By Melina Filippidou
Opportunity is nowhere. When we were first introduced to this attitude-revealing double entendre, I was frustrated with myself for sticking with the negative message; I thought I was a now here person, yet my brain thought this puzzle could teach me a lesson. And it did.
I remembered a story my grandpa used to tell me, about a simple man who took his life in his hands and changed his destiny. Because he saw an opportunity in his bad luck. A couple of years ago I realized that this story is actually in one of Jorge Bukay’s books. Now, I’m 100 percent sure that my grandpa has never heard of Bukay, so I’m thinking this story must be really popular across the world, from Argentina to Greece.
Here’s the story.
There was a man who was working as a doorman at a whorehouse, just like his father and his father’s father. It was a bad paying and looked down upon job, but it was the only thing he knew to do. At some point, the owner of the house died, and the new owner decided to make some changes and innovations. He asked the doorman to write weekly reports about what customers thought could be improved. The poor doorman was scared: “I don’t know how to read or write..”. As a result, the owner fired him because he couldn’t use him. The doorman was unemployed for the first time in his life. He went home and tried to figure out what would become of him. He remembered that back in the whorehouse he used to have broken beds or wardrobes fixed with the help of a hammer and some nails. So he decided to do this as a temporary job, to gain some money. For that, he needed some proper tools and so he had to use part of his severance to buy the tools. Then he remembered that there was no hardware store in town. The nearest one was two days away by mule. “What do I care?” he thought. So he set off anyway. He returned with a beautiful new set of tools. Before he could take off his boots, his neighbor knocked his door, asking for a hammer. The man said that he could lend him his new hammer but he would need it back the morning after. Indeed, in the morning the neighbor was back with the hammer. “Look, I’m still not finished, why don’t you just sell it to me?”, said the neighbor. “I can’t, I need it for my new job, and the nearest hardware store is two days away by mule”, answered the man. So the neighbor suggested paying for his trip. That would give the man a job for the next four days, so he agreed. When he got back there was a man waiting on his doorstep who was also in need for some tools. “I’ll pay the cost of the trip, on top of the price of the tools. Not everyone has time to make that trip”, he said. So he picked some tools, he paid as promised and left. The doorman marked his words: not everyone has time to make that trip. If that was true, a lot of people could use his service. On the next trip, he decided to take a risk and buy some extra tools. He spread the word around town, and his neighbors stopped traveling all that way to get their tools. He had become a tool salesman and once a week, he would go buy whatever people needed. He quickly realized that if he found a place to store his tools, he could make fewer trips. So, he rented a small storage shed in town. Little by little he transformed the shed into a hardware store: the town’s first. He didn’t even have to travel anymore. He bought so much from the store in the neighboring town that they started sending him his orders for free. He even hired a metal worker to craft some tools for him. The customers left happy and came back. To make a long story short, over time he became a millionaire manufacturing tools. He became the most powerful businessman in the region. So powerful, in fact, that one day, he decided to donate a new school to the town. When it was finished, the mayor organized a ribbon cutting ceremony in honor of the founder. In the ceremony, he was asked to be the first to sign the school’s charter. “The honor is mine,” he said. “Nothing would make me happier but I don’t know how to read or write”. The major was and the attendants were shocked. “You don’t know how to read or write? How did you create this empire of industry without knowing how to read or write!? It’s unbelievable! Imagine what heights you might have attained had you known!” His response was immediate.
“I can tell you. If I had known how to read and write, I would be the doorman at the whorehouse”.
I remembered every time I didn’t do something I wanted to or did not try something that seemed promising. I guess it’s always been easy to find a reason not to take action. Either the place was wrong, or the timing was bad or there was not really enough time or money.
The truth is though that the place will never be ideal, the timing will never be perfect, time and money will never be enough. But most important, the future owes us nothing. Our turn is now here.