Scribblings by Christine MacKay

Editorial 028

…my thoughts

Shall I tell you what Knowledge is? Knowledge is both what one knows and what one does not know.   Confucius 


The moment that I made a comment about something I had no background in whatsoever was the moment that changed my life. It was the moment I realized how little I really knew.

I was just twenty when I met Joseph from the Czech republic and he was about to teach me about life. I had a very traditionally Canadian upbringing with the exception of divorced parents I had little in the way of life experience when starting work as a security Guard in a hospital. I met so many different people and I was able to remain delightfully ignorant to the world politics until I met Joseph.

Joseph was a co-worker of mine who fled the Czech republic 10 years earlier to immigrate to Canada for a better life. Now Joseph didn’t advertise his history only to mention he had left the love of his life. Although Joseph didn’t look it, he was 10 years older than I; attractive wavy brown hair, thick foreign accent, and all the nurses loved him. Joseph was just thirty, so humble and when you listened to his stories you knew he had lived a very scary life before Canada.

The nights were long in the hospital, but my excitement would build when I could sit down and listen to Joseph tell his stories of life in the Czech republic. I would normally find him sitting with the hospital staff eating lunch at 2 am in the cafeteria. Most of the staff: housekeepers and maintenance personnel were immigrants from other countries and they would get into some heated discussions about politics both local and foreign.


In the Wave

One night Joseph began the story of the night he fled the Czech republic. About five of us sat listening intently as Joseph narrated his story. Joseph and his friend mounted an armed and guarded wall, crawled along a dirt and gravel field to 20 kilometers and then jumped a train into Germany leaving behind his bride of five years. Now a permanent refugee in Canada Joseph was saving his money and working two jobs to bring his young wife and family to Canada. Joseph’s story seemed so much more like a movie than real life, and I found myself fascinated by his loyalty and courage.

A few weeks later Joseph and I sat in the security room in the emergency department, I reading the paper and Joseph was doing someone’s taxes, a little side job he had, I could only assume he was using to bolster his bank account to bring his family here. I was reading an article on a hostage taking in India when I naively, but confidently stated, “Who would do such a thing as to take a plane full of innocent people hostage?” Joseph looked at me with condescendingly. I felt as though I had said some thing wrong. When Joseph said softly “ Now Christine, you have grown up in a free society, where you have the right to speak your opinions, learn, protest the wrong doings of the world, If there is one thing I can tell you don’t pretend it is like that everywhere. The freedoms you have here are not in all countries. In some countries this is how people get heard “ he finished. It took a day or two for me to make sense of Joseph’s claim but I started to look at everything a little differently then. From that day forward when I read, or listened to the news I studied both sides of the story. Looked for the not so obvious backstory. As the great Tsun Su said, “Know thy enemy, know thy self”

Years later I would part ways with the hospital, feeling disgruntled because of government cut backs my job there was deleted. I took advantage of an employment program and decided to start my own business. Running a business is very difficult, but I thought I could do it better than the terrible bosses I had. Everything I knew about business and the little I didn’t contributed to the ultimate failure.

“The Entrepreneurial Seizure, is explained as the excitement of independence associated with getting rid of the boss, but is almost always a flawed understanding of being your own boss means”.

“Most small business are started by technician rather than entrepreneurs”; Micheal Gerber, E- Myth Mastery, 1992.

I was the disgruntled technician romantically in love with the age old Idea of being my own boss, only now I was working for a lunatic (me) who had absolutely no concept of what it takes to run a business.

Ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise. Thomas Gray,  Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College,1742

What the business was is totally irrelevant because whether its a Mom and dad pop Shoppe or a multi billion dollar trade marked company if you are the owner operator you have very little to do with the actual business.

Most people who work struggle with the office structure and often find themselves asking why the bosses would make such terrible decisions about staff, pay raises, all the way down to the coffee they use, or even the toilet paper to buy. I was definitely one of those disgruntled employees that felt I would better suit running my own business than taking orders from someone I felt didn’t know how to run a company. I thought I knew everything about the business I was in.

What I didn’t know when you are a business owner money is tight especially in the start up years. For a time I had more than one job especially with very few staff so you become your own accountant, manager, supervisor, the supply and delivery person, and finally the janitor, Not until you jump into the business does that little piece of information clang like a bell in your head, and all of a sudden you are thrust into things you know absolutely nothing about and you have to make important decisions about the business which you have no knowledge or experience in. Rather than being liberated from the Tyranny of routine, I the technician, now entrepreneur had become a slave to the business. Moreover, you realize that you are inept, and unqualified for all of the jobs a business owner must do, you can’t fire yourself, and you now search for a job where they can pay you, so you can pay your employee’s, or suppliers in your failing company.

This lack of knowledge was a sickness, a pride, that determination not to fail, that leads you down the path of denial. A more knowledgeable owner would know the signs of failure and respond in an appropriate corporate assertive manner and purposely sink the ship before the costs were a burden. Furthermore, a wise and knowledgeable entrepreneur may never have started it all, recognizing a poor business plan, inexperience and a completely unqualified manager. This is the finest example of a lack of knowledge creating the most unenviable failure.

Failure is the ultimate cultivator of knowledge. It is inevitable, all people will fail in this lifetime, and for most it will be more than once. These examples are two very grandiose, wretched, and defining experiences in my life that changed the way I approached and respected culture, and changed my belief of my capabilities. I didn’t blame anyone for my downfalls, I simply accepted that I had a lack of knowledge in many areas and I really needed to be more humble and curious, rather that headstrong and ignorant. These are sometimes the simple lessons of disappointing someone you respect, to the shame and embarrassment of failing at something you claimed to know so much about.

“The only freedom comes from a humble acceptance, the more you know the less you know; I hear, I forget, I see, I remember, I do I understand. When one knows what one knows, and one knows what they do not know.” – Confucius, Wikipedia, 551 bc


Credits and Sources

Philosopher Confucius , Born Sept 551 BC to 479 BC Wikipedia

Michael Gerber , Author, Speaker and Innovator.

E- Myth Mastery and the Seven essential Disciplines for Building a World class company , 1998, Michael Gerber Companies

Tsun Su – Philosopher, Col and Military strategist, The Art of War , 456 Bc

Thomas Gray – Writer Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College , 1742



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