A 'Daily Dozen' worth repeating in times of trouble

Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

During its publishing heyday, The Chicago Tribune once labeled auto pioneer Henry Ford an “ignoramus.”

As was his wont, Ford sued, challenging the paper to “prove it.” During the trial, Ford reportedly was asked dozens of simple, general information questions designed to test his academic knowledge. Such as:
“When was the Civil War?” and “Name the first three Presidents of the United States.” And so on.

Ford, who had little formal education, could answer very few of the queries.

Finally, exasperated, he said, “I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I could find a man in 5 minutes who does. I use my brain to think, not to store up a lot of useless facts.”

A similar story is told about Albert Einstein, one of the pillars of modern physics who believed that the “true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Someone once asked Einstein how many feet are in a mile.

“I don’t know,” Einstein is reported to have said. “Why should I fill my head with things like that when I could look them up in any reference book in two minutes?”

These two men, giants of the 20th Century, knew what every good leader learns sooner or later: The ability to obtain information, and then act on it, is what separates the worthy from mere pretenders.

Ford, of course, was the man who brought “mass production, the assembly line, and the $5 a day wage,” and other innovations to the auto industry. He also alienated academicians for labeling history as pure “bunk,” a statement that would haunt him for decades and made him an inviting target for critics near and far. However “history” viewed Ford, it can safely be said that he was the ultimate self-made man of simple tastes, and unlimited ambition and disdain for those who crossed him.

While Einstein was more concerned with defining the limits of “relativity,” he did share Ford’s penchant for quotability, reportedly once telling certain members of the media that “the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

The comment was a not-so-gentle jab at those who dared enter the Einstein intellectual arena, where few could go toe-to-toe with the German-born physicist and philosopher with an IQ in the stratosphere. It was Einstein, of course, who also uttered the ultimate definition of “insanity,” the timeless explanation of “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Which leads to Robert Louis Stevenson, the great Scottish novelist and essayist of the 19th century, from whom Einstein may have taken philosophical inspiration.

Stevenson, author of such classics as “Kidnapped” and “Treasure Island,” subscribed to a personal creed comprised of a “Daily Dozen” reminders for leading a long and fruitful life. Their value has been instilled in countless Stevenson followers, many of whom stand tall because of their lasting nature.

(1) Make up your mind to be happy. Learn to find pleasure in simple things.

(2) Make the best of your circumstances. No one has everything, and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with the gladness of life.

(3) Don’t take yourself too seriously.

(4) You can’t please everybody. Don’t let criticism bother you.

(5) Don’t let your neighbor set your standards. Be yourself.

(6) Do the things you enjoy, but stay out of debt.

(7) Don’t borrow trouble. Imaginary things are harder to bear than the actual ones.

(8) Hate poisons the soul. Avoid people who make you unhappy.

(9) Have many interests. If you can’t travel, read about new places.

(10) Don’t hold postmortems. Don’t spend your life brooding over mistakes.

(11) Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself.

(12) Keep busy at something. A busy person never has time to be unhappy.


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