A most important lesson


People respect power.

People respect financial power, that everyone knows, but they also respect the power of other abilities: the ability to attract other people to them, the ability to fix a car, the ability to manipulate a musical instrument in a masterful way, just to name a few.

Take, for example, the talented guitar player who can entertain friend or stranger for hours on end with his melodies. It is possible that this guy may not be extremely interested in making money. Let’s say except for the part-time work he does during the day (which impresses no one), he also plays in bars and coffee shops a few nights of the week. He makes enough money to pay for his sparse apartment, and he can afford the most essential groceries (and every now and then new guitar strings). This guy will probably never be rich. His intention is to entertain or inspire people with his music, no matter how small or how big the audience is. That the respect that will come his way will multiply if he can play guitar well and make lots of money doing it, is to some extent irrelevant. People will respect him for being able to do something that most people can not do – to press and pull guitar strings in such a way as to fill the air with enjoyable sounds.

What sort of ability commands respect from people? For one, the sort of ability that another person has desired to master for a long time, but one they have not been able to master. To then see someone else who has mastered that very same ability be rewarded with other people’s respect, will intensify their desire to claim the power of that ability for themselves.

Respect determines your place in society. To not be respected means that you will be treated as a zero on the proverbial contract. On the other hand, to be respected for something for which you want to be respected, means that people will want to associate with you. When people see that others want to associate with you, you will usually be treated with more respect, which in turn will strengthen your sense of self-worth and belonging. Not to be respected reduces your sense of self-worth. This reduced sense of self-worth then increases the likelihood that your public appearance will make a weak impression on people, in which case people will find even less reason to respect you. These unflattering appearances also have the undesirable effect that you feel even less that you belong somewhere, which will undermine your self-esteem even further. That the cycle is vicious, is fairly clear.

People respect power – the ability to do something they, themselves, want to do, but which they have not mastered yet, or one they believe they never will master. This is an insight that has haunted me for years. It is indeed one of the most valuable lessons I have learned during the past more than a decade of my adult existence.