A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one of the most enduring and well-loved holiday stories. In fact, the novella, which was first published in 1843, is responsible for giving us many of our holiday customs, including the name “Scrooge” for a miser, the exclamation “Bah, humbug!” and even the phrase “Merry Christmas” itself.
In A Christmas Carol, Dickens tells us the story of a miserly man named Ebenezer Scrooge and how he is transformed by the ghostly Christmas Eve visitations of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, and of the spirits of Christmases Past, Present and Future. A Christmas Carol was an immediate success and it has continued to be popular through the years. In fact, the novella has never been out of print, and it has been adapted many times on stage and on screen.
In his preface, Dickens writes: “I have endeavored in this ghostly little book, to raise the ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
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Lessons business owners can learn from A Christmas Carol
As a small business owner or entrepreneur, there are many lessons you can learn from this well-known tale. Here are five of them:
- Learn from the mistakes of others. Ebenezer Scrooge was given an invaluable gift – a second chance. He was able to take an objective look at his own life and therefore was able to see what he was doing wrong. His remarkable journey started with a visit from his former partner, Jacob Marley, who is in purgatory for his sins.
“The common welfare should have been my business,” moans Marley. Marely instructs Scrooge to change his ways before it is too late.
We too can look at the examples of others and learn from them. Keep up on the movers and shakers in your industry to see what they do well and to see what mistakes they make.
- Value your team members. Scrooge had a faithful employee in Bob Cratchit, but he treated him with disrespect. Scrooge rarely gave the man a day off and even begrudged him burning enough coal to keep warm while he worked.
Your team members are the reason you are able to grow and expand. Treat them well, and everyone will benefit. In addition to bonuses and benefit packages, reward your employees by making your workplace an interesting and innovative place to work. Help them feel part of the business by encouraging their input and by offering them opportunities for getting together to exchange these ideas.
- Give back to the community. When he is visited by two gentlemen collecting for the poor, Scrooge asks, “Are there no prisons?” and “Are there no workhouses?” and explains that it would be better to decrease the “surplus population” than to help the needy.
By the end of the novella, after his ghostly visitations, Scrooge cannot contain his excitement at giving away his money to the same gentlemen. Indeed, when you give back to your community and to your world, it not only helps others, but it helps you as well.
Find a charity or non-profit organization that reflects your company brand and then find a way to help it. It could be as simple as volunteering your time or it could involve lending your expertise or your products to a project. Many successful companies offer their employees paid time away from work to help out at charitable events. It builds morale and it is a great way to get your name out in the community as well.
- Plan for the future. When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come visits Scrooge, he takes him to a forlorn, unkempt grave site. When Scrooge sees his own name written there on the gravestone, he begs the spirit to give him another chance.
Part of what Scrooge learns is that his deeds have directed his future. His greed caused him to give up the love of his life and to live a life of loneliness. After the visits by the three spirts, Scrooge sees what his greed has cost him. He sees people who have so much less than he does and yet that they are far happier than he.
As a result of this insight, he is motivated to contribute to charity and to speak kindly to everyone he meets. He even promotes Bob Cratchit to the position of partner.
- It is never too late to change. “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year,” Scrooge vows near end of the story. “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
In other words, Scrooge realizes it is not too late to radically change his life. When Cratchit arrives at work a bit late on the day after Christmas, apologizing by saying he fears he was “making rather merry” the day before, Scrooge tries to reprimand him. However, the former old miser can hardly contain his new-found joy. Not only does he forgive the infrequent tardiness, but he offers Crachit a raise.
Does this change mean Scrooge gives up his wealth? Of course not. In fact, Scrooge made the Forbes list of the top 15 richest fictional characters in 2008 and was estimated to then have a net worth of $8 billion.
“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused,” writes Dickens in A Christmas Carol. The simple, yet eloquent story continues to teach us much about life and what it really means to be a successful person.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens