedies. In fact, it sometimes seems that those who are most successful financially are likely to be least successful personally.
This concept has particular relevance for the busy, busy professional. There is no time to talk to a spouse about household matters. Certainly there is no time to help children with their homework, or any of the emergencies which seem so common during childhood. Ask the busy professional to participate in a fundraising campaign, or a community project, and you will quickly learn how terribly busy this person is. There are just not enough hours in the day.
Is it really necessary to be so busy? Is it possible that in part this being “busy” is a means to escape from the reality that a professional also has responsibilities as a spouse, a parent, and a member of the community? My father-in-law had a wife, three children, a daughter-in-law, two sons-in-law, and ten grandchildren, all of whom loved and honored him. This relationship with his family earned him the esteem of his many friends. People whose financial success far exceeded his looked up to him with admiration, often remarking that he was a lucky man. Was it really a matter of luck? Morris was busy, too. The twelve-hour day was routine. However, somehow he always had time. Life is the business at which he worked the hardest, and from which he reaped commensurate rewards. Indeed, life is a business. Perhaps, we should take stock more often, lest we find ourselves unexpectedly bankrupt.