When you realize that your boss is really your customer, you will have an easier time treating him or her with due deference.Business Secrets from the Bible by Daniel Lapin
“I wish to teach,” I tell her as I sit across her during my job interview.
“Find yourself a student, then,” she says.
“I hear that you’re a teacher. Your old students and the community speak of you highly. I wish to learn from you.”
She laughs. “Oh yes… that was another life. I no longer wish to teach.”
“I will be a good student,” I counter. I am not one to take no for an answer. As an entrepreneur, I know that I need to knock on enough doors till someone says yes.
“Young man,” she says reverting to an authoritative role. “Find yourself a student willing to learn from you. I cannot teach you to teach no more than I can teach you how to make the sun rise every morning. Find yourself a student.”
“But Teacher,” I say. “I want to learn under you.”
“You would not be the first… and you will not be the last. I am no longer a teacher.”
“I have attended your lessons… you are the best teacher a student could hope for. You cannot walk away from your calling.”
“A teacher cannot teach a student anything. All a teacher can do is guide a student to discover something within them that was there all along.”
“Find yourself a student. That is all.”
Successful employees treat and value their bosses the same way successful shopkeepers treat the people who patronize their establishments.Business Secrets from the Bible by Daniel Lapin
I left the job interview feeling as though I had gone nowhere. I’ve wanted to learn under her for close to half a decade. And she had rejected me and sent me out the door. Should I have offered her money? Should I have brought some gifts? Perhaps that would have sweetened her icy disposition towards me.
I decide to try again the next day.
“Teacher,” I say. “I have brought you some oranges and apples. They are of the finest quality…”
“Oh…” she says with a sigh. “This is what many of my students do to earn my favour. They pay me compliments and buy me gifts. You know… I always used to give away the gifts they gave me… How can I accept gifts from my students? One never knows the intention behind those gifts and compliments…”
“But Teacher, it is a reward for your hard work and a testament to your abilities.”
“I appreciate your thoughts and am touched by your compliments, but I can accept neither.”
“You still wish to teach?”
I nod. I had meant her no harm by paying her compliments or bringing her gifts. But she looked at me with the same indifference with which she had gazed at me the day prior. She was neither impressed nor had I broken down the barrier that separated me from her.
“Find yourself a student,” she says. “That is the only way to be a teacher.”
“But I need your guidance…”
“There are no shortage of people who come to me seeking my guidance, young man. I have been an advisor. I have been a mentor. I have been a substitute parent. I have raised children whose parents have abandoned them. My time as a teacher is over.”
“But Teacher, you cannot give up like that…”
“Don’t you dare,” she says, her eyes piercing into mine.
“I need you,” I exclaim.
“Have you ever considered that I have needs on my own? I have already told you that I have no desire to be a mentor, an advisor or a teacher. And yet, you ask. You persist even though I have clearly said ‘No’. You show up at my door with these gifts that I do not want. You persist like a fool chasing after a woman who does not want him.”
“I can pay… I have money…”
“I no longer wish to continue this conversation,” she says.
There is a finality in her tone that scared me. I somehow couldn’t allow her to have the final say. Who did she think she was? I was a famous entrepreneur and she but a humble teacher. How dare she refuse me in this manner? How dare she show me the door? Many would delight to have my company and yet she looked at me with disdain.
“I don’t need you,” I scream.
“I mean it! I can do it all myself.”
“I don’t need you! I thought you were a great teacher, but you are just a cold-hearted…”
I utter some choice words on the way out. She deserved it.
The company that writes your paycheck every two weeks is not your employer; they are your customer. Adopt this mind-set and everything changes. You are free from the daily grind—free to grow your business and serve your customers, your fellow man.Business Secrets from the Bible by Daniel Lapin
A few months passed. I had not forgotten her. I had not forgotten my terrible behaviour. But I still felt entitled to my indignant rage. I was somebody. An esteemed and celebrated member of society. And she was merely a teacher. I was an entrepreneur. And she was just a woman. A beautiful woman… but society had no scarcity of those. One of these days she would be an ugly old crone anyway…
Nasty thoughts such as these filled my mind. I wondered if she was married. I wondered which man would tolerate her. I wondered if she had kids other than the ones that she had taught. Perhaps that is what led her to be a teacher. I wondered why I was so enamoured with someone who had so callously rejected me.
Just who did she think she was? Did she not see that I was the best thing that would ever happen to her?
I went off for a few weeks to do some soul-searching. Perhaps I was not meant to teach. I wanted to, but maybe that was not the path destined for me. I wondered if there was something else I should do with my life. Perhaps I could build another business. I was good at that. I could always invest in stocks and bonds… I could always….
A lightbulb went off in my head. I knew exactly what to do.
The next day, I returned to see my Teacher. I remembered the choice words I had uttered the last time we met. I remembered all the vicious thoughts I had harboured in my head about her personal life. In truth, I did not know her. I did not know anything about her. I only saw that she had something I wanted… and that she was refusing to give it to me.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “For what I said.”
“You would not be the first student to call a teacher nasty names,” she says looking incredibly bored. “Next time, you can bring a notebook and doodle in it as well… Perhaps you can draw a devil in my likeness. You wouldn’t be the first. Young people always think they are a revolution. That they’re so special… But we’ve seen it all…”
She waves her hand at me as though I were yet another fly–yet another annoying student–who had come to annoy her with bad behaviour. She was quite simply accustomed to the likes of me. Students with incessant demands. Entitled douchebags who expect others to take care of them just because.
“Sensei,” I say.
She rolls her eyes. “I do not go by that title anymore.”
“Sensei,” I say again.
“Are you hard of hearing, young man?”
“Sensei,” I say again. “Will you be my first student?”
She grins. She’s beautiful when she smiles. It lights up her icy disposition. There she was. The same woman that I had grown enamoured with over the years. It is no secret that a young man’s first crush is often his teacher.
“What would you like to teach me, young man?” she asks.
“I hear you’re building a business. I have built many businesses… I can teach you how to build a business. If you would accept me as your advisor, I will work hard in your business and teach you how to build it… Brick-by-brick. I will stand by you and your vision. I will teach you everything I have learnt through building my own. Will you accept me as your teacher?”
Her eyes sparkle. She nods. And there it was. That smile. I had finally pleased her.
“It would be my honour to be your first student,” she says.
“Thank you, Sensei,” I say, filled with glee. “I can’t wait… When’s my first day?”
“You can start tomorrow. And by the way, I don’t go by that title anymore…”
“Yes, boss,” I say. “Yes, boss.”
She laughs. I remembered why I had chosen her as a teacher. And yet, it seemed that I was the one who was destined to teach her!
I had found someone willing to learn from me. I had found someone willing to pay me for the privilege. I had found a customer.
I had found an employer… and a future emperor.
15 thoughts on “From Entrepreneur to Employee | Redefining My Customer”
That was quite the journey you had there! Congrats on your first student 🙂
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I laughed out loud at this one. You were behaving like one of your own disgruntled employees… Whether we serve the customers of our business or we serve our employers–we still need to serve. I wish you luck on your endeavor as a teacher.
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I admire your honesty.
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This is a “wow” article. It’s engaging, it tells a story, it teaches so much in such a simple inspiring way. I had a smile plastered on my lips all through the article while tears edged at the corners of my eyes. It’s such a wonderfully different perspective to look at. Truly a delightful experience!