Wilson’s Wise Words

Almost six years ago, I sat on a deck overlooking Lake Michigan, sharing the story of Barry-Wehmiller’s people-centric leadership journey and culture transformation with a potential new team member. I was trying to convince a very gifted young man to join our Organizational Empowerment Team.  In the midst of my pitch he blurted out “Bob, I’ve figured it out! You just want to change the world one team member at a time!”  To which I zealously replied, “Yes! That’s right, I do.”

Fast forward a week or two and I receive an email from the still-undecided candidate. He had stumbled upon this quote of Woodrow Wilson while browsing the web and thought it captured the essence of my message. He was right. It has become a personal favorite.

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

President Wilson was in his first term in the White House in 1913 when he uttered these words while speaking to the students of Swarthmore College. My hope is that the students found them as inspiring as I do and that perhaps some of the students actually were motivated to choose a career path whereby they could enrich the world. I spent my early years focusing on building a business to create wealth.

Eventually I came to the realization that I desired—and was in a position to—enrich the world by enriching the lives of my team members. Wilson’s words speak to that desire to find a greater purpose for my presence here on Earth. This quote not only inspires me in that purpose but also serves as encouragement when the journey gets arduous.

Joy can be found by choosing a path that contributes to the betterment of our world. Click To TweetI enjoy sharing this quote with as many people as possible as it may inspire others to think about their own purpose and contribution to the world. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people see that there is a greater purpose in life than simply making money, raising a family and having fun. Immense personal fulfillment and joy can be found by choosing a path that contributes to the betterment of our world.

By the way, the would-be team member who shared this quote accepted the position and is now trying to change the world alongside me. Wilson’s words drive us both.

Do you have a favorite quote that offers inspiration? Please share it and, if its message resonates with me, you just might find it included in my blog someday.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $2+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 11,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

13 Comments

  • Randall Fleming says:

    “A spirit with a vision is a dream with a mission” – Neil Peart

  • Dave Merrill says:

    “To laugh often and much;
    To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
    To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
    To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
    To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
    This is to have succeeded.”
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Donna Inanen says:

    “To me, the proof of a man’s goodness is the effect he has upon others. So long as one was in (T.S.) Elliot’s presence, one felt it was impossible to say or do anything base.” – Eulogy to T.S. Eliot

  • Chris Harris says:

    “There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.”
    – anonymous

    If we are fortunate enough to be in a position to answer another’s question, we have an important responsibility to do so without making the asker feel stupid. Growth is only possible through learning, and learning should be encouraged. We don’t have to provide the answer to every question, but have a responsibility to help others find a way to discover the answers they’re seeking.

  • William Bennett says:

    I have recently been inspired by many of Mother Teresa’s quotes. I encourage you to read them all!
    Below are two favorites.

    “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”

    “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.”
    Mother Teresa (1910-1997);

  • Reggie MaGee says:

    “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

    John Wooden

  • Laura Bailey says:

    “If we are not a little bit uncomfortable everyday, we are not growing. All the good stuff is outside our comfort zone.”

  • John wolf says:

    “15 Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; 16 because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. 17 Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”

    1 John 2:15-17

  • Ted Borgstadt says:

    Abraham Lincoln once said “The greatest reward God gives us for good work is the ability to do better.”

    Bob, thanks for your continued commitment to your employees, their families and the communities in which they live to have “greater vision” to seek to influence more deeply every day.

  • A.CASTANEDA says:

    MAN) I THINK, I THINK I AM, THEREFORE I AM I THINK.
    COMPUTER) OF COURSE YOU ARE MY BRIGHT LITTLE STAR, WE HAVE MILES & MILES OF FILES OF YOUR FATHER’S FRUIT & NOW TO SUIT OUR GREAT COMPUTER YOU’RE MAGNETIC INK.
    MAN) I’M MORE THAN THAT, I KNOW I AM, AT LEAST I THINK I MUST BE.
    COMPUTER) THERE YOU GO MAN, KEEP AS COOL AS YOU CAN, FACE MILES OF TRIALS WITH SMILES, IT RILES THEM TO BELIEVE THAT DECEIVE THE WEB THEY WEAVE AND KEEP ON THINKING FREE.
    FROM THE MOODY BLUES:

  • sesha says:

    The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problem.
    Mahatma Gandhi

  • Greg L Williams says:

    When you measure success by the way you touch the lives of people, as opposed to creating personal wealth and power, “success” takes on a profound new and more fulfilling meaning.

  • MBrown says:

    “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

    – Anne Frank

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