Thoughts on Purpose

October 8, 2001


Robert Johnson, cofounder (with his now-ex-wife, Sheila) of Black Entertainm­ent Television, couldn’t shake his critics. “If people would just judge BET for what it is, instead of what they’d like it to be,” he said. “But nobody will sing our praises.” He had sold BET to Viacom for $3 billion earlier in the year, becoming America’s first Black billionair­e. But his detractors kept pointing to BET’s lowbrow programmin­g and a perception that the company wasn’t doing enough to elevate the Black community. As ForbesÕ Brett Pulley put it, Johnson faced a tough question: “At what point—if any—should a corporatio­n’s raison d’être go beyond creating value for shareholde­rs and entail making the world a better

place to live?” Johnson, for his part, had little desire to find that balance. “We can’t solve everybody’s desires for BET,” he said. “We have to be focused on running

this as a profit-maximizati­on business.”

“The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.” —Carl Jung “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” —Friedrich Nietzsche “I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell.” universe without —Richard Feynman “Obsessions are the only things that matter.” —Patricia Highsmith “The terrible pain of loss teaches humility to our prideful kind.” —Dean Koontz “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” —Eleanor Roosevelt “The most daring thing is to create stable communitie­s in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” —Kurt Vonnegut “I like a good story, and I also like staring at the sea. Do I have to choose between the two?” —David Byrne “What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question.” —Margaret Atwood “To increase knowledge, to take burdens from the weak, to develop the brain, to defend the right, to make a palace for the soul: This is real religion. This is real worship.” —Robert G. Ingersoll “The blind pursuit of profit at all costs is untenable. It is essential that we make money the right way.” —Indra Nooyi “Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you’re alive, it isn’t.” —Lauren Bacall “Different persons have various modes of excellence, and we must have an eye to all.” —William Wilberforc­e “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” —Toni Morrison “You told me once that we shall be judged by our intentions, not our accomplish­ments. I thought it a grand remark. But we must intend to accomplish—not sit intending on a chair.” —E.M. Forster “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” —Proverbs 20:5

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