The greatest discovery of my generation

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.

I do not agree with James that this was his generations’ greatest discovery.  There were many innovations and discoveries his generation made that enabled people to have a better life, such as: finding the cause of yellow fever, electricity, and the internal combustion engine to name a few.  In a philosophical context I would say the statement is significant.  Having said that, I cannot fathom that multitudes of people from each generation have not come to the same conclusion.  I will agre that an individual can alter his own life by changing his attitude.  James believed that to achieve significance a person needs to have an ideal worth striving for.  A person needs to have the intestinal fortitude to try and reach that ideal whether it succeeds or fails.  In a deontological sense it matters not what the final outcome may be, it is having the courage to take the steps necessary to act upon those ideals that is important.  Some people are content to mire in a mundane life and are not willing change because of their fear of failing.  Individuals with inner strength have faith in themselves and not fear the consequence of their actions.  

At one point in my railroad career I was the leader of a union representing trainmen and enginemen.  One day the Governor of Alaska asked me to be on the Board of Directors for the Alaska Railroad.  This position represented all unions on the railroad, and was a full member of the board.  I had a mistrust of management at this time and was not sure I wanted to asocial with other members of the board who were business leaders in the state.  I also had misgivings on my ability to successfully communicate the wishes of the blue collar workers amongst anti-labor sentiments.  I pushed my apprehensions aside and I accepted the governor’s request.  I held the position for three years and I found a path to change the attitudes of my fellow board members.  Once I made the decision to be on the board I believed I could make a difference and I did.