Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 4
When 85 and on your deathbed, who do you want to be there with you? The answer to that question can impact the choices you make today. Think of it as a project plan – envision the end and plan backwards. Are the people you want to be there the people you spend time with now?
Ever see or read Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman? I saw it in my twenties. I thought the play was great, but I really didn’t understand it until years later. I too had the same dream as Willie Loman, the protagonist, “to come out as the number one man.” I wanted to be at the top of whatever I was doing – the best scientist, and the best product manager. (Hey, part of me still wants to be number one, so if you could buy my book when it comes out and help make Busting Your Corporate Idol a best seller, I’d appreciate it.) I thought Lowman was a loser who couldn’t cut it. Now I am more sympathetic, because I know how seductive the corporate life can be.
The play brilliantly depicts Willie’s struggle to hold off a lifetime of regrets by clinging to his illusions. The vision of a salesman’s funeral is what keeps him going, a funeral attended by a lifetime of customers and buyers, crying and weeping at his passing. Willie wants to be important and liked, and has sacrificed everything in pursuit of the relationship with his buyers. He sees himself as critical for his company’s success, but is fired from his job.
Willie Loman loved to use his hands, but eschewed that path for his life. His house was paid for, his friend offered him an easy job, and yet he chose suicide. And at his funeral, not a single buyer was in attendance, only his family.
Loman’s two son’s travel different paths: One chooses to work with his hands and be happy as a “dime a dozen” guy. The other strives to “beat the racket” and achieve the greatness in business that alluded his father. Each brother has made a choice, a choice that may never have occurred to Willie Loman.
I reject the “dime a dozen” characterization as unnecessarily pejorative. I think it represents the great fear of many high achievers – “If I don’t keep working this hard I won’t have any value.” It just isn’t true.
So, what do you want your legacy to be?