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We live in violent times. In Paris, there are scenes of people going about their lives with some sense of normalcy. Normalcy as act of solidarity. Normalcy as an act of defiance. We are thinking about when and where the next attack will be. And we try not to think, as if our thoughts are to blame, rather than barbarians.

#PrayForParis #StandWithParis #WeAreParis

After the prayers and resolutions, what can any one of us do? Return to normalcy. Live the lives and enjoy the liberties that the barbarians are set to destroy?

As a business owner, what can you do, day-to-day: Be vigilant about who you choose to serve, who you hire, from whom you buy supplies? Yes, all of these.

All of these responses matter. Yet, none of these concern the direct ongoing operation of your business.


“Keep on keeping on” is an old phrase. Much older than Curtis Mayfield’s hit tune. “Keep on keeping on” dates to at least 1918. 1918 is the earliest reference I can find (hat tip to a Ken Greenwald on Wordwizard):

“Men cannot keep on keeping on at an alternately menacing and monotonous business, enduring hardships, facing death, without some relaxation of mood.” Pickard, John. President’s Address: Art’s Counter Offensive. The Bulletin of the College Art Association of America 1.4 (1918): 19–24. Web…

Mr. Pickard uses the phrase casually, as if it had been in circulation for some time. That casualness seems to matter, in some small way, because the phrase itself has kept on keeping on, bucking folks up through wars, personal crises and social movements.

In Paris, first responders have responded. The dead are mourned; being eulogized and put to rest. The injured are being cared for. Helpers are helping.

Likewise, shop keepers have opened their shops. People need to eat and drink, to clean their homes and themselves, to clothe themselves.

Distributors have opened their warehouses. Shop keepers need resupplied.

Farmers, fishermen, growers, hunters are farming, fishing, harvesting, butchering. Shop keepers need resupplied.

Machine and equipment resellers and service providers too are open for business. Distributors and shop keepers need supplies, equipment and service.

Equipment manufacturing plants are open. Distributors, job shops, farmers, growers, fishermen, etc. need equipment, parts, supplies and service.

People are being replenished in a multitude of ways. The businesses that serve them are likewise being replenished. As are the businesses that serve those businesses and so on up through the capital goods industries and throughout the modern service economy.

The French way of life. The American way of life. The Western way of life – for all of its faults, failures and contradictions, owes its strength to the wealth that entrepreneurs operating commercial enterprises have produced.

That wealth to no small degree is based on trust while buying and selling, exchanging goods and services through a transactional medium we call money, with people we largely know almost nothing about. Reality check: do you know anybody that works for the water company, the electric company, the gas company, the people that serve you at restaurants, at the grocery store, the shops and stores you frequent?

These attacks strike at the core of modern life because modern life is made of daily commerce. Daily commerce is conducted largely by complete strangers operating under a broad assumption of implicit trust. Trust that each will pay their bill in cash or credit. That their credit will be good. That the cash will be good as money tomorrow. That no one, above all, will walk into the shop and blow the place up.

If we lock ourselves away and hide, the barbarians have won.

Note: Meet the Artist Behind the Eiffel Tower Peace Sign.

Curtis Mayfield – Keep On Keeping On via You Tube