Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. – Albert Einstein
What does that mean?
In the longer version of the quote, the balance between giving and taking is mentioned, as well as a direction for the giving (that what you make and give not to be a curse for mankind).
The definition of value, from the longer version of this quote, is to give more than you receive, and that your gifts do as little harm as possible. The implication is that the standard definition of success does not do that.
I would say that it is possible to be both successful and of value, but it is much harder, and that success should wait until after you have established that you are a person of value.
So the quote is imploring us to give more than we receive, and to do as little harm with our gifts as possible.
Why is being someone of value important?
Again, we need to keep the slightly off-standard definition of value used in the longer version of the quote. Consider the opposite of that definition, one who is not bringing value to humanity. By the definition the quote uses, they would take more than they give. If everyone tried that, we’d run out of whatever we had rather quickly, right?
So by giving more than we receive, we help generate a surplus. That surplus can be used by the needy, and by the greedy. We probably can’t do much to direct our surplus, but we can always try. We can generate surplus time, and give that to others, and in so doing, create value for others, as well as ourselves.
We can generate surplus money, and give that to organizations which help those we feel need the help the most, creating value for them, as well as for ourselves. Whatever we do for our hobbies or our vocation, we can do a little more, and in so doing, create value for others, as well as for ourselves.
While the others may receive the value we generate, we also receive some value back, perhaps in the form of the pride in the doing and the giving. Or it could be from their gratitude, their surplus and value, given back to us. That is how easily one can be a person of value.
Where can I apply this in my life?
At one time, I donated some time to Habitat for Humanity, helping them rehab a home for a deserving family. Given the low height of the ceilings and my height, the value I gave my co-workers was freeing up a ladder for someone else to use. The value I gave others was to help them fix up their house.
Even though I never met the deserving family, I still felt good, as I knew what it felt like to have a home. Other times, when I had more money than time, I donated to charitable organizations to help them help others in my name. Again, I didn’t know any of the people who were helped, but I still felt good for providing my surplus for them to gain value from it.
I have also donated my skills to help my kid’s school with some of their web design and database programming. In this case, there was no doubt that my surplus time and donated skills brought value, as I got to see the impact every time I visited the website or stopped by the school.
Take a moment and consider what you might have more of than you need, and how you might be able to help another person by giving some of it to them. I’ve pointed out how I have used my time, my money, or my skills to be of value to others. How could you do the same?
It doesn’t need to be a huge gift, and one can always start small. Think of the tortoise and the hare, one took off in a flash, the other moved forward slowly, but eventually got the job done. We can do the same basic thing. We can give a little each week, and allow it to add up over time. Just don’t give up or take too long a nap, right silly rabbit?
Time, money, and talent are the easy ones to spot. How about giving someone your emotional support? What about donating blood? Can you coach or mentor a student or group of students? What about helping others learn about music or art or some other passion you enjoy? That is a pure and joyous way to give, and to be of value.
The question is what will you do? It’s one thing to think about it, but it is another to take action. How much value do you create for others if you do nothing but think? Yes, you need to give it due consideration, but then comes the time to act. What shall you do?
Here is the extended version of the quote :
Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value. Look around at how people want to get more out of life than they put in. A man of value will give more than he receives. Be creative, but make sure that what you create is not a curse for mankind.