Attitude, Patience, and Soul
I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here. My experience at the university and at the institute of religion have been a very worthwhile experience in my life. It is something I enjoyed immensely and the new calling is a great blessing. In fact, as honored as I am to be with you here today, I recognize quite clearly that the opportunity derives from my current ecclesiastical assignment rather than any personal achievement that I have made. Nevertheless, my years in the professional and business world have taught me something of the challenges that you will face in the years ahead and they hopefully will be helpful to you as we talk about a few things this morning.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that the Savior is involved in the details of our lives, that this cosmic Christ, creator of worlds without number, knows you personally, better than you know yourself. He, in addition to creating and organizing galaxies, is involved in the details of your individual lives. God truly and personally loves you. He has planned for your happiness for a very long time.
Looking back on my own life I see so clearly this magnificent truth is true. Yet looking forward, one must have faith that this is so. It’s a hard thing to do when you are in the throes of life-altering decisions. However, my guess is even now as you look back on your young lives, you will see that the Lord has, indeed, led you along just as He promised to in the 78th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 18.
When I graduated from law school, I had every intention of practicing law. It was as a lawyer that I became acquainted with the bottled water industry. I was representing an individual who owned a real estate company and wanted to purchase property in the Mount Olympus Cove area owned by one E. O. Forbert, deceased. The bottled water company was also owned by the same individual and was tied to the property in probate. Once we successfully acquired the company and the property, I agreed to manage the bottled water company during the transition period. But as way leads on to way, I have never left the business world and in fact have spent my entire career in the bottled water industry. I practiced law for about thirteen years but finally gave it up in total and concentrated on the bottled water industry.
Let me describe briefly for you what the bottled water industry looked like in the mid-1960s. The only local packaged water on the grocery shelves in Utah was distilled water in one-gallon, rewashed, glass soda pop syrup bottles. We don’t even see them around anymore. They carried a five-cent deposit. They were washed and refilled with distilled water. They were sold in the detergent aisle because the water was only used for batteries and steam irons; only people with low sodium diets drank distilled water. The only single-serve packages occasionally found in stores were Evian, a European mineral water, and Perrier, a European sparkling mineral water that even as late as the mid-1980’s sold only 13,000 cases in Utah and was distributed by the Pepsi Cola company.
Mount Olympus became the distributor for Perrier in 1983 and in three years the case volume increased to 123,000. Just to give you some sense that that isn’t still a whole lot, our current volume is about three million cases of all products. The core of the bottled water industry back in those early years was in the home and office delivery business. In Utah, that represented 98 percent of what Mount Olympus Waters did. Still, the company grossed to only $69,000 in 1963. We better do that every day now or we are in real trouble.
So it was that in 1963 no one but no one was really interested in or cared about the bottled water business. In 1964, as was indicated in the introduction, six months after the acquisition of Mount Olympus Waters, we became involved in the high-quality water treatment business. This was water that was used by doctors, laboratories, hospitals and particularly the semi-conductor business. In fact, it was the semi-conductor business that made the pure water business because their rigorous specifications classified distilled water at ten parts per million of mineral content as contaminated. They needed water that was a half a part per billion of dissolved solids in the water.
Companies like Litton, Segnetics, and Advanced Micro Devices used huge quantities of this water in building integrated circuitry. One drop of mineral impurity would destroy hundreds of circuits and the micro chip would be destroyed. Also, power companies such as Utah Power and Light required a large volume of high quality water to drive steam turbines to generate electricity. The turbine was red hot and if they drove steam that was contaminated with mineral content, it would condense on the blade and ultimately make the blade wobble and destroy the machinery. Those were highly expensive pieces of equipment, so water was an integral and important part of that industry. These two industries—bottled water and high quality water treatment—were really on the verge of some significant expansion and their combined growth in the next 20 years averaged 24% per year.
Looking at the industry today demonstrates a truly remarkable change. Bottled water has come from obscurity to the fastest growing segment of the beverage industry with double-digit growth for over a decade. Whereas through the early 80s there was only one bottled water company in Salt Lake City, today there are eight local companies and three of the world’s largest corporations are in the industry. Nestle, Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola all are major players in the industry.
In the early 1960s, as I’ve indicated, three feet of one shelf was allocated to water. Now most stores dedicate somewhere between 18 to 24 lineal feet, with all five shelves totally devoted to bottled water. In addition, there are all types of promotions: end caps and pallet case sales in the front of the stores as well as cold box, dispensers at check out stands and outside the store. The industry has truly revolutionized itself in the past several years.
It is interesting that all that growth and development is the good news part. The bad news part is that the margins in small package business have eroded to virtually nothing. Consequently bottled water small packaged can be purchased on the shelf for about what it costs to produce it.
This is probably a great deal more about the bottled water business than you care to know. The reason for this background information is because I wanted to give you some idea of the rapidity of change that has happened in just one segment of the beverage industry with something as mundane as bottled water. Recognizing this significant degree of change gives you some idea of the flexibility and ability to adapt that will be an important factor in your professional careers, no matter what field of endeavor you pursue.
Frankly, as the world pursues the electronic age, the volatility of change will dramatically increase. With the computing power of the micro chip doubling every 18 months, the average secretary’s desk top computer has more computing power than the computer used in the Manhattan project that created the first atomic bomb. The pace of change in the cyber space world that you will inherit shows that the changes of the past will appear to have been in slow motion.
Those in the front of this technological revolution see it as the salvation of all societal ills. Dinesh D’Souza, author of “The Virtue of Prosperity” and “What’s Right with America,” suggests that the new leaders of society are the businessmen and scientists because they are the only ones who can deliver on their promises to eliminate scarcity, to feed and clothe and heal the entire world.
The point is that there is hidden potential in each person and the new techno capitalism offers each of us a chance to access it. On the web, entrepreneurs can set up a web site and compete with giant corporations. Can they succeed? Perhaps.
Who was it that exposed Dan Rather and CBS and their shameless, shoddy journalism that published forged documents regarding President Bush’s military service? His peer group of television anchors, the FCC? No, bloggers. Individuals on the web uncovered and published their findings which resulted in an apology from CBS.
There is indeed a price to be paid for these newfound freedoms unlocked by techno capitalism. Some detractors suggest that because a few have become rich in the silicone explosion there is a tendency to think that everyone is better off. Again, D’Souza further suggests that critics on the left and right see many of these techno companies as a Pandora’s Box, rather than a panacea for humanity struggles and societal ills.
The left wing criticism is in the name of nature and equality while the right wing critique is in the name of morality. Perhaps one of the most significant developments of our time is that these critiques are becoming one in nature, community and decency. They will, indeed, become the rallying cry of the new political movement in the secular world. Unfortunately, it is really too early to determine whether they will be heard. It is interesting to observe that the left and the right are not on a continuum. They’re really a circular, and the extremes of both are really closer to each other than farther apart. So as D’Souza suggests, this is exactly what will take place in the new cyber space of the future. These critics, although they come from the left and the right, will combine their forces and create one human cry.
Gertrude Hemufarbe, an economic historian, accurately describes our current social dilemma. Quote: “We are living in a toxic culture. The sheer volume of incivility, vulgarity and immorality overwhelms. There is so much materialism, narcissism, and hedonism. We send you and our children out in this world with fear and trepidation in our hearts.” Environmentalists tell us that earth is an ecosystem and that its natural balance must be preserved if the ecosystem is to flourish. Cultures are ecosystems too, and ours is morally out of balance.
Aristotle was right, “It is not easy to be a good citizen in a bad society.” What good are the successes of the techno capitalists when our lives are diminished in unimportant ways?
Given the state of affairs I applaud your decision to further your education, your accomplishment, your talents, your dedication and discipline to academic excellence. I salute you not only for what you are and what you have accomplished but the great promise that you possess for what you can become, for what you can contribute.
Take seriously this chance to learn, to prepare yourselves academically for future opportunity and responsibility. I hope that your educational experience here at the business college has helped to make you quality people. The “What’s in it for me” attitude that is so pervasive in society I am sure has contaminated or at least begun to infect some small portion of this campus as well.
The conclusion of your educational experience is accurately denoted as a commencement, a beginning, a point of departure. You undoubtedly understand that you get paid, get a grade and get credit for what you finish, not for what you start. So it is in the real world. As you prepare to leave the classroom and descend to the world of products, people and services, understand that knowledge is power, that there is no substitute for hard work, and that finishing is required.
With all this as prologue, let me suggest three things for your consideration as you look forward to concluding your education and assuming your place in the commercial world outside these hallowed walls.
First, maintain a proper attitude, a correct perspective toward life and professional experience. Doctor Murray Banks, a noted New York psychiatrist, suggests that in life it is not so much a matter of what happens to you that counts, over what you really have little or no control. It is how you respond or react. It’s the adjustments you make to what happens to you that makes you who you are. For example, the stock market crash of ‘29 absolutely destroyed Robert Young, chairmen of the New York central railway. His solution to his financial demise was to jump from his office window. Eddie Cantar, a comedian, likewise lost everything in the crash. However, he wrote a book called “Caught Short” and recouped more than his loss.
My friends, the world is filled with examples of people who have suffered incredible loss and devastating trauma. But because of an appropriate attitude and the correct perspective, they have turned their disaster, their handicap, into a benefit. The blind Tom Sullivan sang the title song, “The Wind beneath My Wings” from the movie, “Beaches” at a recent convention. He expressed that the wind beneath his wings was his blindness which propelled him to a career as a performer, author, and a nationally recognized motivational speaker.
Christopher Reeves became a man of steel not because he played Superman, but because of his appropriate attitude and great ability to cope with a devastating disability.
Helen Keller, a woman deaf and blind from age one, said, “I thank my God for my blindness. Through it I found my life and my work and my God.”
My friends, maintain an appropriate attitude, keep a correct perspective, and above all, believe in yourselves. Trust yourselves, particularly in those areas where you have demonstrated ability. Surely it is not so much a matter of what happens to you; it’s the adjustments you make that make you who you are.
Second, patience. Don’t be in too much of a hurry. I have someone working with me who, at the age of 55, makes a significant salary. Yet it is far below what he was earning 30 years ago when he owned his own ad agency. The agency was regarded as one of the top five in Salt Lake City. It has satellite offices in Seattle and Phoenix. However, the fast track he was on cost him two marriages, a stint in alcohol rehabilitation, and his career. Go slow, build well. Find appropriate balance in your life. I submit that by attending the LDS Business College, you are finding that balance. The fact that you are combining the sacred with the secular indicates you understand that it profits a man little to gain the whole world but loose his own soul. Recognize and allow the Savior to be involved in the details of your life. Take appropriate risks that can reasonably be recovered without sinking the ship.
There was a time in the management of Mount Olympus Waters when a $5,000 to $10,000 error would surely have sunk the ship. The Perrier recall in 1986 for benzene caused us to absorb nearly a million dollar hit, not without significant pain as you can all imagine, but it was not the Titanic.
Third, not a mind without a soul. In the book, “The Chosen,” by Chaim Potok, Reb Saunders, the Hasidic Rabbi, speaks of his young son, Daniel: “A man is born in this world with only a tiny spark of goodness in him. The spark is God, his soul, the rest is simply a shell. Anything can be a shell, anything. Indifference, laziness, brutality, and genius. Yes, even a great mind can be a shell and choke the spark. I was blessed with a brilliant son, not a smart son, a brilliant son, a boy with a mind like a jewel, like a pearl, like the sun.”
Reb Saunders understood the power of his son’s mind when, as a four year old, Daniel devoured a book. He swallowed it as one swallows food and water, and then repeated it back, verbatim. The story was about a poor struggling Jew who suffered greatly: “Oh, how the man suffered, and my Daniel he enjoyed it, enjoyed every last terrible page. There was no soul in my four-year-old son. Master of the universe, what have you done to me? A mind like this I need for a son, a heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to carry pain. That I want from my son, not a mind without a soul.”
My young friends, when heaven looks down upon your lives, goodness matters more than greatness. And so as some of you prepare to leave this current field of combat for new turf in the work-a-day world while others of you face the challenge of further education in the collegiate arena, to both groups I say, be involved in mankind. Be quality people, make a contribution, don’t be a mind without a soul. There is wholeness, a serenity for those who have balanced the secular with the sacred, those whose lives are grounded, founded upon the rock of our Redeemer, who with all their academic success have not forgotten the Giver of all good gifts. Certainly the most important thought I can leave you today is that in all your getting, get understanding. Secure your testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ, for as the theologian, George McDonald, reminds us, “If you have not chosen Jesus Christ first, in the end it will make little difference what you have chosen first.”
In the words of the poet John Dunn, “No man is an island, entire of itself; Every man is a piece of the … main; If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…. Any man’s death, (pain, suffering, need,) diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, And therefore never send to know for who the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.”
I leave you my witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, that the restoration of the Gospel is the greatest blessing in your life, and that as you combine the sacred with the secular in your studies and balance them appropriately, your life will be the better, your successes will be sweeter, your happiness will be secured. In the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, amen.