A businessman who bought up a town near Chicago, Illinois, Robert Stanford built a fortune for himself and some would say it all started with a small bakery. But, if you knew him, you also knew that it really started with his mind; the way he looked at life.
The Harvard Business Review recently published and posted research by Ashley Whillans about assigning monetary value to time, in particular the time we spend on happiness.
Rewinding to businessman Robert Stanford, he saw time as both valuable and invaluable. He stood as this thread that kept his family thriving. Although his children saw him as perfect, he was by no means a spotless, unsullied man. He met their mother while still in his unhappy marriage and it was not easy to divorce and remarry, considering that it was the late 1920s.
But, he did it anyway and happiness became him, so much so that everyone looked up, back, sideways, and forward to him for guidance. His daughter, so little, reached for his hand and felt the safety and comfort that made her feel, like everyone else in the family, so reliant on him to provide that to her forever. The problem was that he couldn’t do that forever.
He was him. She was her. The others were them.
So what made him so powerful, so prepared to find happiness at every turn?
To an outsider, there were multiple reasons why he was richer than the next man, especially during the Great Depression when everyone seemed to have nothing. But, to someone else like him, not even to his family who simply relied on him, he saw the world through rose-tinted glasses so to speak.
Let’s start simply. On a winter afternoon, walking with his daughter across the street from their home to the playhouse, which was a small apartment building, he listened to her complain about the other kids making fun of her then about her homework then about her siblings. He was a good listener and didn’t talk much.
But, when she finished her complaining, he asked a simple question, “How much good does complaining about all of that do for you?”
Now, on an average day, with an average person, even a friend, anyone complaining would likely fight about it some more and most surely resent that question. However, because this was her father whom she admired and loved more than anyone, she looked up and smiled.
Then she said, “No good at all.”
She told this story to me often and in many different ways because he sometimes didn’t ask a question. Sometimes he’d speak a sentence or just remain quiet and later tell a story over dinner about his bakery or a business deal or a chance encounter.
But the thread never changed.
If it’s not doing you any good, pay no mind to it.