A few years ago, I wrote a short story about an event that happened when I was a young man. It is a true story. One that bears repeating. So, for this month's challenge, I offer you this retelling of that story which has applied to both the professional and the personal aspects of my life.
When I was a young man, straight out of high school, I went to work at the telephone company near my home in Chicago. The pay wasn’t great, but the company offered fringe benefits and an excellent training program. I knew once I learned my craft and how to manage client accounts it would make me a valuable commodity. My motivation was high, so I learned quickly and soon was a top technician. My peers enjoyed working with me and our clients always asked for me, which boosted my ego.
I made it my ambition to be the best, most efficient member of my workgroup, which was a lofty goal since many of my co-workers were older highly experienced technicians. Not only did I do an excellent job, but I also received high praise from my boss. In many ways, I already succeeded.
Being the youngest member of my group, my immaturity was on display. I started to question why the other members of my workgroup were not as gung-ho as I was. I often criticized the others and described their work ethic using a series of derogatory terms. It seemed I was pretty full of myself.
That is when my boss, Andy, an older gentleman, called me into his office to discuss my negative comments. I was prepared to be reprimanded. Instead, Andy offered me some sage advice. He reached into his desk and pulled out a sheet of paper that had a poem written on it. “Read this,” he said.
Below is a copy of that poem — The Indispensable Man* — which was written by poet Saxon White Kessinger. And it goes like this:
Sometime when you’re feeling important;
Sometime when your egos in bloom
Sometime when you take it for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room,
Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul.
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop and you’ll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before.
The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There’s no indispensable man.
I learned a lot that day from a man who could have punished me but instead schooled me. I went on to have a fruitful career never forgetting my success was possible, at least in part, by the people that supported me. Without them, I would not prosper.
That was over fifty years ago, and I have carried that lesson with me in my personal life as well. For me, the message still rings true today. No matter who you are. No matter how important you think you or someone else is, no one does it alone.
The lesson is simple. Do the best you can with your limited time on this earth. Work hard. Enjoy yourself. But never forget you are just one person in a long line of people that have come before you or have yet to come. The sun will come up again tomorrow with or without you.
Over the years I have had several successful careers and have become friends with many wonderful people who made my life a joy. I have also had my share of failures and have crossed paths with some despicable individuals. They are all part of this passage we call life.
* Indispensable Man" was originally published in "The Nutmegger Poetry Club, circa 1959, under the name Saxon Uberuaga. It has also been published in "Boots" in Spring 1993, in "The Country Courier" 1996, "Rhyme Time" in Winter 2000, and in "Golden Times" in August 2003.
Thanks to Anna "Banana" Kruchten and Carol Williams for this challenge.
Joe Domino is a Realtor® serving the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Need more information? Or to Search for your next home, visit www.Scottsdale-AZHomes.com