Contentment can sound like a dirty word in business. There’s a thought that we should all be striving and pursuing and achieving and other go-getting verbs! And I agree I’m all for continuous improvement, for making things better and easier for clients; for being as good as I can be. That is my business mantra, as I know it will be for many of you. But things can start to turn sour if the constant exposure to social media makes people start to feel unworthy and discontent by comparison with peers. I read recently that this is happening and starting to undermine people’s self-worth. So today I want to share with you a short story which I hope will shore up any flagging self-esteem and draw learning points to restore or protect your self-belief.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Long, long, ago in a land far, far away there lived an old man. Each day he went to the stream with two earthen pots hung from either end of a pole. One was perfect, always full of water, the other was cracked and leaking, only half full when he got back to the house.
One day the cracked pot said (stick with me) to the man, ‘I’m so ashamed’.
‘Why on earth would that be?’ asked the old man.
‘I’m hopeless!’, said the pot, ‘water leaks out of my cracks all the way back to your house and you never get home with two full pots of water. I’m a failure.’
‘You couldn’t be more wrong’ laughed the old man, ‘you’re a wonderful pot. On the way back home look carefully at the side of the path and tell me what you see.’
All the way home the cracked pot paid attention, and at the end of their walk the old man asked him what he’d seen.
‘Flowers’ answered the miserable pot. ‘I know they’re beautiful, but it doesn’t help me. It was nice to look at the flowers but here I am only half full again. I’m still leaking. I’m still a failure. I’m so sorry old man.’
The old man smiled. ‘You daft old pot,’ he said, ‘there’s no need to be sorry. Did you not notice where the flowers were growing?’
‘Well, yes,’ said the puzzled pot. ’On my side of the path; why?’
‘All these years I’ve planted seed on your side of the path. And every day as we walked back from the stream, you’ve watered them, and the seeds have grown, and the flowers have bloomed for all the villagers to see. You are a wonderful pot. Because you are the way you are, the village path is full of beautiful flowers.’
The cracked pot glowed with pride and happily watered the path for ever after, content that he was after all, a wonderful pot.
Sweet story, but how does it relate to you and your business? There are a few key learning points:
- Don’t compare yourself to others; focus on what you do best. All too often we focus on what we haven’t done, what we’re not good at. Take time to look at just how far you have come, what you’ve achieved already and how much you’ve learned.
- Never think you have to be perfect or that someone else is; we all have flaws. Others you compare yourself to may have different values, backgrounds and ambitions. They may have totally different definitions of what success means. Remember you are unique and special and have a lot to offer the world – look for the flowers in your life.
- Value yourself and what you do for others. Your business helps the local and national economy, you may be providing people with jobs, you may support the local community, you may be a great dad, mum, child, you may simply make people smile every day…
- Make sure you make the people around you feel valued too. Tell them how special they are; the positive impact they have e.g. in your business, with your customers; because you can train them and then trust them to do the job to your standard. If you’re thinking something good about someone, tell them, (unless it will get you arrested!) otherwise it’s a wasted thought. Don’t assume they’ve seen the flowers growing.
Do one thing: Brainstorm all the good things you do and all the value you add in your life as a whole, and in your business specifically, as a person and as a business owner. Then take the time to celebrate your YOUness.
Thanks for reading.