Sunday, August 5, 2012

I didn’t build that

A number of folks have joked to me over the last couple of weeks something along these lines. “Obama says you didn’t build that business you co-founded.” Generally, I’ve laughed off the comments or said that I’d like to see the full context of the quote before commenting. Beneath the surface, however, I have been offended. We’ve worked really hard to create Principled Technologies.

Here is President Obama’s quote in more context (from here--the full quote is worth reading):

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The Olympics seem to be awash with political ads of Obama trying to put this quote in a more favorable context and Romney doing the exact opposite. My opinion was somewhere in between—I could see what Obama might have been getting at, but at the same time I was offended that he was belittling what we have accomplished. I did build that!

On my flight back from California last week, I was reading a book by John C. Knapp—How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can Be Done about It). It included the following, written well before Obama’s line:

Abraham’s acknowledgement that his wealth comes from God is echoed throughout the Old Testament in the refrain that it is arrogant to take credit for one’s own success. There is little room for the modern ideal of the “self-made” person. “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)

This morning at church, my pastor used the same scripture in his sermon. Gulp. I am guilty of taking credit for my own success.

I don’t think that Obama was calling for us to give God credit for our success, but the end point is the same. Whatever success I (and you) have had is due to the help of many others, and ultimately to God. I am blessed and have been blessed and need to keep that in mind. At best, I can use the line from the old Shake and Bake commercial, “And we helped!” 

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