We Are What We Read

MidasMoments: Rob Slee’s Comments on the Nation

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A couple of years ago I was fortunate to spend time with David McCullough. David is a two-time Pulitzer prize winner, and author of such great books as 1776, John Adams, and Truman – just to name a few. You probably know him as the host of “The American Experience” on PBS. I think he is America’s greatest living historian.

In any event, I asked him what characteristic he thought separated our Founding Fathers from the morons who more recently have run our country into the ground. Of course I was expecting comments like “strength of purpose,” and “moral character and clarity.” He greatly surprised me when he said “the Founding Fathers were all prolific readers.” Huh? In fact, his message went further when he said something I’ll never forget: “We are what we read.”

This is an amazing insight. Somewhere along the line in America, reading and prose gave way to WWE, MMA, NBA, NFL, etc. as the main ways we entertain and express ourselves. I swear 3-letter acronyms are just killing the USA.

Once a person develops a worldview, it is almost impossible to move them off of it. I’m convinced that most people will go to their graves with the worldview they have in place by the time they reach 40 years of age.

Here’s a major part of my worldview. I believe:

– for at least the last 15 years too many Americans have been taking more value out of the system than what they have been putting in;

– our education system is totally broken and generates only 5-10% of students who are globally competitive;

– 70-80% of our business owners are not generating returns on investment greater than their cost of capital (this means they are slowly but surely going out of business);

– 100% of business owners could achieve financial independence if they would set their minds to it;

– somewhere along the line our government went into the business of enabling masses of people to feel like entitled victims;

– tenure has killed traditional business academia, and it’s ironic that they are too ignorant to even know it;

– America is technically insolvent, and only money printing keeps us going;

– studying business as an undergraduate so limits most students’ ability to think and learn that it debilitates them for life;

– our country was built on the following principles which are no longer revered by a large segment of the population: strong work ethic; deferred gratification; empathy and respect for others; pragmatism; love of country over love of self; and a sense of community;

– the human spirit is indomitable;

– all of us have been put of earth to contribute something meaningful…and that the happiest among us figure out what that thing is while we’re in position to make it happen.

I cannot convince 99% of readers that my worldview is correct, regardless of facts, studies, surveys, or theories that I try to use to support my view. That’s the thing about worldviews: you can’t convince someone to change their worldview; you can only convert them to your position.

Here’s a thought: let’s read more, especially things that expand us intellectually. Because, if McCullough is correct, and I think he is, we are what we read.

– Rob

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