In the spirit of the Christmas season I want to share a little known business lesson from Ebenezer Scrooge, the famous character from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Scrooge is, as Dickens describes him, “… a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” In short he’s become our epitome of cold, selfish, and greedy.
We probably all know Scrooge’s main storyline. After being visited by four ghosts, he has a personal transformation and becomes joyful, caring, and compassionate.
While this sequence is a wonderful part of the story, I found even more interesting how Scrooge BECAME such a miserly, cold person in the first place.
In the excellent 1984 TV version of A Christmas Carol, the ghost of Christmas past shows Scrooge scenes from his apprenticeship as a young businessman at about age 20. On Christmas Eve Scrooge’s mentor insists that they put their work down, dance, and have fun.
Like the others, Scrooge dances, laughs, and even falls in love with a beautiful young woman. He later asks this young woman to marry him.
Soon after he fell in love, Scrooge tells a friend, “One day I will make my fortune so that I will deserve her.”
To this end Scrooge dedicates himself passionately by working long hours and saving money frugally. His ambition and skills with work and money are obvious to everyone around him.
But eventually his marriage engagement is broken off. Why?
His passion for work and money become an obsession, and he forgets the very reason he dedicated himself in the first place. His true love instead becomes the fantasy of “some day” and he forgets the life and the people right in front of him. His fiancé can’t wait for him, and she releases him from their engagement.
I find this scene of the young Scrooge giving up love for money to be very sad. The old, miserly, pitiful Scrooge is an exaggerated but powerful example of the dark side of financial ambition left unchecked.
I can promise you I’m no saint or anti-Scrooge. I struggle with this daily as I’m pulled strongly by the practical needs to pay bills, save money, and succeed in my career. Maybe you do too.
But the story of young Scrooge becoming miserly old Scrooge is a strong reminder for the ambitious among us to prioritize time for love, for family, and for the impractical tugs at our heart that make life interesting and worth living.
So after the example of the converted Scrooge, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. I also wish you wealth in all its many definitions.
Enthusiastically your coach,
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