The following story appeared as a guest post by Mark Kinsley on Q’s Views — the blog of Mark Quinn. I have obtained the permission of Los Dos Marcos to reproduce it in part here. Click here to read the original post.
I want to feature this story here because young men are complaining that there are no jobs available. I’m not certain that’s entirely true. What may be more likely is that the jobs on offer aren’t important enough, high-profile enough or well-paying enough. I concede all of that may be true. But it’s more likely that the available jobs don’t sync with the very popular advice to pursue your passion. Enter The Story of the Scullery Maid, as originally told to Mark Kinsley by the Wizard of Ads Roy. H. Williams:
The Story of the Scullery Maid
As a scullery maid, she scrubbed stone floors. One day, with the afternoon off work, she went to listen to a famous intellectual speaking in her town. When his speech was over, nervous and timid, she mustered a moment of courage and stepped into the aisle to speak to the professor. She confessed that she wanted to be like the famous doctor and travel the world giving talks and sharing ideas.
He said to her, “What do you do?”
“I’m nothing more than a scullery maid,” she confessed. “I scrub stone floors.”
“What is the stone made of?” asked the professor. The maid did not know. “Find out what the stone is made of and send me a paper,” said the professor.
With that they cordially parted ways. The scullery maid wasted no time. She went to her master’s home and examined the stone floors, asking him what they were made of. When her master told the maid all he knew, she went to the library to learn more about that particular kind of rock. From there she went to the quarry where the stone was sourced and the factory where they were shaped. She put all her newfound knowledge down on paper.
After months of research and editing, she mailed her paper to the professor and he replied with a simple statement. “Good work. What is under the stone?
Excited that the man she admired had taken time to respond, but also confused by his question, the scullery maid walked over to a loose stone, lifted it from the floor, and saw a single ant. She replied to the professor that under the stone was a single ant. He responded, telling her to find out everything there is to know about ants and send him another paper. For this paper she went even further than the previous. It took her more than a year. She traveled to every library in the land, spoke with educators knowledgeable about bugs, and spent hours observing ants’ behavior in their natural environment. When the paper was complete, she mailed it to the professor and he replied.
“Congratulations, you are now the world’s foremost expert on ants,” he told her.
She spent the rest of her years traveling the world, sharing ideas and giving speeches about ants.
Notice that the maid didn’t begin with a passion for ants. Instead she had a larger goal that becoming passionate about ants enabled her to reach.
A young man I know dreamed of working in production at Disney. He had an opportunity to move to Orlando to live temporarily with a family friend and contacted Disney World to get an interview. He succeeded in getting the interview, and took the only job available to him — working as a parking lot attendant at the Magic Kingdom. Viewing this as a chance to get a foot in the door, he pursued the opportunity with enthusiasm, even posting a photo of his name badge on Instagram. Although he has not realized his ultimate goal yet, he has a better chance of being promoted within Disney than as a stranger to them.
The German poet Goethe said it this way, “Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done.”