Earl Nightingale tells a story of one man’s search for work in the heart of the Great Depression, a story that accurately defines the word “leadership.” Pay careful attention to the lesson that is about to unfold.
During the Depression in the 1930s, the phrase most often heard by employers was “I’ll do anything-just give mea a job.” Millions were unemployed. Hundreds of businesses had closed their doors, and employment offices were besieged by people looking for work. Tens of thousands of people had migrated to southern California, only to find thousands of more searching for employment that didn’t exist. However, one young man uninntimidated by what he saw made a startling discovery. Amazing as this may sound he found that he could go to work almost anywhere he chose.
It dawned upon him one day that businesses of every type were just as anxious to succeed as were the people seeking work. The owners of these firms were also pre-occupied with the country’s hard times, and many of them were looking and hoping for someones to come to their aid. This “knight in shining armor” would somehow would show up on their doorstep and solve their company’s problems. But all they had heard was the same demoralizing theme: “I’ll do anything. Just give me a job.” Simply speaking, these beaten hired hands were asking for unearned paychecks from companies that were bordering on financial ruin.
As “No Help Wanted” signs apperared in store front windows, this enterprising young man decided to become a part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. His was a simple idea with positive results. With pad and pencil in hand, he selected a business and industry in which he thought he’d like to work, and one in which he could build a career. He then spent weeks researching and analyzing all he could about that particular field.
He met and talked with people in the same ares listening intently and constantly probing for additional answers. He wanted to know the benefits and the opportunities, as well as the pitfalls and drawbacks, of that particular industry. He asked what bold developments were on the horizon, and what were the leading technologies. Most important, he wanted to know what business owners felt was needed to place their firms back on solid footing. While others were kicking on doors begging of work, this enterprising young man could be found in the library scanning every available piece of information, thinking and planning ways a business might be improved.
When he was ready to approach companies in the field that he had selected, he didn’t ask for a job. With his briefcase in hand, and a head full of knowledge, the young man said to the owner something like this: “Sir, I believe I know several ways in which your business can be greatly increased, and Id like to talk to you about them.”
Imagine, here stood someone selling the one thing on earth in which his prospect was most interested- improving his business! The fact that he knew a good deal about his industry permitted him to talk intelligently. He took the right mental attitude and expressed a willingness to pitch in and be of service. And the results? The possibilities mushroomed and he got several job offers.
While millions of jobless workers were asking for work, one man found a way to be of help. Ask yourself, what had he done? First, he decide exactly on the jobbed industry he wanted. Second, he specialized; he had selected a particular line of work and decided that was where his future would be. Third, he researched and studied his field of interest. Fourth, he knew his strengths and weaknesses, and emphasized his strengths. And Fifth, he set out to prove himself. This he did most diligently. This process may involve investing your time and efforts, but the difference in income and advancement can eliminate years of hard work at shamefully low wages.
Personal initiative is a trait much admired, and if carried out with discretion and logic, it can quickly place you ahead of the crowd. Initiative built on a definite understanding of what must be achieved puts you in harmony with your peers. If you have a goal in mind, then opportunties for personal initative are easy to find. The jack of all trades and master of none was the man who suffered during the Depression. People who knew what they were doing and where they were going sailed through those Depression years like a vessel sails through a storm. It wasn’t as comfortable as it could have been, but at least the crossing was a success. An thousands of businesses actually prospered and grew larger during those lean years.
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