If a surgeon and janitor work 40 hours per week what determines the income disparity between them?
The surgeon earns $20,000.00 for the week. The janitor earns $200.00 for the week. They both only work 40 hours. What, then, separates them if both work the same hours every week? Why the huge disparity in incomes?
A notable author said when describing worth,
“A person is worth: The job they do, their ability to do ‘what’ they do AND the DIFFICULTY in replacing them.”
Type of work + Abilities + Difficulty of work= Wealth level
(School teachers are some of the hardest working people I know yet the least paid for their labors. There are exceptions to every rule by man. So our formula is empirical.)
Using this formula what is the level of difficulty in replacing a janitor? How long will it take? Answer: It would take less than a day. How long will it take to replace a surgeon? Answer: Sometimes they are hardly replaced.
And this is our formula and by it how man judges man. So what then separates our janitor from our surgeon? Answer: Knowledge.
To become a surgeon requires:
1. 12 years to high school.
2. 4 years of college
3. 4 years of Medical school
4. Then 3-8 years of Residency
That averages 25 years of learning.
To become a janitor requires:
1. Less than 12 years of high school
What separates and distinguishes fundamental differences between peoples is not the color of their skin but the differences in their acquisition of knowledge. And that knowledge affects how they see themselves in society and how others see them. Indeed Allah, The One, we worship is the Giver to all, Muslim and non Muslims alike.
The formula above is no indication that the janitor is any less human or productive in life than the surgeon. Moreover the janitor may be the football coach, bus driver and restaurant owner. His life’s impact upon humanity, as a whole, may be greater than that of the surgeon’s. But when it comes to servicing humanity the surgeon’s knowledge allows him to offer a greater service to mankind than the janitor’s. Yes the janitor can also get in the bus and drive your child home. But if an accident occurs it’s the surgeon fighting to keep that child alive if the child is harmed in a bus accident and we ask Allah for safety.
As a parent you would not want the bus driver operating on your child to keep him alive. You would want the surgeon in that operating room digging in your child, cutting your child and ordering everyone around in triage on what they should be doing. At that moment he’s the most important person alive. His knowledge allows him to rise above all of mankind even if only for 4 hours a day or less.
So when his job is done, as he walks out to you, looks you in the eyes and says, “He’s fine. Let’s watch over him for a few days and he can go home. We’ve stopped the bleeding so we’ll keep his food intake low.”, you would think-there could never be a better voice than his at that moment. You would be thankful to Allah and tremendously relieved. Because his acquisition of knowledge over 25 years has made a profound impact on your life and the life of your family by the decision of Allah.
Later on you get the medical bill from the surgeon. 4 hours of work for $18,000.00. The last thing you think about is, “Why did the surgeon charge me so much?”, no, you only think, “How much will my insurance pay and what am I left to pay on my own?” It never comes to your mind that he’s not worth what he charged.
No one likes to be called dumb or stupid. Everyone likes to be known as being smart wether they are smart or not. Knowledge and its acquisition is fundamentally important. We get what we give. There is opportunity for many to excel yet most don’t take it. Because knowledge comes at a price in mostly time and sacrifice.
Using this example we don’t need to talk to our children about money or making money. That’s the language of people who have truly missed the point. They’re either broke or on their way to it. People who “make” money don’t talk about “making” money and that’s not what we as parents should really be talking to our children about. What we need to discuss with our children is, “What do you want in your life and how will you service mankind to get the life you want for yourself?”
Allah has decreed that we trade amongst one another. We trade in our time and labor as a service. Our service to others decides our wealth, nothing more. There is no income/money without service. “Even a thief works.”
Service is that utility that generates wealth. Focusing upon our service to others is focusing upon that which brings about our better welfare through wealth generation. Allah blesses the one who does honest, equitable trading with others seeking His help, His face.
Now the paradox:
Understanding “service as a utility” that generates wealth is where the janitor can beat the surgeon. How? Who said the janitor only worked at one location? Why can’t he be the owner of a janitorial company who has service contracts with most of the hospitals our surgeon labors at? By having contracts our janitor has turned his labor into a utility of service that now serves masses of people. He now hires others to do his job. He replaces himself with 40 or more employees working at many hospitals cleaning floors and removing trash.
Now both men, the janitor and the surgeon enjoy the same levels of lifestyle. Each goes to Hajj paying the way for relatives and friends alike to take the blessed journey. Each have their families within homes that give them the stability a family needs. Each have their children in better schools to give his child the advantage needed in their years to come when they become adults and must carry the family name forward.
The surgeon liked school and the one who became a janitor wasn’t too fond of it. But they both wanted things in life and had visions of a better life their parents could not afford. Each are happy with the choices they made.
Most people are more afraid of being successful than they are annoyed and distrubed by being failures. Most people don’t succeed or achieve happiness because they simply do not place themselves in the circumstances that would bring happiness about. They will do whatever they can to sabotage any chance of becoming successful and achieving happiness. For people like these if happiness is a road, they take the river instead.
Life is about choices and choices decides one’s life. “We are where we are because of the decisions we alone have made.”
Making the right choices and choosing the right people who can help you reach your destination in this life and the next is what it’s all about. Don’t waste your time with those who waste time and place little if any value on it. Alas time is all any of us truly have.
Beware of the Vampires. They are those who spread doubt, darkness and offer no encouragement. They desire that you sit, wait and die. If you smile they run to put it out like your hair were on fire.
But for those who worship Allah, single Him out for all worship and put their trust completely in Him, very little impact does the creation have upon these people. They look to the One above the heavens as they seek their daily need. They are happy in failure because they truly know they tried. They’re happy with success because they truly know Allah, supported them and decreed it to be. They give their wealth in private and seek none and no groups for favors.
When fitnah is around they are not-except to advise in private and keep it moving. They want good for the Muslims and give rights due to all, Muslims and non Muslims alike. They thank mankind for what’s done to them because they believe that is also thanking Allah. They know without doubt that good character is from eemaan, faith in Allah, The Alone. So they strive to be good especially when the creation threatens to abandon them for doing it.
Focusing our time on offering our services to others or using it to get knowledge, many don’t have, is that road which can lead to higher ground where happiness can be found with the help of Allah.
Put your trust in Allah, be with those who are smarter than you are and rise to benefit firstly yourself, your family, then others.
And Allah knows best.
-Abu Muhammad Abdullah al-Looweesi’aani