On Self Reliance
In 1994 I moved to Albuquerque. I had just graduated with my engineering degree and was offered an entry level position at a firm out there. I packed up my meager belongings and drove 2,000+ miles cross country to start a new life. I learned about New Mexico, traveled through the state, and made long lasting friendships. The Land of Enchantment still holds a dear place in my heart to this day.
Yet not everything was great. I learned what it was like to work in a corporation with all the positives and negatives. I had new responsibilities and I had to navigate new social situations. I made mistakes but I learned from them all.
The highs were high and the lows were low. I was getting pretty miserable after a while but then something happened that changed everything. One morning I read the Albuquerque Journal and spied a column called the Corporate Curmudgeon. It was a weekly column about inane corporate life but this week the author picked an inspirational topic. A half and hour later I was stunned by what I read. My life had changed.
The author quoted Emerson’s essay “On Self Reliance” and that lofty essay has impacted everything I’ve ever done up till today. It taught me to always re-invent myself, to persevere in the face of adversity, and made me into the man I am today.
Right to the Point
This particular quote is what struck me hard.
If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not ‘studying a profession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.
What Emerson says is that failure is ok as long as you learn from it. Make your mistakes but follow the truth! Don’t compromise who you are and walk tall. Don’t be discouraged when things go wrong, just pick yourself up and keep going.
After all, what else is there?