When Rose Blumkin left Belarus to came to America in the 1920s, she did not speak a word of English and had no formal education. But with the $500 she borrowed from her brother, she started a very modest furniture store in Omaha Nebraska. Very modest.
However, by the time Mrs. B. (as she was affectionately called) sold the Nebraska Furniture Mart to Warren Buffet, it was the largest furniture store in America.
About Mrs. B., Buffet said: “Put her up against the top graduates of the top business schools or chief executives of the Fortune 500 and, assuming an even start with the same resources, she’d run rings around them.”
How does one get to be so successful?
In this week’s parsha, God commands the kohanim (priests) to remove the ashes every morning from the Temple. At first glance, that doesn’t sound like the kind of task one would give to such a holy and important person. In fact, it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that needs mentioning at all.
Interestingly, the Talmud reports that the kohanim were so eager to take out the ashes, they instituted a lottery system to stop them from arguing about who would get the job! In contrast, every four years there is an election in America. Many important roles and positions are on the ballot. But not the garbage men!
Rav Yaacov Weinberg zt”l tells of a social science experiment in which minimum wage workers were hired to work along a conveyor belt, simply screwing nuts onto bolts. After a while, however, the conveyor belt was reversed and these same workers had to take the same nuts off the same bolts.
This concept can be seen in every person you work with. If the goal is important to them, then they are willing to take out the garbage, and if it isn’t, then you can’t pay them enough to do it.
They found that no matter what they were paid, people wouldn’t do it.
We all need a sense that what we are doing makes a real difference. In other words, it’s not the money; rather we need to feel we are doing something important. Double or triple your salary, but if all you did was move papers from one side of your desk to the other, you would soon quit. When Apple turned against Steve Jobs, they wanted to fire him, but couldn’t. What did they do? They gave him an office with no responsibilities. All he had to do was show up and he would get paid — and they didn’t even care if he showed up! Jobs couldn’t do it, and he quit.
I have been told that the time of greatest productivity in America was World War II. Anyone who was putting a nut on a bolt or sweeping a factory floor, or driving a bus felt they were making a real difference.
This concept can be seen in every person you work with. If the goal is important to them, then they are willing to take out the garbage, and if it isn’t, then you can’t pay them enough to do it. When you do it for the money, then you need the prestige as well.
I grew up in London, and while I was in school a friend of mine was chosen to serve in Buckingham Palace for the Queen of England. It was a different time and a different place, but you could not put a lid on how proud he felt doing that job, a job in any other place or any other time would make him feel belittled.
When you view your job like that, you will be a Mrs. B. Find a career or job for which you are willing to take out the garbage, and you have found your passion. This is not as difficult as it might seem. I remember growing up while NASA was trying to put a man on the moon. There was not a single kid I knew that wouldn’t give everything to take out the garbage in mission control.
Now we can understand the removing of the ashes. This was quite simply, taking out God’s garbage. So, what is our lesson? Passion comes from the goal, NOT the role. Don’t worry about the title, worry about the results. If in what you choose, you are willing to do whatever needs to be done, then you can have passion. If you aren’t doing something that you would feel honored taking out the garbage, then being the CEO is no honor either.
By the way, what do we call people who are willing to do whatever needs to be done, where the title is as irrelevant as the compensation?
We call them parents.
Originally from London, Rabbi Stephen Baars resides in Rockville, Maryland and serves as executive director of Aish Seminars. He did nine years of post-graduate studies at the Aish HaTorah Rabbinical College in Jerusalem, and has been an educator and marriage counselor for the past 25 years. He is the creator of the BLISS seminar, which was awarded a federal grant to help reduce the divorce rate in Washington, D.C. He studied and performed comedy in Los Angeles, and is known for imparting important ideas with creativity and humor. Rabbi Baars and his wife, Ruth, are blessed with seven children. Learn more about Rabbi Baars at www.getbliss.com and www.core9.live.