one talented man

Its on of my favorite parables, found in Matthew 25, the parable of talents.  Bible-story-short; Master goes on a hiatus for a while and gives three servants three different amounts of talents (to quote Michael Scott “A fancy word for money”) 10, 5 and 1 talent.  When the master returns he summons these servants to see his return on investment and respectively they present 20, 10, and….one talent.  The master is thrilled with his investment in his two servants that doubled his investment, and is quite furious at his one-talented servant.  That servant claimed to be scared of losing his master’s money so he simply buried it in some dirt and dug it up upon his master’s return, my guess is he didn’t even clean the dirt off of it.  I love this parable because there are lessons on every level, but I’m always dumbfounded by the one-talent servant and his assumption the master simply wanted him to keep it safe.  If the master wanted to keep it safe wouldn’t the master have buried it himself and not told anyone where it was?  He handed out a portion of his fortune for a reason and this guy was too foolish to see it was not because the master was afraid of digging his own hole and burying his fortune himself.

We all know a one-talented person.  They park in the most convenient customer parking space closest to the front door when the boss isn’t there, but park in the employee spaces when the boss is present.  They don’t read the emails their supervisors send out, regardless of how short and sweet that email is.  They can’t be bothered with taking initiative, if something really needs to be done they’ll be told to do it.  One-Talented people are everywhere.  I once had a boss that used to say “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”  He was too used to one-talented employees.  I learned from him, if you want something done right then hire, train, coach, and mentor 5 and 10 talent employees.

I’d argue 5 and 10 talent people aren’t born multi-talented.  Everyone starts out with a single talent, and it’s not until they figure it that out and multiply that single talent are they presented with the opportunity to move up.  In the parable part II the master probably gives the 10 talent servant 20 talents to begin with, the 5 talent servant 10 to being with, and he found a new one talent servant to pass the test.  Don’t expect to move up the corporate ladder from your entry-level position if you can’t return the investment your employer is making in you at the entry.

My parents are my business partners, and they love me enough to probably say “we’re not going into business with you” if I didn’t work my one, two, four, and five talent businesses faithfully.  It’s like getting a letter from someone who wants to go into ministry, or a 6-month mission’s trip, but that same person can’t work a minimum wage job for longer than 2-weeks before flaking out.  That person can’t work hard at an easy job, but still wants people to invest in them to do the hard work of ministry, without lifting a single one of their own fingers to put them in the field.  If you are skipping from minimum wage job to minimum wage job (to paraphrase Jef Foxworthy here) you might be a one-talented person.

So then how do you get 5 talents or 10 talents when the boss goes on vacation?  It’s simple, be the one-talented person in “the parable, part II” (movie name I called it! So good we came out with the sequel first!)  Take your entry level position at your company and treat it like you are worthy of a 10 talent investment and double or triple your single-talent.  Now that doesn’t mean money, necessarily, that means not having to be told what to do because you have already taken the initiative and started or finished the task.  It means working harder when your boss or supervisor is gone so that you can chat with your boss or supervisor when they’re there and not have that person looking at all the things needing to be done.  It means speaking well of that same person when they aren’t there to defend themselves and all the one-talent coworkers around you are running their mouths about the job and the boss and the customers.

What if you’ve doubled, tripled, quadrupled your talent and it goes unrecognized, or even worse, someone else gets the credit?  This is a tough situation to have especially when you’re receiving a single-talent income and your personal budget could use some wiggle room.  Be patient.  Be patient.  Be patient.  I’ve accidentally promoted one-talent folks before and it took a little time but I realized my mistake and got the correct people into 5 & 10 talent positions.  If it goes unrecognized by your current employer, do not worry, your current employer’s customers notice, and they’re always hiring too.

One of my best buds was in a business with family.  He was always given the one talent gigs and ALWAYS delivered back two talents of effort.  He was sowing far more than he was reaping, but because he was a part of the family they figured he should be content where he was.  One day a supplier called him up and asked him if he’d like to work at that company instead and was offered a 10 talent position which he happily accepted.  It took the better part of 5 years for this to happen, but he is so happy he never took the one-talent work as crapwork at his previous employer because he would have never then been offered his 10-talent job.

King David was pulled out of the pasture with his sheep as a boy to be anointed as king and then he went back to work in the pasture as a shepherd.  That might actually be Part I of the parable: You can’t lead a nation until you faithfully lead sheep.

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