Was Albert Einstein a success? Interestingly, most people will refer to him as a genius without calling him a success but this was a man who failed to get a place at a technical institute of learning and could not get a job as a teacher for two years — in his early years some of his teachers even thought he might be mentally disadvantaged. In terms of wealth, he may not have been a “success”; in terms of position he will not be considered a “success”. Yet he was awarded the Nobel Prize and was universally recognised as the most influential modern physicist. He also probably has more frequently-used quotations than anyone else.
by Tim Middleton
One of his most well-known sayings relates to success: “Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.” He truly hit the mark when he made that statement which also makes it much easier to determine his status: Einstein was without doubt a man of value to his own generation and to ours now. He underlined what Kipling had said about being a “man”, as we have considered in previous weeks. A real man is a man of value, not of success.
Interestingly, a modern hymn writer, Graham Kendrick, also asks questions about this issue in his Easter song, Paid on the Nail: “Is a rich man worth more than a poor man? A stranger worth less than a friend? Is a baby worth more than an old man? Your beginning worth more than your end? Is a president worth more than his assassin? Does your value decrease with your crime? Like when Christ took the place of Barabbas, would you say he was wasting his time? Well, how much do you think you are worth, boy? Will anyone stand up and say?”
People often talk about the value of an object, be it its market value, its sentimental value, its historical value, though usually its financial value. Advertisers herald how they can “Add value to your property”; customers decry how little value is added to their life by value added tax. How do houses and objects increase in value? More importantly, how does someone become a man of value? How can we raise our children to be people of value? How can we add value to our children?
The first and most crucial point to grasp is that for one to become a man of value, he must be a man of values. Our status, our influence, our value is not determined by what we achieve but by what we believe. It is our principles, not our personality, which is important. We must be people with values or else we will be blown and tossed by every wind and wave. If we have no values, we will be of no value to anyone. Sadly, and ironically, this does not seem to be shared by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education as on its website, under “About Us”, we can discover its vision and mission but there is no mention of their values! We achieve nothing if we believe nothing. We must instil vital values into our children if they are to be of value to anyone.
Many will share similar values, such as integrity, inclusivity, accountability, respect, courage, sacrifice, service, but we need to be careful what values we choose. Many will proclaim the value of loyalty but if our loyalty is to a corrupt organisation or person (as opposed to a caring institution or individual), it is of no value at all. As someone once said: “Don’t let loyalty become slavery.” Mark Twain went further: “Loyalty to the country always; loyalty to the government when it deserves it.” Values, principles that benefit mankind, not simply me, are what will determine if we have value.
The second point to understand is that by being people of values, we will be of value to people. Our value will be determined not by our personal wealth but by our usefulness to society. An item may be extremely valuable, in terms of being expensive, but if it is locked up in a safe, what value is that? What value therefore is someone who does everything for himself and not for others?
Einstein was a genius, without question, but more importantly, he was a man of value rather than a man of success, a man of values rather than a man of sensations. We need to teach our child to realise the value of each person but this will only happen when she becomes a person of value to others. William Ralph Inge said that “The aim of education is the knowledge not of facts but of values.” That must be at the heart of our curriculum. Values are how we create value. A man of value is a man of values. It does not take an Einstein to work that out!
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools and author of the book on “failure” called Failing to Win.