An erroneous report in a French newspaper in 1888 may have inspired a wealthy businessman to rewrite his life’s story. The newspaper reported that the businessman had died when it fact it was his brother who had passed away.
The mistaken obituary described the businessman as “the merchant of death” and condemned him for his invention of dynamite.
This report so upset Albert Nobel, as the story goes, he was determined to rewrite his legacy and set about to create an award that would honor those who foster peace in the world. Hence the Nobel Peace Prize.
Whether this “fake news” obituary was the sole reason Mr. Nobel donated money for the prize — he never discussed his motivations — it was a legacy changing moment in history.
“On November 27, 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament at Paris’ Swedish-Norwegian Club. The 62-year-old industrialist had previously mused about using some of his personal fortune to support the work of scientists and inventors, but the document he produced described a project far more ambitious than anyone could have imagined. In fewer than 1,000 handwritten words, Nobel outlined a plan to devote the vast majority of his estate—worth around $265 million today—to a series of prizes for “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Nobel listed five awards in his will (a sixth, for economics, was added in 1968).”
~ Evan Andrews, History.com
At the time of his death, Mr. Nobel owned more than 100 factories that produced weapons of war, successfully building on the enterprise that his father had started.
Regardless of the motives for Mr. Nobel’s gift, it changed his legacy. Today the average Joe on the street may be aware of his name but the vast majority know little if anything about his life or the reasons for his remarkable success in business that enabled the Nobel Prize.
A favorite line in the world of career transition consultants and executive coaching is “that each day we are writing the story of our life.” So true. We are not locked in to some predetermined outcome. We can and should edit our story as we experience life, facing questions of why we do what we do.
Former FBI counterintelligence and undercover agent Larae Quy, author, speaker and coach writes in a recent Business Insider article that as we progress through life the messages/advice we get changes. “As children we are encouraged to dream big about the things we want to accomplish in life. We grow up thinking we’ll do what we love.” Then, as we become adults, the messaging seems to direct us to how we can become successful. Our college experience typically is driven by that guidance. “We begin to look at subjects we excel in school. Grades become the measuring stick of our future. Most of all we’re told be practical, find a good job and stay there.”
Sometimes our success and the monetary awards blocks the road to where we really want to be, Ms. Quy writes. This fact is the real kicker because so often we confuse success with happiness and fulfillment and that is just not always the case. In fact, I am willing to bet that the reality for most of us that is just not the case.
There will come day in your life, when a significant event will act as a catalyst for some serious questioning of whether you are doing that about which you are passionate. It may be a sudden termination — the unexpected loss of a job, life’s personal little security blanket. Do not miss the opportunity to take stock of where you, what you are doing and whether the money you make is aligning with the deeper issues of personal happiness and fulfillment.
Helen Keller summed it up this way: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”
© 2018 John Gregory Self