Joseph F. McCaffrey MD, FACS


It’s Not What You Get that Matters, It’s Who You Become

My appreciation of the wisdom of that statement has grown over the years.

Most recently, I thought of it while I was getting my hair cut.

I go to a one-person shop in the village close to where I live (we actually do refer to it as the village, quaint as that may sound to some). The woman who cuts my hair rents a cute, small free-standing building behind the inn on the main street. The patisserie that bakes for the inn is right across the brick driveway. It’s a nice location.

When I was there earlier this week, she told me that she was thinking of expanding her business and hiring two talented women who wanted to work with her. She wasn’t worried about the hair cutting part, but about the management part. 

She realized, as the book “The E-Myth” points out, that being able to do the work of a business is different than being able to run the business. That is, just because you’re a good electrician doesn’t mean you’ll be good at running an electrical contracting business.

This woman realizes that she will need to develop new skills if her venture is to be successful. She will need to grow and become more.

If the expansion succeeds, she will probably earn more. More importantly she will have added the ability to run a larger small business to her already significant list of talents and abilities. 

With her new skill set, new opportunities will open to her. For example, she would be much more comfortable starting again elsewhere. Also, she’d be more qualified to start a business in a different field. After expanding herself, she could act as a consultant and advisor for others wishing to do the same.

In short, the most important benefit from expanding her business is that it helps her expand as a person. The benefit isn’t what she would get, it’s who she would become.

We all can continue to grow and become more throughout life. 

Maybe the most important question one can consider before engaging in an activity or relationship or making a career decision is who you are likely to become as a result of it.

Ask who you will become from all vantage points. What type of values will you develop? What skills will you acquire? What new ways of thinking will you be exposed to?  What habits of thought and action will you develop? What quality contribution will you be able to make? What mentors will you learn from?

In choosing a career, the answers to these questions are much more important than the salary or the job title.

Ultimately, becoming a person of quality delivers much more satisfaction that merely becoming a person of material accumulation. The combination is desirable – there’s nothing wrong with material aspirations as long as they don’t supplant more profound values – but personal integrity proves more enduring than a bank account.

Ultimately, who you’ve become is what you’re left with at the end of life.

Material things decay. You can lose them. Someone can take them from you. 

Friends or family may die or otherwise leave you. 

Who you’ve become can never be lost, never be taken – it’s truly yours.

As you may know, I like the metaphor of living life as if it’s a work of art in progress. Taking active control of who you’re becoming is part of creating a masterpiece.

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