Business: Our Rewards Equal Our Contribution – Earl Nightingale
Another essay by Earl Nightingale from the How to Completely Change Your Life Series
“Our rewards in life will always be in direct proportion to our contribution.”
This is the law that stands as the supporting structure of all economics and of our personal well being.
Unfortunately, most people either don’t know about this wonderful rule or think that somehow it applies only to the other guy. Most people believe that we should have speed-limit signs, too, but that they’re for other people who don’t know how to drive as well as they do.
Let’s get back to the law of rewards equaling contributions. The law is in operation all the time, whether or not we know about it and go along with it.
It’s like an apothecary’s scale—you know the kind, with a cross-arm on top, from which hang two bowls on chains; a delicate and honest mechanism.
Let’s label one of the bowls “Rewards” and the other one “Contributions.”
Most people concentrate on the bowl marked “Rewards.” That is, they want things—more money, a better home, education for the kids, travel, retirement and so on—all rewards. They’re hungering for the rewards, but the rewards aren’t materializing because they’re forgetting the bowl marked “Contributions.” In other words, they’re concentrating on the wrong bowl.
They’re like the man who sat in front of the stove and said, “Give me heat, and then I’ll give you wood.” He could sit there until he froze to death.
Stoves don’t work that way, and neither does life or economics.
We can actually forget about the bowl marked “Rewards.” All we have to do is concentrate on the bowl marked “Contributions.” Life and basic economics will automatically take care of the rewards. It’s a fact that most people have this backward.
What do we mean by contribution—and to whom do we contribute? You can define contribution as the time you devote to whatever it is you do and the degree of excellence you put into it. And your contribution is to mankind, and mankind can be defined as the people you serve.
So you can break it all down to a simple equation: Your rewards will be determined by the way you do your job, multiplied by the number of people you serve.
If a person isn’t happy with his rewards, he should take a good, long look at his contributions. This may seem like a hard, cruel way of looking at things, but laws are good or bad only in the way we look at them.
If you feel you’re being held back in life, or that you’re not getting enough of the things you should, to paraphrase the late John F. Kennedy, ask not what you can get but what you can do—what you can contribute to the causes and people it is given you to serve. Your rewards, believe me, will always take care of themselves.
Back in the year 1690, over three centuries ago, a wise gentleman by the name of John Locke wrote an essay on human understanding. In that essay, he said something I think all of us should remember:
“There seems to be a constant decay of all our ideas; even of those which are struck deepest, and in minds the most retentive, so that if they be not sometimes renewed by repeated exercises of the senses, or reflection on those kinds of objects which at first occasioned them, the print wears out, and at last there remains nothing to be seen.”
He was saying that we need reminding, from time to time, of our personal philosophies, of the things in which we believe and which mean so much to us in living successfully. If we’re not reminded, we tend to forget, and gradually these truths, on which a successful life can be built, fade out until finally they disappear completely.
You can compare a human life to a plot of land—the yard in front of your home. Anyone can tell by looking at the front yard how much attention it’s being given. There is no such thing as a poor-looking yard that’s getting a lot of care and attention. Similarly, there is not, in all the world, a bad-looking plot of ground that’s getting a lot of care and attention. If we take an average, sort of lackadaisical attitude toward our grounds, they’ll reflect exactly that—and never get a second glance from anyone passing by.
It’s the same exact thing with life. We’ll get back, we must get back, exactly what we put into it—no more, no less. If we don’t like the rewards we’re receiving, we should examine our service, our contribution.
Now, I’m sure everyone will agree with this paraphrasing of the Golden Rule—when you remind them of it! But how about in between times? Isn’t it a fact that even after we’re forcibly brought to see this wonderful opportunity to get just about anything we want from life—it gradually begins to fade from our consciousness?
I think it’s a very good idea for every human being to ask himself, “What am I contributing to those with whom I come in contact? Am I giving all that I can—am I doing as much as I can—and in a cheerful, helpful spirit? Or am I going at my daily life in an average, or even below average, manner?”
If you’re tremendously pleased with the results you’re getting from life— you’re giving a lot. If you’re not too pleased, well, you might think about it.
Every great law of life, like a coin, has two sides. If we work with these laws, we’ll reap the benefits and rewards; if we try to work contrary to them, it will be to our cost—we cannot win.
Examine the rewards you are receiving in life. Are you giving as much as you could?
When was the last time you felt like you were stalled?
Do you know why?
Did you stop contributing?
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Also published on Medium.