One of my favorite animated movies is Ratatouille, a movie about a rat and a clumsy orphan boy. In the movie, Remy the rat dreamed to be a chef someday like his idol Auguste Gusteau, but all odds were against him—a detestable little rat. Remy became separated from his family and started to live in the sewer pipes in Paris, France while he scrambled to find food. He eventually found himself at the skylight overlooking the great chef Gusteau’s restaurant.
Remy saw a young man named Alfredo who got hired as a garbage collector spill a pot of soup and was trying to recreate it with disastrous outcome. Remy came to the rescue and fixed the soup to perfection. Alfredo caught Remy cooking and was confronted by the restaurant owner. While the restaurant owner was yelling at Alfredo for spilling the soup, Remy’s soup got accidentally served and became a huge success. Skinner the restaurant owner orders Alfredo to kill the rat, but he could not because he discovered Remy’s intelligence and his passion for food. Remy and Alfredo decided to work together. Through their partnership, Remy uncovered information about Alfredo’s late father—Gusteau, which made Alfredo the rightful owner of the restaurant. But Remy was soon exposed and Gusteau’s restaurant closed down. Remy, Colette and Alfredo teamed up to form a new bistro, “La Ratatouille” and became successful.
Even though the story in the movie Ratatouille is fiction, the message within is just as powerful as any real life stories we have heard or seen. I find it very interesting through my own life’s circumstances that help came from the most unlikely places. We tend to underestimate and dismiss people who do not seem to carry value because of the way they look or based on their status in life. Time and time again, our perception of what we think of others is challenged when we see those we look down on excel in what they do. Or maybe we doubt our ability to help others and ourselves excel.
So what can we learn from a rat and a clumsy young man? A lot.
My spiritual mentor spoke a lot on the importance of bridge building. He said never to underestimate anyone based on what you see or how you feel because you never know if the person you just met might be one of the bridges you have to cross on your way to reach your destination; maybe even your only way out of a situation.
When I was younger, I doubted my ability to sing, let alone tour the world. I saw kids my age with great vocal talents who could have started groups that toured the world. I did not see myself as someone who could sing until I was told that I had a good voice. There were people who were more qualified and talented than I was and could have easily attained everything I attained. And yet, here I am, having traveled the world and sang in schools, churches, and for presidents.
I met my friend Daniel in Sunday school who later introduced me to his friend Vusmas. We created a singing trio that traveled around Zambia. When our talent was discovered, we started a vocal group which became famous and toured the world. Five other groups were formed and toured under the vocal group. A lot of people have benefited and a lot of talents have been discovered in the process. On the flip side, Daniel and I could not have done everything we have done without the help of the guys in the vocal group. Together we accomplished a lot and many people have been impacted.
In the past couple of years, I have had the privilege of mentoring couple of computer science graduate students on a web project they were working on as part of their internship with College of Business and Technology. One of the students was offered an internship position by a local business as a developer upon his graduation. He consulted with his professor and me whether he should accept the job. He was offered an entry-level pay with good benefits. We advised him to take the job so he could gain some much needed experience. He decided to decline the position because his family wanted him to move to a bigger city where he could find a job as a developer with a six figure salary. He is still looking for a job.
A lot of times, we think about the destination, rather than focusing on the journey. Sometimes, we forget we have to prove ourselves before we can go to the next level or even before someone can discover our talents. When I started to work for the university, I accepted a position as an educational support tech, which was not what I went to school for. I made the best of it even though it was not a web programming position. I didn’t know how long it would take; I just did what I needed to do with excellence. I even developed a help desk web application for the department to keep track of trouble tickets and inventory even if it was not part of my job description. Someone started to take notice, and before long, I was offered a position as a web developer creating web applications for the university.
I love the quote from Saeed, a character, in my wife’s book, Secrets Kept, “Sometimes the journey is greater than the destination.” This quote nails it for me. When you look at the journey of some of the great minds of our times; people who helped shape our world. They all have one thing in common – determination. They were determined to make the best out of what they were doing and knew they needed others to help them reach their dreams one step at a time. Some had to take odd jobs just to make a living while pursuing their true passion. In the end, someone took notice and was willing to give them a chance.
Not everyone is willing to work for the life they want to live. Life’s journey is not as simple as following the seven steps from a prosperity book or getting degrees from acclaimed universities. It is a journey that is uncertain, full of challenges, yet beautiful as we find our talents and help others in the process.
What’s your life’s journey? Do you remember people who helped you reach your destination, or are you just getting started?