Giving thanks for what he had in life formed the basis for virtually all of Dale Carnegie’s life principles. In a rare book entitled, “Dale Carnegie… as Others Saw Him,” Carnegie recounts a visit to China in 1932. This story is just as relevant today as when Dale Carnegie wrote it, and it epitomizes how good we truly have it:
“In the summer of 1932 I took a trip to China. Conditions were tragic in America. Bread lines were a familiar sight – men roamed the streets in thousands, begging for work – unemployment stalked the land.
I, like many others, had lost most of my savings in the stock market crash of 1929. Economic conditions were so bad that I feared I might no longer be able to make a living organizing and conducting classes in New York City. However, in the three years since the crash I had saved a new, though small, nest egg.
Spring 1932 found me unable to organize any classes until the fall. With nothing to do for four months I refused to sit around New York stewing about the future. I knew that summer would never come again. I had always longed to see China and that nothing would ever rob me of the memories of that trip. Besides, travel was cheap to the orient; so I bought a steamship ticket and headed out for the far reaches of the Pacific.
When I arrived in Shanghai I realized that America didn’t have the foggiest idea of what a depression was. But it was in the Orient that I learned one of the most rewarding lessons of my life.
For thousands of years China has never known anything but cruel grinding poverty. A hundred million people in China seldom know where tomorrow’s rice is coming from. About two million Chinese die each year from floods, pestilence and starvation. Even in the great cities, I saw coolies working fourteen hours a day for a wage of seven cents. In Peking, I saw a girl picking up and eating watermelon seeds that a man spat on the dirty sidewalk as he ate. In the harbor of Hong Kong, I saw Chinese in little boats swarming around our big ship fighting over the empty boxes that were thrown overboard and holding up nets to catch any bits of food that might be coming out of the slop that was thrown out of the ship’s kitchen.
And I thought I had troubles! “Why even if my last dollar goes,” I said to myself, “I can always manage to earn a living. I used to wash dishes for my mother back on the farm and if hunger drives me to it I can wash dishes in a restaurant. I lived in furnished rooms for fifteen years, and if I lose my home I can live in them again. Better still I can go back to my father’s farm in Missouri and raise corn and milk cows.”
When I stepped off the ship in San Francisco I felt like dancing in the streets. I could have whooped for joy! Suppose I had lost my life savings in the stock market? So what? I was alive. I was healthy. I could eat all I wanted. I didn’t have to sleep on the ground. I could take a drink of water without fear of cholera. Suppose my classes did fail and I had to go back to milking cows? It would be a veritable Vale of Kashmir in comparison to the poverty, disease and misery that four hundred million Chinese were enduring in the Orient.
Yes, that trip to China was certainly my greatest adventure in living. It taught me not to over emphasize the importance of my own troubles, to enlarge my vision and my sympathies, and to be thankful for the opportunities and benefits that were mine, before I indulged in the luxuries of self-pity and worry.”
Today, no matter the economy, the job market, or so-called problems. Know that this Thanksgiving will never come again. Make the most of it.
Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training!