The opening of David J. Schwartz classic ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’ recounts the story of a group of workers who received equal compensation for work done . Fast forward one of them was able to make achievements to the extent that other colleagues murmured and asked if that worker was paid ten times more. In response the business owner explained ‘he thought ten times more’. Essentially that worker received same compensation but had the mindset that he could attain more with the wages he received in his hands or the salary paid to him at the end of each specified period.
The famous ‘Parable of the Talents’ recorded in Matthew 25: 14-30, even stretches the lessons in the David Schwartz story. As is narrated by Jesus to His disciples, a man, probably also a business man who was travelling, shared talents (of money) to his workers. In 3 proportions he gave to one; five measures of talent, the other; two measures and yet the other; one measure. As the story unfolds the one with one measure hid his money and returned the same to his master upon the return of the later. The one with the five reportedly doubled what he had received from his master. The same is told of the other who received two.
These two stories have laden in them profound insights that can be studied from various perspectives. The focus for this material is to observe what the ‘receivers’ did with what was given them.
What makes someone who receives the same amount as his colleagues achieve so much to their marvel that they allege that he is paid the equivalent of ten wages? What possibly makes someone double their earnings from 2 to 4 and even another from 5 to 10?
The introduction in David Schwartz book does not typically tell us what the other workers did with their earnings. Inferring from their reactions and ‘false accusations’, it is possible that some of them acted just like the servant in the parable; keeping what they had, just as it was.
Let us attempt to respond to the queries raised by inferring from the two scenarios.
- Fairness and unfairness:
I once read the line of a poem which says ‘life is not fair it does not give you what you want..’ Well I don’t intend to admit to the poem or even say otherwise, but at one point or the other we feel things have not been the way we anticipated, and as human as we are, we can easily think life is not fair. If you are with your colleagues and they are paid 5 and 3 times your salary, you certainly will be indignant and perhaps generalize it to mean life is not fair.
You may not always get what you want or get it in the manner in which you want it, others may even have more than you do but instead of labeling the ‘giver’ as unfair why don’t you appreciate what you have received? Why will you not be grateful and say that it is even out of possible fairness that you have what has ben given to you.
Another lesson here is that, yes people may not always be fair to you. Your parents may not be; they may like your other siblings more, your manager may not be; he or she probably just will not pass you for a promotion, your spouse may not be; your partner can sometimes do hurtful things to you, your children may not always be fair to you; they can be ungrateful for the sacrifics you make for them.
But does that make such persons bad people? Should you spend all the time and energy trumpeting their unjust or unfair attitude. Should you just be average because someone is given more than you receive?
Understanding that you will not have all your expectations met is by far, one of the appreciation levels we all need to desire to advance towards in various aspects of our lives.
Note this; when things do not go the way you want and you do not get things the way you want: you are not a loser, the people who got more are not cheats, those people are not even better than you.
Don’t be mad at yourself when you think you have not been treated well, embrace it and move on. Sometimes you just received what you deserved. If you study the account of the Parable well you notice that the master gave them ‘according to their abilities’.
When life gives you lemons, learn how to make lemonade with them. Global leadership expert John Maxwell alludes to the idea of ups and downs, fairness and unfairness when he says, sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.
- Posture and Perception:
How you see what you have can be an ultimate magic. What do you have and how do you see it?
Sometimes we just look down on ourselves, we belittle who we are and we despise little things. But today you can change this attitude; see what you have as potential and not static, as a seed that can go grow with the right attitude from you.
If you do this, you are on the first verge to growing your gift into something big.
Shift your perception. In the same land some people saw giants, others saw milk and honey. How you look at things is very important. The story is told of two sales men from a shoe making company that were sent to a territory to scout for prospects. On their return one remarked ‘the people are bare footed, they do not wear shoes, our business will not survive there’. If you take his response at face value you will even appreciate his effort for saving the company from going to make a bad investment in the location. However the second sales person is the game changer, he explained ‘the people are bare footed, they need shoes, our business has a huge market there’!
- Evaluation and Interpretation:
Closely related to the idea of ‘posture and perception’ is the idea of evaluation and interpretation. It is not true that we all know the value of what we have. No, sometimes we have not accessed it well. In the subject of land economy you will find the function and principles ‘land evaluation’ which includes the situation where experts are guided by systematic indicators and prevailing market prices to asses and determine the value of a land. What does this mean to you? It instructs that without a proper evaluation, you can sometimes overprice your product and at other times you can under-price it. Imagine selling something for an amount and you later realize that it is actually worth the price of ten; you sold it ten times cheaper! You will beat yourself up when you get to know.
So what can you do? The courses you are reading in school may not be as irrelevant as some people make it seem. Investigate more, engage your lecturers and industry players understand the real career options available for that programme of study. Go online and see what people who have studied such course contents have become. Understand what you need to do to add to what you are currently pursuing to increase your relevance on the market.
Give meaning to what you carry. Interpret your gift, what does it mean, how do you need to carry yourself? Some people have given meaning to their sketches and have painted global icons. When you interpret and understand your gift and identity it informs you of the associations to keep, the price to pay for it and the prize to receive for it.
Your gift (talent) is not little or insignificant. It is possible that you have not evaluated and interpreted it well. When you do a good assessment you will realise that, the song that you sing can be developed and make you a household name or make you fortunes. Imagine Kwame Eugene, Kidi and Kwesi Arthur just thought that their music is of no or little value or rather cannot go anywhere.
When you make the right assessment of your gift you push your self to the level of investment and competition
- Investment and Competition:
If you read further the Parable of the talents, the master got angry with the servant who made no use of his talent and told him that he could have invested it over the period he was just keeping it.
The interplay of demand and supply and other economic factor affect the prevailing value of a currency, product or service. Observing from market trends the same amount you have in your hand today could have potentially purchase more a few years ago. With that same knowledge, if you have invested the equivalent of that amount some years back it is possible that it will accrue some reasonable interest for you today.
Whatever you do or can do, you can take it a step further simply by committing more to it. Without growing the gift you have, it loses its value with time. The law of entropy in Physics gives credence to this in stating that ‘all systems left unattended will eventually run down’. If you don’t develop yourself, you will no longer be appealing; with time you will become obsolete, boring and unwanted. It said that you have to run faster to stay on the same track! Hillarious, yet thought-provoking.
Stretch yourself a little more. Find a peer or senior in your field who will be willing to guide you to become better at what you do.
Spend hours practicing. As you do this daily you are reaping the compound value of your gift. The world’s successful sports men are known to have mindblowing hours of practice almost on daily basis. It is recorded that Usain Bolt spent 90 minutes in the gym every day doing workouts. Michael Jordan is recorded to have been training for 3 hours a day. Michael Phelps trained about 6 hours daily to prepare for Olympics. Your admired footballers have a regimented schedule in training. They train almost daily to be fit and ready for the pitch. How many hours of training do you invest in what you have?
Find a competition for yourself. No, don’t compete with others, compete with yourself. Ask yourself are you growing, are you becoming better? Push yourself to the level where you keep growing. Yes, take inspiration from others but know that they are not your competition, you are your own competition.
One critical question to be answered after reading the 2 stories is ‘what do you have in your hands’?
The rod in Moses’ hand was used to perform many miracles to guide the children of Israel.
The 5 loaves and 2 fishes by the little boy was multiplied by Jesus to feed multitudes.
Asamoah Gyan has played football from the streets of Accra to the international stage.
What do you have in your hands?
Bisa Kdei used to make songs for local movies that were not recognized much, today the same songs have national recognition.
All some people had was a microphone yet they delivered amazing renditions of music and speeches. So we hail Kwame Nkrumah for his timeless independence speeches, Barack Obama for a speech that constituted in his victory in the elections. Wiyala makes great use of her voice and microphone, today she tours the whole world making people dance on their feet. Shatta Wale bounced back after years of not being seen on the music scene, now everybody knows his name. When Stonebwoy was in school perhaps all he had was dancehall today he is a BET act.
Don’t settle for less, there is magic in what you have.
Samuel Agyeman-Prempeh is a professional ghost writer; assisting busy executives to write and publish their books, articles and speeches. He has worked as head of Protocol at a diplomatic mission, Corporate Affairs Officer at a French multinational agribusiness and as Events & Media Correspondent for a digital ad agency. His initiative Role Model Africa has received mentions in Daily Graphic (Ghana), Daily Sun Newspaper (Nigeria) and Africa Rizing (an offshoot of Voice of America) for its commitment to mentoring and human capital development in Africa.
Samuel is an author and co-author of best selling books including ‘Courting Greatness’ and ‘Hello Intern’.