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Fill In What You Deserve

One of the things I admire in the younger generation is their belief in their own worth.

Unlike them, I never got any assertive training at school. We learnt from the hard-knock school of life.

That's why, even to this day, I and others of my generation, often pause when we need to charge for our services or set a price for our products.

It all goes back to a fear that we might be making a mistake about our own self-worth and that, if we get it wrong, some terrible act of retribution will follow with a voice from the skies demanding to know, "Just who do you think you are!"

That's why I love the following story from Scott Kachelstein who's a singer and speaker from America.

"I remember the first time I was ever paid for my musical services. No one asked me my fee and I was so excited to be getting the job that I didn't bring the subject up either.

After my performance, the man who had hired me took me aside to discuss payment. His words sent my head spinning. "Here's a cheque. It's blank. Fill in what you think you deserve."

He stepped a few feet away from me and waited patiently, a smirk on his face, as if he was saying, "Now's your chance, kid. Step up to bat and tell yourself, tell me, and God how much you value yourself." I looked at the cheque in my hands, a little slip of paper with no numbers, no zeros. Freedom of choice had never felt so intimidating.

I didn't like that moment!! I wanted someone to tell me what I was worth. I wanted familiar boxes and lines of definition, not free will and open space! I took a deep breath, pondering just how much I felt OK being paid. Gulping, I added fifty dollars, wrote it down and handed the cheque back, trembling all the way.

He glanced at it, smiled, and we said goodbye. The sky didn't fall down, and the world didn't come apart. And that's what I was paid. Now, eighteen years later, if anyone dared to pay me like that again I might consider adding a zero to my comfort zone!"

The fact is, there are no such things as fixed values for anything. The global credit crunch and the plunging property markets should tell us that.

As Anthony Trollope said, "Never think that you're not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you much at your own reckoning."

Or, as Scott Kachelstein says about your life's remuneration: "That's pretty much what God says to you before you come to earth: Here's a life. It's blank. Fill in what you think you deserve. Fill in what your heart longs for." And that's what you'll be paid.