Some would try to convince you that life revolves around the phrase, “If only I had”.
You hear it when they speak.
“If only I had a college degree”, “If only I had invested in gold at $400 an ounce”.
“If only I was taller / shorter / thinner / looked younger /, etc.”
The case of “If I only had”, extends to our business life as well.
You hear it from your store manager and often from the staff.
They use it to justify their lack of success.
“If I only had David Yurman, we could be successful”, or “If we only had a new store, or advertised more, or carried Pandora, or more of this or that, then at last we could be successful”.
The hard truth is that success is based much more on our attitude, and desire, than the exterior props others give us.
Years ago a senior executive of a prestigious jewelry organization relayed an article of a true account that was chronicled in a New York newspaper in the early 1900’s.
Granted this makes for a longer post than my typical 500 to 700 word endeavor, but the essence of the event touches me every time I read it, and feel it is important to share it with you.
I apologize in advance, because it is written from memory and hastily written notes at the time.
If you come across the article and author, please send it to me.
“THE HEAD JANITOR AT N.Y.U.”
This is a true story of a man who possessed a tremendous amount of commitment, desire and persistence – lucky for him, too, because he didn’t have much of anything else.
He had no money, lost his job, and he had a family to support.
What he wanted more than anything else was a job so he could support his family.
The man searched and searched, yet he could not find a job.
Finally he went to see his parish priest.
He said to him, “Father, can you help me find a job?”
The priest looked at him and said, “Only priests can work here, but I can help you.
My best friend is the president of New York University.
I will give you a letter of recommendation.
Take it, go see him, and I’m sure he will get you a job.”
The man was thrilled!
He took the letter of recommendation, thanked the priest, and headed on down to N.Y. U.
He met the president of the university, showed him the priest’s letter and told him his story of how he was out of work, had no money, and had a family to support.
He said to the president, “I will take any kind of job. Will you please help?”
The president looked at the man and said, “I’m glad the priest sent you because I can help you.
I am going to give you a job right here at N.Y.U. I am going to make you the head janitor.”
Now the man was ecstatic!
He said, “That’s great, could I start right away?”
The smiling president replied, “Sure but just as a formality, would you please fill out this work application?”
When he heard that, the man’s face fell.
He looked up and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t; you see, I cannot read or write.”
The president looked at him with sympathy , “We’ve got a problem.
You must understand, I’m the president of a major university.
How would it look if I started hiring people who could not read or write?
I’m terribly sorry, but now I cannot help you.”
Well, the man was devastated.
He slowly got up to leave.
As he was walking out the door, the president spoke quickly, “Wait, I hate to see you leave empty-handed; here, take this.”
It was a box of expensive cigars.
The man replied, “Thank you, but I don’t smoke”.
The president replied, “Please take it.
I’d feel better if you didn’t leave empty handed.
It’s brand new.
The wrapper is still on the box.”
So he took the box and left.
The man started wandering the streets of Manhattan.
His journey finally led him downtown to the financial district.
He stood now, all alone on a street corner, the box of cigars tucked under his arm.
Gazing around he looked across the street and happened to see a cigar store.
An idea quickly came to him.
He thought, “I’ll sell that store owner my box of cigars.
At least I can make a few dollars.”
So he walked into the store and told the store owner about how he was out of work, he had no money, couldn’t read or write, and had a family to support.
He told how the university president had given him the new box of cigars and would the store owner please buy the box.
The store owner look at him with compassion and said, “I’d love to but I can’t.
I have a good business reputation and how would it look if I started buying cigars from people walking in off the street?”
As the man was leaving the store the owner spoke up, “Wait a minute.
I have an idea, why don’t you go a few blocks down the street and sell the cigars for a dollar apiece?”
The man replied, “Do you think I could do that?”
The store owner said, “You could try and I will even make the sign for you.”
The man thanked him, took the sign, went a few blocks down the street, put up the sign, put out the cigars, and in two hours had sold every single cigar.
He had $20 in his pocket and another idea.
He thought to himself, “I am going back to that cigar store with this money and buy two boxes of cigars.”
So he took the money and bought two boxes of cigars, which he sold.
He took the money and bought four boxes, and sold those as well.
The store owner exclaimed in amazement, “You are doing great!
Remember to save a portion of what you make everyday.”
“If you want me to, I will open a bank account in your name for you.
All you have to do is take what you need from what you make each day, and I will deposit the rest for you.”
The man thanked him for his kindness.
The next day he came back, bought cigars from the store owner, sold them on the street corner and at the end of the day, gave the store owner a portion of it to be put into his savings account.
For seven years the man sold cigars on the street corner.
For seven years he sold them regardless if it was sunny, raining, snowing, hot or cold.
Let’s remember this was a man of commitment, desire, and action.
He might not have possessed the highest level of education, but commitment; desire and action have nothing to do with education.
It is not about what others give you; it is about what you give yourself.
The desire to succeed, a daily goal, and the attitude to persevere must come from within.
We set the limitations on ourselves, we determine, in many cases, what we can and cannot overcome.
This man never let his surroundings limit or diminish his inner drive.
He didn’t study the theories of being successful; he simply woke up each morning with a goal in mind and worked until he achieved it.
He never let his circumstances over shadow his goal.
One morning he came into the cigar store to buy his cigars as he had done every morning for seven years.
This morning would be different though.
The store owner told him that he was retiring today.
The cigar store was being sold to a developer.
The owner, filled with gratitude, said “Thank you for buying your cigars from me every day for these past seven years, it is because of you that I am able to retire.”
“You will need to take care of this yourself now”, as he slid a bank passbook across the counter.
“The bank is one of the finest in New York, and just over two blocks from here.
You should go over and introduce yourself to them”.
“They will no doubt, be surprised to see you”, he said with a smile.
The man took the old leather bank passbook, thanked him for his friendship, and for taking the time to help him.
The man nervously made the short two block walk over to the very impressive, upscale bank.
Upon entering the beautiful marble foyer, he walked up to the first available teller.
The well starched, self assured teller looked down his long nose at the frumpy man, quickly sizing him up.
“Probably a beggar, who got lost he thought, certainly now someone this prestigious bank would ever consider having as a client.”
Attempting to hide his disdain, the teller composed himself and curtly said, “Yes, can I help you?”
The man gently slid the worn passbook under the finely polished brass grating of the teller’s booth and asked politely, “Could you please tell me how much I have in my savings? I cannot read or write.”
With an indignant tone, the proud high school educated teller simply replied, “Oh really? too bad for you”.
Opening the tattered passbook, as if it was beneath his station to even handle the worn passbook, the teller quickly flipped through the pages of daily deposits, stopping at the last entry.
Over and over the teller read the final amount, convinced that his eyes were playing tricks on him under the light of the hand cut crystal chandeliers.
“This just couldn’t be correct”, he thought to himself, “not this man, especially the way he is dressed.”
Finally sure of the amount, the teller lifted his eyes to the frumpy man standing patiently in front of him.
“Ah , , , , Sir, it appears as though you have $157,000 in your bank account”.
The man gazed into the eyes of the teller, a small smile crept across his face.
“Thank you”, he replied, taking back the worn leather passbook.
As the man was about to leave, the teller spoke up quickly, “Sir, you said you could neither read nor write?”
The frumpy man simply nodded his head.
“Well Sir, you are amazing, you have amassed $157,000 in savings, do you know where you would be in life right now if you had the advantages of most people?”
“I mean, if only you could read and write?”
The man gently closed his eyes for a moment in reflective thought, then he leaned forward and softly replied, “Yes, I would be the head janitor at N.Y.U.”
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