The other day at a youth empowerment seminar I was in, a particular guest speaker was talking about the differences between working for a salary and being your own boss and “in charge of your own destiny.” The speaker compared the paid worker to a vulture and the entrepreneur to an eagle. The vulture is always at the mercy of other animals, it only gets to eat their sometimes rotten leavings. An eagle on the other hand gets to eat the choicest freshly killed prey. As he went on with reeling facts and figures about the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to support his Eagles versus Vultures theory, it suddenly occurred to me that our motivational speaker might have good intentions with his analogy, but the aforementioned analogy is fundamentally flawed. Our speaker was too busy trying to psyche his eager listeners up, to put his explanation and his facts and figures into proper context. I will explain what I mean.
These days thanks to globalization and the democratization of ICT, being an entrepreneur is no longer as hard as it used to be. Unfortunately this has created a generation of obnoxious entrepreneurs who think they are better than all those people who do nine to five jobs, because they “are in charge of their destinies”. Our motivational speaker is hardly unique, there are many like him on social media who go on ad nauseam about how they made so and so times the amount of money, they made working for a salary, as an entrepreneur. A flaw in the Eagle versus Vulture argument is this, supposing something happens and every single living thing in that place is killed, the eagle will starve while the vulture will have plenty to eat. That is not even the main problem, what happens if there are suddenly so many dead things in a place and there are no vultures or hyenas or natural processes to dispose of them? Clap for yourself if you answered that it could cause a biological disaster which could kill all the fresh prey of the eagle. The takeaway from this is that, The eagle which views the vulture with disdain for being a slave, does not realize that it is that vulture that is literally keeping it from starvation.
That is why I always laugh out loud when “entrepreneurs” start laughing at 9 to 5 workers. For instance to register a business you have to be at the Corporate Affairs Commission, without a 9 to 5 worker, you won’t even be able to register your business, maybe you need a business account, it is a 9 to 5 cashier that will attend to you when you walk into the bank, otherwise you don’t have a business. Maybe the business needs to pay tax, it is a 9 to 5 worker who will file your tax returns for you, and otherwise you aren’t going to have a business for long. You need land for your business? You have to verify with 9 to 5 government officials before you can get any land to use. I can go on and on, but I am sure you get my point. The irony is that Nigeria is at the moment a place where stuff is collapsing and things are dying, Eagles won’t survive here, vultures however will have a swell time.
One of the things that never fail to make me roll my eyes is when motivational speakers or anybody in particular starts a rant about how education is useless because a lot of educated people end up working for illiterate people. The question I always ask is that “if the said illiterate man thinks not having an education makes no difference. Why doesn’t he employ illiterate people like him to help him run his business then?” it is the same reason why I really want to slap people like our motivational speaker when they spout examples of people like Bill Gates and Mark Zukerberg who “dropped out of school” and have become billionaires. Yes Zuckerberg is a dropout and he is a billionaire, but let us remove all the techies and the lawyers and the people doing Facebook’s accounting (all of whom finished school and learnt something from the “useless” educational system) and see if Zuckerberg can run Facebook on his own. Ditto for Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates or any of the entrepreneurs you can think of.
The real problem is this, everybody wants to do exploits like Jesus Christ, nobody wants to be like the unimportant John the Baptist, who had little to do except prepare the way for Jesus Christ. The thing however is that without the things that John did, Jesus would never have become who he wanted to become. It smacks of a culture of basing success on quantity and size instead of on quality, that the CEO in the big office is the one making a difference. “What does that cleaning lady or that janitor even do?” (As if the CEO will be able to make any difference if the office was dirty or the doors were left open and thieves came in and stole office equipment).
The truth of the matter is this: making a difference is not about being able to brag on social media about how much money you are now making as an entrepreneur, so don’t let any “entrepreneur” or motivational speaker goad you into feeling like you are useless because you have a nine to five job. It is a lesson I learnt from using my parents as case studies. Both of them have been 9-5 workers all their lives, yet they have been able to build houses, buy cars and train five children through school. And throughout the time we were in school none of us were ever sent home for defaulting on school fees, neither did any of us ever go to school hungry, or with torn uniforms or books. There is nothing wrong with being a nine to five worker, there is nothing wrong with being in charge of your destiny either. Don’t, I repeat, don’t ever let anybody use high sounding words, grandiose but ultimately meaningless analogies and out of context facts and figures to convince you otherwise.