The other day, a friend forwarded this lovely story; it started me thinking about how artisans see the final masterpiece from a blank piece of canvas or a single lump of clay. It also caused questions as to how leaders see the potential in individuals and begin to polish the hidden gem.
There was a couple who took a trip to England to shop in a beautiful antique store to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They both liked antiques and pottery, and especially teacups. Spotting an exceptional cup, they asked, “May we see that? We’ve never seen a cup quite so beautiful.”
As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke, “You don’t understand. I have not always been a teacup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay.”
“My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me over and over and I yelled out, ‘Don’t do that. I don’t like it! Let me alone.'” But he only smiled, and gently said, ‘Not yet!’ Then WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting so dizzy! I’m going to be sick,” I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, quietly, ‘Not yet.'”
“He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then… Then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. Help! Get me out of here! I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, ‘Not yet.'”
“When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! Ah, this is much better, I thought. But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. ‘Oh, please, Stop it, Stop it!’ I cried. He only shook his head and said. ‘Not yet!'”
“Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited — and waited, wondering “What’s he going to do to me next?” An hour later he handed me a mirror and said ‘Look at yourself.’ “And I did. I said, ‘That’s not me, that couldn’t be me. It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful!'”
Quietly he spoke: ‘I want you to remember,’ then he said, “I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you’d have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn’t put you there, you would have cracked. I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn’t done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life.
If I hadn’t put you back in that second oven, you wouldn’t have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product.
Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.”
~ Author Unknown ~
How many pieces of fine china have you helped to create in your career and lifetime? How many people have you taken the time to help mold and develop?
When you encounter a young intern or new employee who has been assigned to your team, how do your actions impact their future? Do you take the time to speak with them, learn about their goals, guide them on their way, and contribute to their future success? Or do you consider yourself too busy and important to give them any of your time?
Do you recognize them as individuals? Or do you treat them like they’re ‘just like everybody else’?
When you see the small flicker of something wonderful and new, do you take the time to cultivate that spark into the brightly burning flame it can become? Or do you snuff it out with harsh words and a cold shoulder?
Do you think back to those who spent time molding and shaping you?
So again I ask….how many pieces of fine china have you helped to shape and mold?