“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein.
I was stunned because all this while I have been pursuing success, but then a very successful man gives a somewhat different opinion – not success but to be a man of value. What is the difference between the two – a successful man and a man of value? As I see it, success is relative to the goals of a person in life. On the one hand, a man who sought to complete education and achieved it is successful. Value is the worth of a man. He can be a low or high value man. It depends on the parameter he is measured from. Every person, of course, has value, but some people seem to be worthless and some are of very high value. Consider two college graduates – one is highly skilled in writing and critical thinking while the other is not possessing much of the said skills. Both have successfully completed schooling, but which of the two is the man of value? So, how can a man be of value?
There are many ways to be a man of value, but take these three timeless lessons I learned from a consultant who reads management.
1). “You were hired because we believe you are a solution to our problems.”
One of the things that builds a person’s value in life is being a solution to problems. Not everyone realizes this or one is simply not conscious that he or she could be in fact a solution to a problem. Everywhere there can be problems and a solution is not readily available. Sometimes the only solution needed is just two more hands to carry a load and they may be yours and yet when you are, or another is, not there then the problem persists. Laborers offer this kind of solution to production problems. The advise of life gurus, “be there”. Of course, there are bigger problems that require not just the strength of your hands, but the capacity of the mind. Some problems require mental work and being a trained person to find solutions to problems with more complexities is an advantage. Engineers, for example, provide the mental work for calculating the strength or materials to build a strong bridge. Laborers lift the materials and the engineers determine where and how to put them to build the bridge.
2) “You are all brains.”
Some people have that passion for accumulating knowledge and I think they are called “mavens”. They are also called “brainy”. At one point in my career, I was regarded as brainy and there was a time I heard these words during my first work as a Consultant – “you are all brains”. Though it may sound positive it is in fact not affirming as it may seem. It is a metaphor just as the phrases hands on deck and boots on the ground mean workers on the ground, it meant something. Being “all brains” means being full of ideas but lacking in the application or the capacity to translate into action one’s thoughts and ideas. Brain is important in consulting work, but it has to be complemented with your hands, that is, action. It is realizing your ideas. The words were somewhat heavy for me back then and I reflected on them. For the next years to come, after hearing those words, it became my professional pursuit, to become not just brains but hands at work. You are a man of value having the brains, but you are more valuable with two hands.
3) “What value are you adding in your work?”
This value adding characteristic is usually taken for granted. My boss brought it to my attention with a very simple illustration – a piece of paper is brought to you, what do you do with it? It is very important to ask why the paper was taken to you. Presumably, something is intended that is why it is in your hand. If the paper contains information and it is intended to inform you, what do you do afterwards with that paper? It could be that the paper added value to you with the information it contained. The question is, did you put your signature on the paper? And by putting your signature it means more, do you add value to that piece of paper or is it the same before it reached you? Is there any evidence that it reached you? Did it become better because it passed through your hand? Somehow, in some way, the piece of paper can gain more value by having your signature or note.
- Be a solution to the problem
- Have the brains, but have the hands, too.
- Put your signature. Add value.