From obscurity to observation
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - April 14, 2019 - 12:00am

A senior citizen was clearing out his attic when he came upon an old painting and a violin. Thinking they might be valuable, he took them to the auction house to be valued.

After studying them, the appraiser said, “Mr. Cooper, I have good news, and I have bad news.”

“What’s the good news?” the senior asked.

“The good news is that you have a Stradivarius and a Picasso,” replied the appraiser.

“Fantastic! What’s the bad news?” “Well sir, the bad news is that Stradivarius was a horrible painter and Picasso was no good with violins.”

Even Picasso and Stradivarius are required to have their areas of specialization and competence.

“Life is a journey” as some poets are wont to say. Work goes through different stages, and this is why we assign a word for careers and professions. We use the word: “Path.”

Now look back and review your “journey.” When you were starting in life, and you were a newbie at work, you were practically living in obscurity. Your work matters but it mattered only to a few; which means your boss primarily and to the people working with you or those around you. There is pressure, but it isn’t much. You can even play with creative activities, and if things do not work out well, the weight isn’t much so this is the best time for you to experiment. To try out your different fields of interests as long as they are not illegal, immoral or just plain stupid. Try doing different things. Write articles for the company newsletter. Never mind if you get rejected, write some more like volunteering to do emceeing in your corporate events and parties where you explore different fields until you discover the one thing you can do well.

A few years later you enter another stage. The next stage involves mastery. This is no longer the time for you to be trying out many things without being good at one thing. When you were in school, and you shift courses because you discovered that the course does not suit your natural strengths or abilities, then that would be understandable. But if you still shift courses after eight years in college, then I think you’ve got a problem. Don’t laugh at this because there are actual cases of kids overstaying in college who still cannot figure out the right course to take and prefer the “safety net” of being a student rather than finishing a course, marching out into the world and slugging it out there in the work place building skills or careers and being productive.

The same principle may be seen at work. There are those who have been working for years yet have not discovered the one thing he or she can do well. This is also what happens when young people move from one company to another for the sheer pleasure of getting higher pays. Over time the young person will no longer be young and would not have mastered anything. Their skills average their competence bare but their pay corresponding high. Meanwhile, employers begin to reason that the same pay can be handed over to younger people eager to take the job and might even be better with the latest technology compared to the person who jumps from one job to another and is heavy on their company overhead.

Now let’s look at another kind. What about the person who has mastered the skill and has built competence; he or she is paid for what is done. But the moment you get paid for what you do, then you are under the spotlight. What you say and do matters. There is no way you can hide in obscurity. You will never get that freedom especially when people start paying you money for your work. You want attention when you do good work.

So, take a look at the stages:

Starting stage = obscurity but good to try out anything and everything to find your niche.

Mastery stage = assumes that you have discovered a competence and you would want to ramp it up and develop it into a skill.

Specialization stage = you are now paid for what you do. You can no longer live in obscurity. All eyes are on you and the quality of your work. You can either be a Stradivarius of the violins or a Picasso of painting. You begin to build a name in the industry. You are synonymous with your expertise, and your name pops up as first in mind every time your field of knowledge in discussed and required.

Business philosopher Jim Rohn’s famous words still ring true today. He says (paraphrased), “If you want to earn money, you’ve got to be good at what you do. If you’re going to earn more; you have to be excellent in what you do, but if you want to earn a fortune you better make sure you are the only one who can do what you do and then you can demand the price.” This is why, general practitioners are paid well but specialists are paid more. If they were around today; then Stradivarius and Picasso would concur.

(The last two LUL runs have been well received and there are many requests coming in to do another one soon. However, the schedule is tight with prior commitments and the next Level Up Leadership will run on May 21-22. For registration or inquiries contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at

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