AUGUST 01, 1958 by HUGHSTON M. MCBAIN
Mr. McBain, Chairman of Marshall Field & Company, retired, offered these ideas on happiness before the Chicago Sunday Evening Club, April 27, 1958.
You and I share with all mankind a common want — a common quest. It is the search for happiness. Buddhist, Christian, Mohammedan — we all pursue it in our own fashion.
If and when we reach another planet inhabited by other beings, I’m sure we’ll find they, too, seek happiness — and probably the same kind of happiness; for this search for happiness is reaching for heaven.
But how define it? How achieve it? Philosophers have written about it; great thinkers have propounded its mysteries across the many years.
Why, then, dwell upon it further? Because relatively few of us seem to attain much. I wonder why?
The possession of money does not bring happiness. Neither do power or social position, grandeur or "security." I should like to suggest a relatively simple approach to happiness. It has worked for me and many others that I know. Perhaps it may help you.
The formula is not complicated. I believe that happiness is attained by overcoming obstacles to achieve any worth-while, constructive goal. This may sound oversimple. And yet, all great principles in essence are simple.
If you stop and think, you will discover that you have yourself often demonstrated my proposition — winning a childhood game, passing a difficult test, or doctoring a sick puppy back to health — these are simple illustrations. Each brought a measure of happiness through achievement in the face of difficulties.
Later on in life perhaps you won the girl of your choice when you thought you hadn’t a chance, or earned a business promotion over hard-fought opposition. Each initially represents a struggle, a moment of fear, of doubt, or discouragement — and then, if you persist — realization — and happiness!
That is why we should seek happiness through the careful selection of worth-while goals, and then go after them relentlessly. Such an approach is always possible where we have freedom of choice. I would hesitate to try it under socialism or communism where individual liberties are denied.
Some of these goals will be large ones and take a long time to achieve — a lifetime perhaps. Others will be simple and quickly reached. We need to have both kinds. For the realization of happiness rests less on the size of the goal chosen than upon its worthiness and the effort we expend.
In choosing our objective, large or small, no realm must be excluded. Projects may include the spiritual, the artistic, business, family, community, friendship, and countless others.
One of the goals that gave me great happiness when I reached it took 14 years of concentrated effort in the face of problems that seemed insurmountable. In fact, my 35 years of business life here in
Upon looking back, I find that my happiness fluctuated with the energy and determination I brought to their solution. When I faced up to problems, analyzed them care-fully, and finally solved them —then I achieved true happiness. I believe this is so with everyone.
Not all of us can be a Schweitzer, an Edison, or a Henry Ford, a Salk, a Lincoln, or Madame Curie. Each of them contributed much, and each achieved a measure of happiness in the doing. We lesser men and women can do likewise — no doubt on a smaller scale, but no less importantly to ourselves and for others.
The very fundamental of happiness is that its possession comes from the fullest realization of self in terms of achievement—and most often in behalf of others.
This was Christ’s teaching, appearing again and again in what he said — and more importantly —in what he did. His ageless achievement in the face of obscurity, bigotry, indifference, and vengeful stupidity epitomizes our own endless search for happiness — and shows the way to it.
A Happy Life
A happy life is to laugh often and to love much, to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children, to earn the approbation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in everything, to give one’s self, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and to have sung with exaltation, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
Ralph Waldo Emerson