To leave your parents’ house for your own is one of the landmark events in life. In the eyes of society, it signifies the attainment of maturity. Those who for some reason linger in that childhood haven past their majority soon draw harsh scorn from society and must each day step out armed with face-saving answers to the dreaded but unavoidable question about where they live. Perhaps they would not regard this question nervously if they knew that they shared their situation with millions upon millions who go through life having never left all the three houses that the ultimate adult must outgrow. For it is the exception in life to meet someone who has left their parents’ house, their employers’ house, and their teachers’ house—the three houses that ideally should serve only as nurseries till that time when we can found our own homes, our own businesses, and our own schools of thought.
Ordinary people leave their parents’ house but continue to live under their employers’ and their teachers’ roofs. Great people leave both their parents’ and their employers’ houses but continue to live under their teachers’ roof. Titans, the greatest of them all, grow too big for all three houses and therefore live under their own roof at home, at work, and in thought. This does not mean that they cannot be employed: it only means that whenever they are employed it is to accomplish a mission, not to do a job. The key difference is in the power differentials of the employment relationship: men who are engaged on a mission relate to their employers as equals, while those who are engaged to do a job can only relate to their employers as the inferior partners in the relationship. The former, therefore, have far greater power in setting the terms of their employment and so cannot be said to be living under their employer’s roof. What would be more accurate is to say that they bring their own roof to the workplace, and it is under that roof cleverly meshed with the employer’s that they work.
I often hear successful businessmen boast: “I have never worked for anyone a single day.” No one should be belittled for having once been an employee just as no one should be criticized for having attended school or for having grown up in their parents’ house. These are all nurseries that prepare us to stand on our own. Even great oaks once stood in a nursery. The crime, it should be said, is not in once having stood there but in failing to outgrow it.
(Author-poet Agona Apell is the author of The Success Genome Unravelled: Turning men from rot to rock)