My Wage: A Life Lesson From Poet J.B. Rittenhouse


“My Wage” by J.B. Rittenhouse

I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening when
I counted my scanty store.

For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.

Life Would Have Willingly Paid

I found this poem today while reading a book. I stopped and re-read it a few times and laughed to myself.

How low did I set my wage?” I asked myself.

The answer? Really damn low.

I didn’t think I’d ever accomplish much of anything really. I set my wage at “minimum”. And for many years – I earned a minimum wage.

Most of us set our own wage low. We base our potential on our circumstances. We’re told in school to “set realistic goals” like… becoming our fathers. And if there’s no one else to talk us out of our dreams, we do it ourselves.

Then slowly, as the years have go by you take a few chances. You discover you can do more than you thought you could. With each win, you build a little more faith in yourself.

You start to set bigger goals than you think you can achieve – and then you achieve them. You feel the surge of confidence and set your sites higher again.

Slowly you realize:

  1. Your past doesn’t determine your future.
  2. You are not a victim of circumstance.
  3. You have unlimited power and potential to do great things.
  4. You started at the same place every great leader started.

You were born.

All you have to do now, is convince yourself that you were born to win.

Setting Your Own Wage

Rittenhouse’s poem tells us that whatever we ask for from Life, Life will give. So in order to succeed you have to ask Life for the right things.

Forget your circumstances. Most of us aren’t born to millionaire/billionaire parents. It’s easy to accept our humble beginnings as our fate in life. But that’s really not true. Some of the most rich, famous and successful people in the world started with nothing. The only difference between these people and the rest of us is they had vision – and saw their circumstances as a starting point and not a finish line.

Forget your parents. Our parents are our first role models. But they don’t have to be our last. If your parents aren’t very inspiring find someone else who is. You can love your parents, but their lives are by no means your limitation.

Forget your “friends”. One important lesson I’ve learned over the years is that your friends can be much more dangerous than your enemies. Enemies are easy – you know they want to take you down. But “friends” are harder – and might take you down faster, or work to keep you were you are – just to feel better about themselves.

Set bigger goals. If you want to accomplish bigger things you have to set bigger goals. One great piece of advice I got was to set your goal 10x bigger than you think you can accomplish. That way – even if you only accomplish half of it,  you’re still doing 5x more than you thought you could.

So What’s Your Wage?

Our natural tendency as humans is to set our goals based on our current circumstances. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Every one of us has the potential to do bigger and better things.

My goal is to never again be trapped by limited thinking. It crippled me for years. I hope that by writing this I can encourage you to look beyond where you are now and consider what could be.

Remember, If you are not happy with the wage Life is paying you right now…

Ask Life for another one.

  • Domen Campa

    Love this poem! I’ve read it in a book too, but can’t remember in which one. Was it Think and grow rich?

    • Malan Darras

      I saw it in The One Thing. I’m sure it’s referenced in a lot of different books. It’s such a great poem

  • Petri Jarvinen

    Born to loose, Live to win! // Lemmy..

  • Jean-Marie Porchet

    You wouldn’t know how timely your post is.
    Thank you

    • Malan Darras

      it was timely for me as well Jean-Marie – you’re welcome

  • henriper

    Amazing how this sort of enlightening stuff comes up just at the right time in one’s life.. They say that a book usually find you (depending on your current needs) other than you finding the book.. I guess same applies with the poem that triggered this excellent post.

  • Mitesh

    How did you convince yourself to do great things Malan and change your life in the process? I’m stuck in that mentality that I may never make it with my business goals as I get more money working for someone else (even though its min. wage) than I ever did by starting things. Just what I needed. Thank you for writing this.