Ask the last question first.

September 10, 2015

 

Years ago when William Gladstone was prime minister of Great Britain, the son of a dear friend of his came to him for some counsel about his career.  Prime Minister Gladstone asked the young man what he was going to do, and he said, “Well, first I’m going to complete my studies at Oxford.”

 

“Splendid,” said Gladstone.  “And what then?”  “Well, sir, then I plan to study the law and actually become a prominent barrister, perhaps in London.”

 

“Wonderful”, said the prime minister.  “And then what?”  “Well, then I hope to rise within the party and land a significant cabinet post.” “Great idea,” said the prime minister.  “And what then?” “Then sir” the young man said kind of sheepishly, “I really hope that I get your job.  I hope to serve the queen with the distinction that you are serving now.”  “A noble gesture,” said the prime minister, “And what then?” “After serving a long tenure as prime minister, I suspect I will be forced to retire.”

 

The prime minister said, “And so you shall, and what then?”  The young man said, “Well, when I retire I hope my mind is sharp and I’m still strong physically and I really hope that I’m able to continue to serve the public and the queen.”  The prime minister said, “A noble ambition, and what then?”

 

The young man paused and finally continued, “Well, I guess that after years of retirement, I shall die.”  William Gladstone said, “Yes you will, and what then?”  The young man said, “Sir, I have never thought beyond death.”  And the prime minister leaned forward and told him, “My son, you are a fool.  Go home and think through your life with the end in mind, and when you think with the end in mind, this present moment will take on new meaning.”

 

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