Most of us, at some time or other, get sucked into the lifeless vacuum of work; the cogs of the corporate machine that we keep turning until one day, when we depart this Earth, we may earn the word ‘lubricant’ on our headstone.
Last week I pondered on the first year of my retirement and the anniversary of that retirement reminded me of a poem I read whenever I lost my perspective on my importance in the workplace.
‘There’s No Indispensable Man’ is by Saxon N. White Kessinger. He authored the poem in the late 1950s and first published it under a pseudonym (although some believe Rudyard Kipling wrote it — he didn’t).
The poem neatly sums up our real importance in an organisation. We may feel we are the vital cog around which everything else rotates, but we are not. And realising we are not can be one of the most challenging things of which to come to terms. Many of us give so much to our work that it can be dispiriting to think that all our effort might, in the end, have little meaning. I know because I too had such feelings. Occasionally I needed a reminder of how ‘unimportant’ I was to my organisation.
I was far more important to my family and friends. And far more important to me was my health, sense of wellbeing and my love of Art, Literature, Theatre, Travelling, enjoyable conversation and, and, and…
Therefore, as a reminder, I would pick up this poem and read …
Sometime when you’re feeling important;
Sometime when your ego’s in bloom
Sometime when you take it for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room,
Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul;
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you will be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop and you’ll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before.
The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There’s no indispensable man.