February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

July 1, 2017

Godless and Childless Leaders

You may have heard of Charlie Gard, the 10-month-old baby who was born with severe brain damage and an inability to move or breathe on his own. He has been on life support at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London since he was born. Earlier this year, Charlie’s doctors concluded that he was terminally ill and that nothing more could be done for him.

After doing extensive research, Charlie’s parents found a doctor in the United States who thought he could help Charlie with a certain type of medication. The medication has never been tried on anyone with Charlie’s exact condition; however, the medication was successful on another individual who had a condition that was similar to Charlie’s.

In order to raise funds so that Charlie could be transferred to the United States for treatment, Charlie’s mother set up a GoFundMe page on the internet. To date, she has been able to raise more than $1.7 million for the experimental treatment.

Even though Charlie’s parents have the desire and financial ability to transfer him to the United States for treatment, the administrators at Great Ormond Street Hospital took it upon themselves to stop the parents. In April, the hospital filed a court case with the family division of the High Court of Justice in London. The question that the hospital presented to the court was, “Is it legal, and in Charlie’s best interest, for the hospital to remove him from life support — even against his parent’s wishes?” After a hearing on the matter, the judge ruled in favor of the hospital and against Charlie’s parents, stating that it was “in Charlie’s best interests” to allow the hospital to withdraw treatment, which would result in Charlie’s death.

Charlie’s parents appealed the judge’s decision to the Court of Appeals of England and Wales. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the judge. Charlie’s parents then appealed the case to the United Kingdom Supreme Court. That court subsequently upheld the judge’s decision.

June 3, 2017

Are We Too Dependent On Technology?

I’m currently representing an elderly woman who was injured in an accident. When I met with her recently to discuss her case, she brought her nine-year-old grandson with her. After we were finished talking about her case, I asked her grandson what he wants to be when he grows up. He hesitated for a moment, and then his grandmother said, “Go ahead and tell him. He wants to be a YouTuber.”

I’m not sure what a YouTuber is. I assume that it’s a person who posts videos on YouTube for others to see. The grandson may believe that he can someday make a good living by posting videos on YouTube.

After hearing that the grandson wanted to be a YouTuber, I asked him what his favorite subject is in school. He answered, “Science.” I then asked him if he had ever heard of Albert Einstein and he said no. After I told him that Albert Einstein was a famous inventor, I said, “If your grandmother bought you a book about Einstein, would you read it?” He answered yes. I looked at his grandmother and asked her if she was willing to buy him a book about Einstein. She smiled and said yes. She seemed pleased that I was encouraging her grandson to expand his knowledge.

I also suggested to the grandmother that she look into buying an electronics set from a hobby store for her grandson to experiment with. I then mentioned that when I was her grandson’s age, I spent a lot of time experimenting with hooking up batteries to small motors, fans, lights, and switches, which taught me some valuable lessons about how electricity works.

Whenever I shop for a gift for one of my grandchildren, I make a special effort to buy a hands-on, experiential gift. I would prefer that my grandchildren not waste their time playing computer games or watching videos. In my opinion, it’s only through actual hands-on experiences with people, objects, and tasks that we develop the foundational knowledge that is needed for solving problems and challenges that will come up in the future.

March 11, 2017

Why Is Everyone So Upset With CAT?

Federal Agents Search Caterpillar Locations

There’s something about the Caterpillar, Inc. (CAT) situation that’s been irritating me. If I asked you to guess what it is, you wouldn’t be able to come up with the right answer. I’ll share my thoughts with you in a moment, after I review some details of what’s been going on with CAT.

On January 31, 2017, CAT announced that it was moving its global headquarters from Peoria to Chicago. Everyone in Peoria was shocked by the announcement, which came two years after CAT unveiled plans for construction of a new global headquarters in Peoria. At that time (February 2015), the CEO of the company said, “Caterpillar will stay in Peoria. I repeat, we will stay in Peoria.”

After the January 2017 announcement that CAT was relocating its corporate headquarters to Chicago, there was an avalanche of complaints and criticism leveled against CAT by local politicians, business people, employees, and Peoria-area residents.

The complaints and criticism continued until March 2, 2017, when the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and several other federal agencies executed a search warrant against CAT. The agents walked into the corporate headquarters and two other buildings and seized documents and electronic records that were allegedly related to a scheme by Caterpillar to evade the payment of income taxes.

On the morning of the raid, WMBD radio interrupted its regular programming so that its morning hosts could provide minute-by-minute coverage of the raid. At that time, there really wasn’t anything to cover other than the fact that the agents had moved in on CAT and were inside three of the buildings reviewing and collecting documents. The so-called coverage of the raid quickly turned into a gripe fest, with one person after another calling the radio station to complain about how horrible and evil CAT has become.

February 18, 2017

The Death of a Modern-Day Theologian

Michael Novak and his wife Karen greeting Saint John Paul II

I have a quote that I want you to read and then tell me if you know who wrote it: “Enjoying what we do is not always a feeling of enjoyment; it is sometimes the gritty resolution a man or woman shows in doing what must be done — perhaps with inner dread and yet without whimpering self-pity.”

I like the phrase, “without whimpering self-pity.” It sounds much more dramatic and important than the phrase, “without feeling sorry for yourself.” I also like the phrase, “gritty resolution.” Was there anything that you did last week that you dreaded, but still did with gritty resolution and without whimpering self-pity?

Here’s another quote from the same man in which he articulated his idea of what God is — and is not:

He is not “the Big Guy upstairs,” nor the loud booming voice that Hollywood films affect for God. There are hosts of bogus pictures for God: the Watchmaker beyond the skies, the puppeteer of history. If you wish to find him, watch for him in quiet and humility — perhaps among the poor and broken things of earth. There are people who looked into the eyes of the most abandoned of the poor and saw infinite treasure there, treasure without price, and there found God dwelling.

The man I have been quoting is Michael Novak, a Catholic philosopher and theologian who died from cancer on February 17, 2017, at the age of 83. His wife of 46 years, the former Karen Laub, died in 2009.

Novak was the author of more than 50 books that addressed topics such as religion, economics, policy, politics, and sports. He was best known for his expertise in economics, which was on display in his book The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.

He described “democratic capitalism” as “neither the kingdom of God nor without sin. Yet all other known systems of political economy are worse. Such hope as we have for alleviating poverty and for removing oppressive tyranny — perhaps our last, best hope — lies in this much despised system.”

January 21, 2017

The Future Is Here And It’s Scary

Amazon EchoIn the movie Back to the Future Part II, when Marty McFly Jr. sits down to watch TV, he doesn’t need to use a remote control unit to change channels. Instead, he barks commands directly at a big-screen TV and names six different channels that he wants to view. The channels instantly appear in a grid on the TV.

In another scene, Marty approaches a Garden Center fruit dispenser and commands it to give him some fruit. His first command is, “Hey, fruit!” He is ignored by the dispenser because it has been programmed to respond only to polite commands.

When the dispenser fails to respond, Marty says, “Fruit, please!” and the dispenser lowers from the kitchen ceiling. Then Marty says, “Thank you,” and the dispenser opens and allows him to grab some fruit. Marty then says, “Retract” and the dispenser rises back to its original position.

When Back to the Future Part II was made in 1989, the technology was not available to create electronic devices that were capable of responding to voice commands. Now, 27 years later, we have the ability to use voice commands to control computers, smartphones, appliances, and other electronic devices.

You may have heard of the Amazon Echo, which is a small, voice-driven electronic device that sits on a desk or table and responds to the name Alexa. The Echo can respond to commands requesting music tracks and radio stations and can answer questions and control “smart appliances.” More than 4% of the homes in America now have an Amazon Echo sitting on a desk or a table.

According to a recent article in The Economist, 20% of Google searches on Android-powered handsets in America are input by voice, and it’s a common practice for smartphone users to dictate emails, notes, and text messages into their phones rather than type them by hand.

October 3, 2015

Did Pope Francis Ever Cruise Main Street?

Chevy - 1955One of the greatest technological breakthroughs of the past 100 years was the perfection and mass production of the automobile. Although the initial design of a steam-powered “motorized carriage” dates back to the 18th century, it was the invention of the internal combustion engine that allowed the automobile industry to dramatically change our way of life.

The internal combustion engine was the first engine that was powered by liquid fuel. The engine was designed to generate power by igniting a mixture of fuel and air to produce multiple explosions in chambers that drove pistons to turn a shaft that would make the wheels of a vehicle move.

It is generally acknowledged that the practical use of internal combustion engines in automobiles didn’t start to take place until the late 1800s when several German inventors, working independently of each other, developed automobiles that could travel for long distances.

Prior to the Great Depression which began in 1929, there were more than 1800 American entrepreneurs who were attempting to mass-produce gas-powered automobiles for consumers. By the time the Great Depression was over, only eight American automobile companies remained: General Motors, Ford, Crosley, Packard, Nash-Kelvinator, Studebaker, Chrysler, and Hudson.

The mass production of vehicles created millions of new jobs for American workers, including jobs for designers, assemblers, road construction workers, mechanics, and truck drivers. It also wiped out the horse-and-carriage industry and large segments of the train and boat industries. There were massive job losses among blacksmiths, wainwrights (makers and repairers of wagons), drovers (cattle and sheep drivers), railroad workers, and canalmen.

I’ve written before about the process of creative destruction. It’s a term that was originally used by an Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950). Schumpeter described creative destruction as an essential process that takes place in a free-market economy that wipes out entire industries after new technologies are discovered and put into place.

July 4, 2015

Restoring Freedom of Religion in America

libertyIn November 2011, 70 businesses and professional organizations added their names to a legal brief that was filed in a case that was in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The businesses and organizations were recruited by a law firm that had been hired to file a “friend of the court” brief. The purpose of the brief was to encourage the court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, a necessary step that had to take place before same-sex marriage could ever be declared to be a fundamental right under the U.S. constitution.

Earlier this year, the same group of lawyers were hired to write a similar brief in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in every state in the country. A total of 379 American corporations and organizations added their names to the brief. The corporations included American Express, Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, CBS, Coca-Cola, CVS, DIRECTV, Disney, eBay, Facebook, General Mills, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Proctor & Gamble, Starbucks, United Air Lines, and Verizon.

The following paragraph was included in the introduction of the brief that was filed on behalf of the businesses:

Some of the states in which [our companies] do business make marriage equally available to all of our employees and colleagues; others prohibit marriages between couples of the same sex and refuse to recognize existing same-sex marriages. This dual regime burdens [our companies]. It creates legal uncertainty and imposes unnecessary costs and administrative complexities on employers, and requires differential employer treatment of employees who are similarly situated save for the state where they reside.

August 2, 2014

Creative Destruction

Creative DestructionOne of the things I wanted to cover in my series of articles concerning Jeff Bezos and is the process of creative destruction.  Have you ever heard of “creative destruction”?  It’s a term that was originally used by an Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950).  Schumpeter described creative destruction as an essential process that takes place in a free-market economy, wiping out entire industries after new technologies are discovered and put into place.

Schumpeter explained that in a free-market capitalist economy, it is inevitable that as new products, services, and opportunities are created by entrepreneurs, companies and industries that are locked into the old way of doing business quickly vanish, causing the people in those industries to lose their jobs.

Over time, the concept of creative destruction has been used by free-market economists to explain how societies can become more productive, benefit from better products and services, and enjoy a higher standard of living.  The dark side of creative destruction is that there are always large groups of individuals who end up being worse off because of the loss of jobs associated with the companies that were involved in the old way of doing business.

Here are some examples of creative destruction:

•    The invention of the automobile created new jobs for designers, assemblers, road construction workers, mechanics, and truck drivers, while wiping out the horse-and-carriage industry and large segments of the train and boat industries.  There were massive job losses among blacksmiths, wainwrights (makers and repairers of wagons), drovers (cattle and sheep drivers), railroad workers, and canalmen.

•    The invention of plastics created new jobs for petrochemists and factory workers, while eliminating or severely curtailing companies that manufactured steel, aluminum, barrels, tubs, pottery, and glass.  There were massive job losses among miners, founders, metalworkers, coopers, and potters.

May 31, 2014

The Life of an Entrepreneur

EntrepreneurIf you’re like me, you probably never heard of Saint Bernardino of Siena (1380–1444).  I learned about him a couple of weeks ago when I read a summary of his life.  His feast day is on May 20, the same day as my birthday.  This year, when I turned 57, I decided that it was time for me to learn about the saint who is honored by the Catholic Church every year on my birthday.

Saint Bernardino was a Franciscan missionary who was considered to be one of the greatest preachers of his time.  He was known throughout Italy for his ability to captivate audiences with his simple and direct style of speaking.  Although he died more than 500 years ago, Bernardino preached against many of the same evils that are plaguing the world today — immodest clothing, gambling, homosexuality, indecent conversation, blasphemy, witchcraft, and the excess of luxurious living.

What surprised me about Bernardino was that in addition to boldly speaking out against the most egregious sins of his time, he also vigorously defended the right of an individual to own private property and to profit from the operation of a business.  Bernardino wrote a book, On Contracts and Usury, which dealt with the economics of the marketplace and the important role of the entrepreneur in making goods available for people to purchase.

The dictionary defines “entrepreneur” as “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

Bernardino wrote that an entrepreneur is endowed by God with a rare combination of unique gifts that enable him to take risks, work harder than most other people, assume responsibility for complex tasks, and create new efficiencies.  He pointed out that since all callings provide occasions for sin, a person called to be an entrepreneur can choose to act either lawfully or unlawfully.