Things that do not matter
BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2020 - 12:00am

A Swiss man, looking for directions, pulls up at a bus stop where two Americans are waiting. “Entschuldigung, nkoennen Sie Deutsch hesprechen?” he asks. The two Americans just stare at him.

“Excusez-moi, parlez vous Francais?” he tries. The two continue to stare.

“Parlare Italiano?” No response.

“Hablan ustedes Espanol?” Still nothing.

The Swiss guy drives off, extremely disgusted.

The first American turns to the second and says, “Y’know, maybe we should learn a foreign language.”

“Why?” says the other. “It doesn’t matter. That guy knew four languages, and it didn’t do him any good.” [1]

Sometimes certain people can find the most excellent excuse to dismiss things that matter. And then the things that do not matter much, that is what they put a lot of attention and emphasis on. But the wise person has a clear sight and understanding of what matters and what does not.

Before COVID-19, a lot of young people cared so much about spending their hard-earned money traveling, doing selfies, and buying stuff. It was fun, and it caters to the millennial’s life philosophy of YOLO (you only live once). While they may have attended a lot of “financial literacy” talks and may have even heard me speak about “saving money for emergency funds, etc.” The words may have fallen on deaf ears, and the advice given did not matter much to them. Today, those who attended and put into practice the principles taught in the seminars have expressed their gratitude and told me how thankful they are because what they did matters, especially for such a time.

There are so many things we think matter but do not. And this crisis reveals what matters and what does not. Let me give you a list of the things that do not matter especially in a crisis:


People love titles. They love to be called “Chief,” they hate to be “bypassed.” They want the credit and be acknowledged, but titles and ego do not seem to matter in a crisis. They cannot strut around the place and throw their weight around because they are locked in their homes working remotely. Titles do not matter in a crisis. What matters is getting the job done and calm people’s nerves so they can adjust to their working environment and sleep peacefully at night.

Resistance to change

During pre-COVID-19 days, ego leads to extreme resistance to change. This crisis has practically removed all opposition, and everyone has to adapt. Remember the seminar theme of the ancient past? “Digital Transformation.” “Creativity and Innovation.” The famous cliché of them all was, “You have to think out of the box.” Well, it seems like everybody is now out of the box of conventional practices and are locked down in a box of their homes. Resistance such as these no longer matters in this crisis. Everybody adapts, and everybody changes. I smile because in all the webinars I am doing when the Q&A portion follows after my talk, there is no one talking about what they want to do because “this was the way it was done before.” Why? Perhaps because the old ways they used to do things do not matter much now, does it?

Petty complaints

There was a time when people regularly complained about their work, complained about their pay, complained about the food in the pantry or canteen, complained about their boss, their peers, their furniture, and a million other things. Today, there is a sense of thankfulness: they still have a job and want to do their best to keep their careers because this is what matters now.

Bright shiny objects

This idiom usually refers to “Something that is widely appealing or attention-grabbing for its superficial characteristics, but generally not useful, substantial, or long-lasting.” These are designer stuffs, the newly launched smartphone with 100 cameras, toys for the big boys, etc. Feeling the pinch of the crisis, these bright shiny objects do not seem to matter much anymore.

Crises create clarity. We begin to see the things that matter and things that do not. And many of the things that matter are not things. We now value our loved ones, our friends, health, and hygiene. Gratitude matters, faith matters and prayers matter. Roy Bennett says: “What matters most is to focus on what matters most.” And I think he is right because that is all that matters (pun intended).

(Connect with Francis Kong in Or listen to “Business Matters” Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. over 98.7 DZFE-FM ‘The Master’s Touch’, the classical music station.)

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