Two words to measure your value
The year is 1910.
At 808 Brady Street in Davenport, Iowa, we join two of the most brilliant minds of the 20th Century conversing over dinner.
“Tell me, B.J.” says Elbert, “What are the two most valuable words in the English language?”
“I haven’t given it much thought,” B.J. responds. “What are yours?”
Elbert leans forward and confides, “Survival value.”
B.J. ponders the words for a moment. “To be frank, Elbert, I don’t see much in them.”
“Give them time, B.J. They will grow on you.”
“Do explain, Elbert. I’m all ears.”
Elbert thoughtfully takes a sip of wine, then pushes his chair back from the table. Eyes gleaming, he speaks earnestly and deliberately, in the manner of a man revealing thoughts he has been pondering for years:
“That which lives after the action itself is complete, is survival value. Actions have survival value according to the degree of good that grows out of them.
“For instance, the man who planted the tree had the joy of doing; the tree adds to the value of his real estate; but the tree will exist long after the man has turned to dust.
“All worthy deeds, all honest work, all sincere expressions of truth–whether by pen or voice–have a survival value.
“Civilization is a great, moving mass of survival values, augmented, increased, bettered, refined, by every worthy life. Man dies, but his influence lives and adds to the wealth, the happiness and the welfare of the world.
“Hate, revenge, jealousy, doubt, negation, have no survival value. Courtesy, kindness, goodwill, right intent, all add to the sum of human happiness. Not only do they benefit the individual who gives them out, but they survive in various forms and add to the well-being of the world.
“All acts, whether work or play, should be judged with the idea of survival value in mind.
“Health and happiness are the results of a multiplicity of thoughts and actions possessing survival value.
“Hell might be defined as the sum total of acts which possess no survival value.”
The words were spoken by Elbert Hubbard, writer, publisher, artist, philosopher, and the author of “A Message to Garcia,” which sold more than 40 million copies in his lifetime, outselling every other publication except the Bible and the dictionary.
He explains in his book Evolution or Revolution:
“What a person makes of his time–thinking, saying, and doing–are accumulative, day after day, year after year; and as they accumulate they are either constructive for welfare of man, or destructive, injuring with whom he commingled.
“Elbert Hubbard’s life had an Accumulative Constructive Survival Value. Hitler’s life was that of Accumulative Destructive Survival Value.”
How about our lives? What is our survival value? Is it accumulatively constructive or destructive? Or does it hover somewhere in the middle because we’re too afraid or apathetic to take a stand either way?
If we’re not striving for excellence, we’re slipping into mediocrity. As Elbert Hubbard declared,
“The man who has nothing to offer the world that the world needs, should telephone the undertaker, for he is a dead one, whether he knows it or not.”
The greater value we create for others, the wider our influence spreads and the longer it lasts.
Elbert Hubbard died in 1915. But his influence is still felt today because of his survival value.
What will people write about you a hundred years after you die?