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« The Finite and Infinite Games of Leadership | Main | Do small things big way »

July 13, 2017

Comments

Levi's

I have read about Feeney (but have not read his biography).
His natural tendency to quiet austerity illustrates a clear difference between those that see the value of money for what it really is: a tool to enable possibilities and to help others, and those that indulge in opulence and gaudy, golden splendor.
Surely, even the rich and famous must understand that "you can't take it with you"*. Whatever money and nice things we accumulate, when we die it will be mostly auctioned off, spent, or thrown in the trash. For one's children or grandchildren, our prized family heirlooms, such as silverware or dishes, furniture, or vintage jewelry, may be perceived as outdated and not useful for a modern lifestyle. Maybe only a few souvenirs will be kept by loving family members who remember you fondly. But for the deceased, we can safely assume that there will be no Ferrari's in the afterlife.

There is a Japanese proverb that says, "1/2 tatami mat when awake, 1 tatami mat when asleep." The meaning is quite simple: a person takes up only this much space, anything more is superfluous."

The Jewish Talmud actually categorizes levels of philanthropy. Giving money for a charitable cause is good of itself. But if there are intentions of self-benefit, even benign intentions such as establishing a legacy in one's own name), then by definition that is not as good as giving anonymously

1. Giving begrudgingly, after being asked
2. Giving less than you should, but giving it cheerfully.
3. Giving before being asked
4. Giving when you do not know the recipient's identity, but the recipient knows your identity
5. Giving when you know the recipient's identity, but the recipient doesn't know your identity
6. Giving when neither party knows the other's identity, enabling the recipient to become self-reliant

It must be hard for people like Chuck Feeney, since the more he tries to be secretive about his philanthropy, the more attention is drawn to his incomprehensible behavior (in the eyes of average people).

In practice, we all want to be seen as good people and we all want to live a happy life and be recognized by our peers and our community.
I still maintain that any sort of charity is good charity, regardless of the intentions. There is no need to rank levels of charity in a kind of righteous one-upmanship. Still, when we read about someone like Chuck Feeney, the frugal man who ironically made his fortune by creating the DFS luxury goods empire, readers cannot help but be fascinated by this man. In theory, everyone wishes we could follow his model. In practice, we probably would not be ready to make the same choices he has made.

*This is a reference to the whimsical play of that name, written in 1936 by George Kaufman and Moss Hart. The famous line from that play was, "Maybe it'd stop you trying to be so desperate about making more money than you can ever use? You can't take it with you, Mr. Kirby. So what good is it? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.

Sam

Chuck measured the value of his life not by what he was able to gather as riches but lives he could impact who could not return him with any benefit. Its a hard principle to live by, hence creditable.

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