How An Old Poem Taught Me A Life Lesson

Real Estate Agent with HomeSmart SA541769000

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.


Photo by mali maeder from Pexels


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


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Comments (28)

Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Thank you for sharing your experience and the amazing poem!  The poem should be required reading for people of all ages in all walks and stages of life!

Aug 14, 2023 09:05 PM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Yes, there are a few people i know that might benefit from those words.

Aug 15, 2023 12:40 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude


What a very special and inspiring poem. Your boss was a very wise man.


Aug 14, 2023 09:17 PM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Yes, Andy was quite a man.

Aug 15, 2023 12:40 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

That's a wonderful story - and an equally wonderful poem.

Thanks so much for sharing!

Aug 14, 2023 09:27 PM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thanks Marte.

Aug 15, 2023 12:41 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I find myself taking the road, less traveled quite a bit more these days. Love and light and all the best.!

Aug 14, 2023 09:59 PM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thank You Laura.

Aug 15, 2023 12:41 PM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Along the way during our journey of life we are Blessed to have mentors who guide us, inspire us, motivate us and instill in us a belief that constantly improves our self-esteem. Unfortunately, not all of us are Blessed to heed a mentor's advice. 

Aug 15, 2023 12:34 AM
Charles Ross - eXp Realty LLC
eXp Realty LLC Salina Group - Salina, KS
Love To Help People

Excellent post.Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful day and a blessed week

Aug 15, 2023 03:49 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thanks Charles.

Aug 15, 2023 12:43 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Joseph - some lessons learned from those early days of employment can last a lot longer than the job. 

I have bookmarked your post for the poem in addition to what you share.  Well-done.  

Aug 15, 2023 04:12 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thanks Michael.

Aug 15, 2023 12:44 PM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Joseph Domino 480-390-6011 - thank you for sharing that wonderful poem. I also enjoyed the lessons you learned and applied after the poem that humbled you and made you a better man. By distributing the poem and your personal reflections you are causing a ripple effect bound to hit home for many.

Aug 15, 2023 04:16 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

I hope some of our younger readers have a chance to read the poem. It is timeless.

Aug 15, 2023 12:45 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC
You were indeed lucky to have a mentor like your first boss. I love the poem and will bookmark it too as I am sure several others here have done. Thanks
Aug 15, 2023 04:37 AM
Chad Felter
Virginia Beach, VA
Providing service through out Virginia.

Great life lesson which can be applied to anyone, without exception, including me!

We all want to feel good about ourselves, present the positive and share the knowledge base others expect. I think the easiest way to feel exceptional is to be full of yourself at times. Don't kid yourself. It happens and we all do it. Of course some to a greater degree! 



Aug 15, 2023 06:33 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thanks Chad. Confidence and overconfidence are two different things.

Aug 15, 2023 12:46 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Joseph,

What a wonderful , well done entry into the August Challenge! You learn a very important life lesson that has carried with you. I am definitely saving this exceptional poem!

Aug 15, 2023 07:40 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thanks Dorie.

Aug 15, 2023 12:47 PM
Danny Frank
JLA Realty - Pearland, TX
The Pearland Real Estate Expert

Life lessons are the key to a bright future.

Aug 15, 2023 09:06 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

We learn in a lot of different ways, don't we?

Aug 15, 2023 12:47 PM
Ed Silva, 203-206-0754
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

I had something similar happen to me as well, may years ago, only it wasn't a supervisor or manager that had that talk with me, but the company Chairman of the Board.

Aug 15, 2023 01:52 PM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

I guess you learned fast.

Aug 16, 2023 07:33 AM
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

This old poem offered so much wisdom and the following last line of the poem hit home as a word I heard from my Mother growing up ...

Be proud of yourself but remember,
There’s no indispensable man.

Aug 16, 2023 06:32 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Yes, it is a classic.

Aug 16, 2023 07:34 AM
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Prop. Mgr, Wenatchee, WA

Hi Joseph,
I love your entry. You were fortunate to have such a wise boss. He saw potential in your he didn't want to be wasted by going down that negative path.

Aug 16, 2023 06:35 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thanks Carol. Yes, Andy was quite an interesting man.

Aug 16, 2023 07:35 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Your post is an excellent entry for the contest!  What a great story of an ambitious young man who just needed some guidance to see the possibilities.  Interesting to see the list of publications for the poem.  Your boss was a wise man.   Thanks for sharing! 

Aug 16, 2023 09:28 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thanks Jan.

Aug 19, 2023 03:40 PM
Kathy Schowe
California Lifestyle Realty - La Quinta, CA
La Quinta, California 760-333-8886

Quite a moving and powerful poem-- and a wonderful life lesson!  Thank you !  Kath

Aug 16, 2023 09:33 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thank you Kathy.

Aug 19, 2023 03:41 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Joseph- I absolutely love your post!!! And, I'm making a copy of the poem to share with my great nephews and grandsons!!!   You were lucky to have a boss/mentor who nudged you in a good direction. 

Aug 18, 2023 01:02 PM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

Thanks Kathy. I hope they don't find it to be too corny.

Aug 19, 2023 03:43 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Aug 19, 2023 07:09 PM
Steffy Hristova
HomeSmart Elite Group Tempe AZ Tel: 602.710.8161 - Tempe, AZ
Tempe AZ Realtor - Your Home Close to Your Work!

Joseph, you were fortunate to have a boss who communicated with you in poetry. That's a memorable way to send a message. I enjoyed the poem and reading your post very much.

Aug 19, 2023 07:19 PM