Winning for everyone starts with serving other people’s needs, and finishes with rewards that benefit all.
To illustrate this idea, I’d like to share with you two stories.
One of a teacher, and one of an entrepreneur.
Marva Collins: Serving the students
Marva Collins was a Chicago school teacher for 14 years.
She was living in a poor neighborhood of Chicago US.
Marva Collins was unhappy with the education system, which, for her, set the children for failure.
So she decided to start her own low-cost private school in 1975.
She started her school in her kitchen, with 2 of her kids, and 2 neighbor’s kids.
Most of her students were Public school dropouts.
Like this kid who’s been in and out of 13 schools.
Or Tommy who always expressed the desire to kill himself.
Or Arnold Rogers who had gone through an army of psychologists and social workers.
All those kids have something in common.
They were labeled “unteachable” or “emotionally disturbed” by the public schools.
For many of them, Marva’s school was the last resort.
She used to start her classes by saying:
“Welcome to success, Say goodbye to failure. You are here to win, and you were born to win. We are going to do a lot of believing in ourselves”.
And because she believed there was nothing wrong with those kids, she turned them into enthusiastic learners.
By the 4th grade, those same “unteachable” were reading Shakespeare and Plato.
Each one of her students ends up in College and graduates from it.
How did she achieve such success?
By doing 3 things.
The first one is helping the children gain self-confidence.
She always praises and finds something positive to say to the children.
The second one is encouraging her students to think for themselves.
She used to ask them questions that stimulate their critical thinking.
The third one is removing their limiting beliefs.
She exposed the children to difficult readings like Dante or Pascal.
While public schools were lowering the standards for the students, Marva Collins was rising them.
Ghetto children of 7, 8, and 9 years old, were reading and reciting Shakespeare.
That’s what got her the media’s attention in the first place.
She became a celebrity.
A movie was made about her method called The Marva Collins Story.
People from around the world came to her school to learn her techniques.
Two US presidents offered her the post of Secretary of Education.
She turned down both offers to focus on children.
This is winning for everyone: a human service that leads everyone to win.
Her graduates had better opportunities in life.
Her school welcomed more students.
And her method spread around the world to benefit others.
Brunello Cucinelli: Serving Employees and Community
Nothing special about the Cucinelli family. They were just farmers.
But things start changing when Brunello’s father went from farming to working in a factory.
“What have I done evil to God to be subject to such humiliation?” his father used to say after work.
The teary eyes of the father will shape the son’s vision of the workplace.
Today, Brunello Cucinelli is known as the “king of cashmere”.
He’s the founder of the eponymous luxury brand valued at €1.6 billion.
What makes him worthy of mentioning is his persona and radical approach to business.
Here are some of his actions that caught my attention and aroused my curiosity:
1- He gives 20 percent of his company’s profits to his charitable foundation in the name of “human dignity”.
2- He pays his workers wages that are 20 percent higher than the industry standard.
3- Employees start at 8 AM and stop at 5.30 PM, after which work is forbidden. They have a 90 minutes lunch break. And Emails are not allowed after work or during weekends.
4- Solomeo was an abandoned Italian medieval hamlet. He set the headquarters there and turned Solomeo into an area devoted to culture, art, traditions, history, and happy life.
5- Cucinelli founded The School of Arts and Crafts in Solomeo. The goal is to maintain the Italian craftsman traditions. After school, young people are free to work either at his company or for another Italian company.
Brunello Cucinelli work’s philosophy
Through his writings, he’s promoting the idea of “humanistic capitalism”.
At the core of this idea are the concepts of fairness and dignity.
About fair working hours, he said:
“I have always claimed that the human being should work a fair amount of hours, that is eight hours a day, and after that it is necessary to devote time to your spirit, your soul and your body.”
Before going public, he told the investors about his vision for a fair and sustainable profit:
“Are you looking for a company that grows very fast, that makes profits that are too high, in our view, quick profits? Do not invest in our company. Do you want a company that grows in a gracious way? That allows suppliers to grow alongside it, so that our artisans can grow as well as the company’s staff?”
Finally, seeing his father offended made him understand that dignity at work is a fundamental need. He said:
“Man needs dignity more than bread.”
He also built a monument that says: “Tribute to Human Dignity.”
By striking a balance between profit and giving back, Cucinelli allows everyone to win- the business, others, and himself.
Marcus Aurelius (someone Cucinelli quotes a lot) said about serving others:
“By supporting the needs of humanity, you’ll find peace.”
Final Thoughts on serving others
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: Every single one of you is a shepherd and every single one of you is responsible for his flock.
One of the roles of a shepherd is to take great care of his flock.
Similarly, we are called to meet the individual needs of people, from the closest to the farthest.
The two stories above are from different universes.
But the common point is winning together– serving people’s needs ends up with a win for everyone.
Coach John Wooden expressed this concept elegantly when he said:
“There is a wonderful, almost mystical, law of nature that says three of the things we want most—happiness, freedom, and peace of mind—are always attained when we give them to others. Give it away to get it back.”
Article posted the 6 March 2021
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