(Edited from notes on a talk by Earl Nightingale.)
You have only one boss and every person from the president of the largest corporation to the shoeshine boy has the same – he is simply the customer.
I want to tell you a little story that could make a wonderful difference in your life. You may already know about everything I’m going to tell you. If you do, you’re a remarkable person, and according to the latest statistics you belong to the top 5% of all the working people in the world. You’re to be congratulated. If you don’t know about the things I’m going to say, you’ve been holding yourself back, not only on the job but you’re also missing a big percentage of the greatest joy in life. I want to talk about your boss and your relationship with him. How you handle this relationship will determine your success or failure. It will determine how much money you make or do not make, and it will determine whether you’re a happy person or an unhappy person.
So let’s talk about you and your boss. Who is your boss? You have only one and every working person, from the president of the largest corporation to the shoeshine boy, has the same boss. He is simply the customer. There never has been, there is not now, and there never will be any boss but the customer. He is the one boss you must please. Everything you own he has paid for. He buys your home, your cars, your clothes. He pays for your vacations and puts your children through school. He pays your doctor bills and writes every paycheck you will ever receive. He will give you every promotion you will ever obtain during your lifetime, and he will discharge you if you displease him.
Sometimes, particularly these days of seemingly complex economics and big business, we lose sight of just what business is. It all started back during the most primitive times. A man, in order to fend for himself and his family, had to provide his own food and his own shelter. He had to do his own fighting and fashion his own rough clothes and crude weapons for hunting and materials for fishing. Later he had to manufacture his own farming implements. In short, each person had to personally take care of every department of his or her life.
Naturally it came about that men and women with certain talents appeared. One person was particularly adept at fashioning spears, another at fishing, another at hunting, another at making garments, and so on. It was only natural that soon these individuals found that they could best spend most of their time in the pursuit of that at which they were most talented and trade their production for the production of others.
As a result, the person who made spears found that others would give him a share of their food, clothing, and so on, if he’d provide them with spears. Thus, trade and commerce began. It’s far more complex today but still based on the same principle. A person’s money is the result of his production, and he trades it for things he needs and wants. And it’s here that logical discrimination comes into the picture.
Since his money is the result of his work, it’s left to his discretion as to where he spends it. It is here that he assumes the role of boss. He will spend his money only with those whom he feels have earned it. And this is as it should be. You and I are exactly the same way. If someone treats you badly in any way, you instinctively feel that he has not earned your business and you will withhold it from him.
Over a period of time this amounts to a really substantial penalty. Let’s say a family spends $100 a week for food, and because they’ve been mistreated or even get the feeling they’re not appreciated or liked, they stop doing business at one store and take their business to another one. That’s a penalty to one store of $5,200 a year and an increase of that amount at another store. In 10 years it amounts to $52,000. This amount of money can be lost by not realizing who the boss really is. The same thing applies to our clothes, drug items, hardware, cleaning, gasoline, automobiles, everything we purchase.
The average family earns more than $42,000 a year. This money pays your salary and mine if we earn it. And our prosperity as individuals hinges directly on our attitude toward what we do for a living. The man who works on an automotive assembly line might not think much about the car at the point of sale, nor about the family who will eventually buy and travel in that car. But that family pays his salary, and they will withhold the purchase of the car on which he works if it does not earn their respect and admiration.
If you doubt this even for a moment, think of the cars that once were popular and that can no longer be seen on the road. This applies to all products. Having earned a successful place in the economy should not be confused with keeping it. It must be earned every day, year in, year out. There’s not a single company that could not go out of business. Everything depends on how the boss is treated, the boss being the customer. And yet the customer is eminently fair, just as you are. He can be won back, and if he’s treated with the importance that he deserves, he can in a few years bring a lot of other people into your place of business.
Let me tell you something you may not have thought about. If you get in your car and start driving across the country, you will pass many thousands of businesses, from small restaurants, drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations, to great sprawling corporate complexes covering hundreds of acres and employing thousands of people. By simply looking at each one you can tell how they’re treating the boss.
Did you know that your rewards are in exact proportion to your service? That’s right. We’re paid exactly what we earn, but no more. And you can tell by looking at any business exactly what it has earned by seeing what it has. It’s the same with people.
We get back exactly what we earn, but not a penny more. And this, again, is just the way it should be. A person might be underpaid for a while, but the scales of life must balance eventually and he will, in the end, receive just what he’s earned.
There are of course two ways in which we’re paid for what we do. One is tangible in the form of money, and the other is intangible, but just as important. To many it’s more important. This latter form of payment comes in the form of inner satisfaction, in the form of joy as a result of accomplishment. It also comes in the form of satisfaction in position and the standing it gives us.
So each of us is paid in these two ways: money and satisfaction. And there’s a very simple way to increase both of these forms of income. You may wonder how I can say that I can tell you of a simple way to increase your income from the standpoint of money as well as inner satisfaction. Yet I can, and you’ll be able to see and spend the results.
First, I want you to understand and believe completely the great law that lies as the foundation of all life, business and personal. It is that our rewards in life will be in exact proportion to our service. The more you think about this and observe people and businesses in their true light, the more you’ll see the undeniable truth of it.
Try as best you can to estimate the proportion of your total ability you have been giving to your work. I don’t think anyone gives 100%. I don’t think it’s possible to give 100% day in and day out. But estimate what you consider to be the percentage of 100% you have been giving to your work. Would you say it’s been 30%? 50%?
Since your rewards will be in exact proportion to your service, you can increase your income both financially and from an inner satisfaction standpoint simply by narrowing the distance between what you have been giving to your work and the 100% of which it may be said you could give under ideal conditions. You don’t have to ask for a raise; the income will appear of its own accord and in the right time. You may want to question this, but try to take my word for it.
The second point I want to make is this: If you will begin to do your work better, better than you’ve ever done before, you will immediately begin to receive incalculably more inner satisfaction. You’ll also find that what may have been a boring or uninteresting job will take on new meaning and interest. No matter what it is that you do during the entire working day, try in every case to do a little more than you have to, more than you’re being paid for. Because unless you do more than you’re being paid for now, you can’t hope for or justify an increase in pay.
The third point is, each of us is interdependent. As I pointed out earlier, other people pay our salaries, buy our homes, clothe, feed, and educate our children. Therefore we depend on others for our very lives, just as they must depend on us. If we expect others to give us excellent service and fine products for the money we spend, doesn’t it make good sense that we should treat them the same way? Every hour spent at our work should be spent in the attempt to give the best of which we are capable, a baker’s dozen for the money our company’s customers spend for our products and services and with which our salaries are paid.
A person who tries to get the maximum return for the minimum of effort is only kidding himself. Sooner or later the scales will balance. They must, for that is the law whether we like it or not. This kind of individual actually shrinks as a person, as a human being. He has no real place in a dynamic and swiftly changing world.
The fourth point is to try each day to find some way in which the work you’re doing can be improved. Here again you’re guaranteeing an increase in your income in both categories. We all know the cynical type of individual who will laugh at this. I know them; you know them. But I don’t know one who could be said to be doing well, do you?
I know lots of men and women at the top of their fields who live their lives every day in the way I have suggested. Rather than go along with someone who’s never proved in his own life that he knows what he’s talking about, I’d prefer to believe the one who said, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” I feel, as I’m sure you do, that he was more qualified to speak than the know-it-all who is behind in his installment payments.
Anyway, it’s worth a test. If you’ll follow my suggestions for the next year, you’ll be a different person, living a rich, rewarding, and meaningful life. Four things, all of them simple.
One, remember that our rewards in life will be in exact proportion to our service.
Two, by giving your work a larger percentage of your capabilities and talents, you will, you must, increase your income substantially.
Three, since our lives depend on others, treat others in every facet of your life exactly as you want others to treat you. If you expect others to give you excellent products and services for the money you and your family spend, then you should make certain that your job is handled as excellently as it is possible for you, since it is the money of others that pays your salary.
Four, try to find some way every day in which your work can be improved. And above all, know your boss. He’s the customer. Treat him with the respect, care, courtesy, and good humor he deserves. Remember, he pays all your bills every month. He will buy everything you will ever own. He may be coarse, crude, ignorant, selfish, conniving, and a thoroughgoing savage. He often will be. Here it is more important than ever that you treat him with all the care and attention you can muster. If you don’t and if you permit his attitude to affect yours, you’re admitting that he’s the stronger person. If you respond the same way he conducts himself, you’re admitting you’re no better than he is.
Most people, however, are nice people. They’re people like you and me who want to be liked and want to get along, who want to be friends. They have problems and sorrows of their own about which we’re not aware. They have bad days and disappointments. Make sure that the time they’re with you is a high spot in their day and that they’ll want to come back, not just because of your company, but because of you.
If you’ll do these things for a year, you’ll be surprised and delighted, and you’ll find you wouldn’t live any other way for the world. If you’re already living this way, you know what I mean.
Follow these steps for one year and you will be a different person, living a rich, rewarding, and meaningful life:
Remember that your rewards in life are in exact proportion to your service.
Increase your service to others and your rewards will increase in proportion.
Give your work a larger percent of your capabilities and talents to serve “the boss.”
Treat others in every facet of your life as you want others to treat you.
If you expect others to give you excellent products and services for the money you and your family earn, make certain that your job is handled as excellently as it is possible for you.
Find some way every day in which your work can be improved to benefit “the boss.”
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