Today: Advice for remaining eternally young from the life of Eli Finn, a successful businessman who lived to be 107.
And what a life he lived.
Born in Russia in 1890, his father planned for him to become a Rabbi, but Eli had other plans. At 15 he joined a revolutionary organization that tried but failed to overthrow the Czar.
Facing a potential prison sentence, he fled and lived with family members elsewhere in Russia.
Two years later, when they emigrated to the U.S., 17 year old Eli came with them and lived in his Uncle’s Boston home. But a year later, when the family returned to Russia, he stayed.
It was 1908, and a Depression gripped America. Just 18 years old, Eli moved in with other family members in Springfield, Mass and desperately looked for a job.
Jobs were scarce and Jews were often discriminated against. After being repeatedly rejected, Eli had great news. He’d found work as a printer, earning a much needed $3 a week.
But there was a problem. He’d lied about his experience to get that job. The first time he ran the press, Eli crushed two of his fingers and the owner rushed him to the doctor for treatment.
The owner then angrily accused him of deception and Eli replied, “[If you] were in my place, and needed a job as badly as I did, [you] would do what I did.”
Apparently admiring his courage and determination, the owner decided to keep Eli and taught him how to run a printing press and the basics of the business.
That was the beginning of Eli’s success in America. His hard work built the business and he and the owner profited handsomely. Meanwhile, other parts of Eli’s life blossomed as well. He fell in love and married and he took high school classes at night to obtain his diploma.
Hungering for more education, Eli applied and was accepted to Springfield Y.M.C.A. College. He worked afternoons and evenings at the print shop and attended classes in the morning, while he squeezed study time in to that intense schedule. He was going to be a college graduate!
But as graduation approached, he met with a professor and received crushing news. “You cannot graduate.” Stunned, Eli asked why and was told it was because “you are Jewish.”
“When I replied, ‘If this is your policy, why was I accepted,’ (he was told), ‘We hoped you would convert.’ It sickened me. I lost all interest in my school work and I quit school.”
Eli left the college with no degree.
Nearly 80 years later, Eli was almost 100 and was on an NBC television show, “Sunday Today” talking about having a successful career at such an advanced age. When he was asked about any disappointments in his life he mentioned what happened at Springfield College.
The next morning he got a call from Springfield College and on June 3, 1989, at an Alumni dinner he was presented with the Bachelor’s Degree he earned many years ago. It fulfilled a deeply held desire he carried in his heart all these years and he graciously and warmly accepted it.
For life’s lessons had made Eli a forgiving man who didn’t burden himself with hate. This was an important aspect to his living a long and joyful life. Instead, he was known for his positive attitude, as well as his sharp mind and boundless energy.
In business, Eli was superb. But like the rest of us, he also made mistakes and had misfortunes. As a printer he did very well. But he invested in a plumbing business that was a financial disaster.
After that, Eli and a partner built a very successful table manufacturing business. Then one night he got a frantic telephone call. The factory was engulfed in flames and he rushed down to see his business burned to the ground, all of its machinery and inventory in smolders.
Suddenly he was out of business. With a wife and two children to support, what was he going to do?
Rather than brooding over his lost fortune, Eli could sell and called his business contacts. Soon he was successfully selling furniture manufactured by others. “I prospered even in the Depression of the 1930’s,” he later remarked.
During those years, the world changed dramatically. In Germany, the Nazis came to power and war would soon destroy Europe. Eli pleaded with his family to come to the U.S. But most of them, including his parents, optimistically chose to stay in Russia.
When the Nazis invaded Russia, it was too late for Eli to save them. The Nazis sent his family to the gas chambers or shot them to death.
But in America, Eli’s career continued to bloom. He became an executive at Magic Chef, a giant producer of household appliances and he and his wife and children were financially secure.
Then many years later in 1971, when he was 81, under company policy it was mandatory for him to retire. Mandatory for them but not for him.
Eli went to work for Unity Stove and didn’t retire until nearly 20 years later when at the age of 100; HE made the decision to do so.
Now he would pursue his lifelong passion: education. He chose Fairfield University, a school with nearly 5,000 students on a 200 acre campus.
You may be wondering: how did he get there? Until he was 104, Eli drove himself and often in the fast lane for he was never one to waste time.
Meanwhile, he renewed his season tickets to the New York City Opera until just before his gentle passing at the age of 107 in his Norwalk, Conn. home.
So what was Eli’s advice for remaining eternally young? When asked the secret to his remarkable longevity and zest for life, he replied: “Be involved and have a good attitude.” *
Eli always had a sense of purpose and it was his mission in life to create new challenges. He also kept a positive attitude for in the life of Eli Finn, there was no room for self-pity, but plenty of room for new opportunities.
Success Tip of the Week:
Like Eli, count your blessings and this week select an unfulfilled passion you’ve long held. Then take the first steps to make it come true.
In the next KazanToday:
A remarkable invention that uplifted the lives of millions of people yet its inventor had to overcome a giant American corporate monopoly to bring it into being.
*New York Times quote from his obit: “Eli A. Finn, 107; Lived Life With Unflagging Zest.” 11/21/97. To read Eli in his own words, please see: http://www.eilatgordinlevitan.com/kurenets/k_pages/stories_eli.html