Giving Thanks

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

It’s appropriate on Thanksgiving to think of the things we have to be grateful for. My short list:

  • Health
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Opportunity

As an entrepreneur I am interested in getting something new done. But life is what happens while you are making other plans. I can sometimes get so focused on trying to make a venture “a success” that I forget what success truly is: having my health, a loving family, good friends, and the availability of opportunities to exercise my talents.

I wouldn’t be where I am without the help of many people. That’s as true for me as it is for you and even for all of the “self-made men” and overnight successes. No small amount of hard work also contributed but there is still an enormous amount of luck and much help from many others.

In college I attended a graduate program in Engineering-Economic Systems at Stanford run by William Linvill. Linvill was a brilliant and energetic visionary who taught me a lot about technology policy analysis. Stanford has since blended Industrial Engineering, Operations Research, and EES into a single Management Science and Engineering department.

I try to make it to a prayer breakfast Wednesday mornings (6:45 comes so early some mornings). I am the youngest there by perhaps 15-20 years many mornings. I noticed when my older boy started sixth grade at a new school last year that he matured just by being around the older kids. I find Wednesday mornings I am in a better frame of mind (and better behaved) for listening to all of the challenges other folks bring: it makes me realize my problems are really not so bad at all. Kind of like my boy hanging around the older boys.

Ben Stein has written several essays on giving thanks–I profiled his “Just for Today” in December of last year–and I thought I would close with excerpts from two more. The first is from “Thanksgiving 2005

Thank you for the glory of the free society where I can say anything I want and not fear any more than an angry letter. Thank you for more than adequate food of virtually infinite variety. Thank you that I still have the vitality to walk these same hilly paths that I originally walked thirty-three years ago as a teacher here. Thank you for my parents who are up there with you now, I hope, and for my sister, who teaches me every time I talk to her.

Thank you for my glorious wife, the kindest, most forgiving woman on the planet. Thank you for my teenage son, who keeps me humble. Thank you for the incredible gift of my dogs for the last sixty years, who have been my best friends. Thank you for our four cats, too.

Thank you, above all, for the brave, selfless men and women who wear the uniform of this country and offer up their lives to save us from terror, for the families of those men and women, for the children who have to grow up without a father or mother, for the wives and husbands who have to sleep alone, for a year or maybe forever, for the police and firefighters and emergency workers and teachers who make our lives work, and for the Constitution.

and the second is from “My Father’s Estate” from October 1999

My father lived his life, especially in the latter years of it, in a haze of appreciation. Whatever small faults he could and did find with America, he endlessly reminded anyone who listened that the best achievement of mankind was America, whose current failings were trivial by historic standards, which was in a constant process of amelioration, and which offered its citizens the best chance in history for a good life.

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