Of What Use Are You?

by Zen Master July 8, 2007

There are more fabulously wealthy people in the US and the UK now than ever before. And aspiring to join the super-rich is something of a national pastime.

People need a common purpose that your organization is headed towards. Sharing in wealth creation isn't enough. If you are a run-of-the-mill business leader reading this, you probably see yourself on a steep and fast career ascent with ownership of many valuable things and great wealth either already yours or in your sights or at the end of your journey.

Leadership may be a means to an end for you; the end of accruing more wealth than those who are led. Winner takes all and all that. But, when you look back on that journey, later in life, the uppermost thought in your mind will be "But, what use was I?"

I want to share this with you. It's from The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint Exupery's fable:

"How is it possible to own the stars?" asked the little prince.
"To whom do they belong?" asked the businessman, peevishly.
"I don't know. To nobody."
"Then they belong to me, because I was the first person to think of it."
"And what do you do with them?" asked the little prince.
"I administer them," replied the businessman. "I count them and recount them. It is difficult. But I am a man who is naturally interested in matters of consequence."

The little prince was still not satisfied...

"...If I owned a flower, I could pluck that flower and take it away with me. But you cannot pluck the stars from heaven..."
"No. But, I can put them in the bank."
"Whatever does that mean?"
"That means I write the number of my stars on a little piece of paper. And then I put the paper in a drawer and lock it with a key."
"And is that all?"
"That is enough," said the businessman.
..."I myself own a flower," said the little prince. "which I water every day. I own three volcanoes, which I clean out every week. It is of some use to my volcanoes, and it is of some use to my flower. But you are of no use to the stars..."

The businessman opened his mouth, but he found nothing to say in answer. And the little prince went away.

If you can see the meaning in what the little prince is saying, then think this every day if you lead a business or a unit within a business: "Apart from striving for growth and the accumulation of wealth for my organization, its shareholders and myself, of what use was I today?"

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