Tim McCarthy and the Business of Good

Newsletter: T’was Ever Thus

Jun 15, 2010 7:22:00 AM / by Tim McCarthy

Little good comes from panic, though through the hardest of times we are challenged to remain patient.  One way to do this is to remember that the more things change, the more they stay the same. [more]

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. And this has been a very heavy week.

I’m in the final throes of a complete reorganization of our businesses and our foundation. And so, there have been a lot of emotional meetings as I meet with those with whom we’re moving forward and with those we must leave behind.

Change is often painful.

And it’s my experience that when you’re trying to do something different, pain is also frequent. New things require a constant process of trial and error and, unfortunately, what you think will work at one point seems foolish only a year or two later.

But things got better for me a few times during this dismal week.

Once, when I was feeling my worst, I pictured my Mom’s face, a little upward curl on her lips, as she would say, “T’was ever thus.”

It’s apparently a line from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. For me it was Mom’s thought on a situation that seemed hopeless. I guess she was able to get things in perspective by taking a historical view.

The other relief I felt this week was when my son, Tim, and I guest lectured a class at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State. It was the third such guest lecture we’ve done for our friend, Professor Dan Oglevee, and Tim and I always walk away feeling we learned a lot by trying to explain what we’re doing.

In these classes, Tim talks about how for-profit businesses can do well by doing good and I talk about how non-profits can do better by doing business.

Some things became clearer to me as we were closing the class, trying to leave a summary of the things we’ve learned.

I talked about why I struggle so to create an innovative foundation when it would be simpler to take my 35 years of hard work and good fortune and go sit on the beach and read books as I’m so often tempted to do.

Tim talked about Raising Cane’s restaurants’ drive to fairly treat their 300 employees - 250 or more who live paycheck-to-paycheck. Here again, life would be simpler for Tim and his partner if they just did as many restaurant chains do and treat people as business things.

We told the students that the only meaning we can find in this life is in the love of our families and in the pursuit of a noble goal.

We believe that in pursuit of that love and that goal we find a journey worth taking. I’ve learned, mostly the hard way, that there is no destination.

I’ve also learned that the journey changes constantly, particularly for those who choose the road less travelled. And I believe that the constant change is both the most difficult and the most rewarding part of our journey – if we learn to deal skillfully with our setbacks and our successes.

The oil spill and the usual onslaught of other bad news didn’t improve my mood until I was reminded of Winston Churchill’s funny but true observation.  He said, “America can always be counted on to do the right thing… but only after exhausting every other option.”

Or, as Mom said, “T’was ever thus.”

What she meant, I think, is that the universe is unfolding just as it has and will ever be.

We all struggle with our military presence in Iraq but four generations ago our ancestors were struggling with our troops’ presence in Nicaragua.

In our (appropriate) worries about a jihad, we forget that hundreds of years ago my own religion conducted a couple of jihads called the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition.

And our current generation’s Bernie Madoff was preceded ninety years ago by Charles Ponzi, from whom Mr. Madoff’s antics were derived.

So, what is the point of hating Muslims when their jihad is conducted by one criminal element of their faith tradition? Should we hate Americans because of the criminal element in our society that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City?

My Dad told us to “fight the good fight” and so I do.

But I need also remember at the end of the day’s work that I need to let go because folks like me can take life too seriously.

There is no perfection, no destination; there is only today’s work to affect a positive progression during our time here.

And then, lest we forget, we must remember t’was ever thus.

For me, that means it is doubtful for all my trying that my little effort will end poverty.

I only need remember that I’m fighting the good fight.

And at the end of the day I must also remember that rest and music and laughter are medicine for my soul.

Tags: Monthly Newsletter, Personal Well-Being, Social Impact & Responsibility

Tim McCarthy

Written by Tim McCarthy