In his book “Imitation is Limitation” John Mason told a story which he credited to his friend, speaker and author Neil Eskelin, about a certain man who died and met St. Peter at the pearly gates.
This man, aware of the vast knowledge and wisdom of the saint, asked him, “Saint Peter, I have been interested in military history for many years. Tell me – who was the greatest general of all time?” To which Saint Peter quickly answered, pointing at a man, “It’s that man over there.”
But this man argued with the saint. “You must be mistaken,” he said. “I knew that man on earth – he was just a common labourer.”
“Yes, my friend,” agreed Saint Peter. “But he would have been the greatest general of all time – if he had been a general.”
I’m sure you’ve heard that the wealthiest place on earth – the place where you would find the greatest treasures – is the grave yard. It holds the corpses of men and women who would have impacted the world in significant ways, but who died with all their potential, probably as liabilities to the world in their lifetime.
What a tragedy!
And this is the reason why you must refuse to settle. You must reach out and strive to be the best that you can be; pursue every opportunity; yearn to make the most of the life that you’re given – while it lasts.
Look at Jesus Christ; He did his work so well He became the Saviour of the world. What about the prophet Mohammed – can he be referred to as a common prophet? And Buddha, Socrates, Michelangelo, Picasso, Mozart, Bach, Maya Angelou, Henry Ford – these are all ordinary people who were so committed to their work that they made a name for themselves. Can anyone refer to Socrates as a common philosopher; or Picasso as a common painter; or J. S. Bach as a common pianist; or Ford as a common mechanic? Can anyone call Maya Angelou a common black, female poet? Or describe Martin Luther King Jr. as just a common clergy and activist? Can Fela Anikulapo Kuti be called a common Nigerian musician? Or can Obafemi Awolowo be described as a common politician and Wole Soyinka a common playwright?
This goes to show that it’s not the work you do, but the way you do it, that determines how great you can and will become. You can become an exceptional individual, no matter what you do.
You can change the course of human history as an African educationist, politician, writer, public officer, student, preacher, speaker, parent, entertainer, entrepreneur, medical practitioner, or what have you. It’s not what you do or where you’re from. It’s the way you see what you do; which influences your level of commitment and dedication to your work; which ultimately determines the result that you get; which culminates in the reward that life gives you.
There’s no work that’s menial. It’s only the person with a menial mentality that calls his work ordinary. There’s dignity in all labour; and if you give your all to your work, you will get all that you need from it.