The Reward of Study

An ambitious young man had travelled far from his family and native land to study in a distant and foreign country. For seven years he applied himself with discipline and diligence to learn the art and science of physiognomy, the skill of detecting personality and character in the faces of others.

He qualified with honours and set off on the long journey back to his homeland. On his way he missed no opportunity to test his skills in reading the personality of others in their faces. Travelling across a wide and inhospitable valley where there was little provision or shelter available, the student met a man upon whose face was stamped the worst of all passions. In the leathery features of this man’s face the student read greed, gluttony, lust, envy, anger, avarice, and foul intent.

But when the man approached the student, his face broke into a broad smile and with a warm, kind, and gentle voice he invited the student to stay with him and recover from the journey in his house. »It is but a simple place,« the man told him, »but you are most welcome to rest from the rigours of your journey. Relax here and make yourself at home. What’s mine is yours. Consider yourself my guest. Go no further tonight for the next village is far away.« The student was mightily confused by this. He feared that all his studies were wasted, that seven years of rigorous discipline was no more than the value of bottled air.

So in order to check his doubts and fears, the student accepted the invitation. Such was the intensity of the man’s desire to entertain his guest lavishly that the student found it extremely hard to leave. He was pampered with all kinds of sumptuous and tasty foods and delicacies. He was given the sweetest of aromatic nectars, and the most fragrant of teas and infusions to drink. Finally, after several days, the student determined to leave. But when he prepared to mount his saddled horse, the man presented him with an envelope. »Here is your bill, sir.«

The student was taken aback. »Bill? What are you talking about?« The geniality of the host’s face disappeared as swiftly as a rose in acid. He drew a wicked knife from his belt, and thrust it towards the student’s face. His features returned to the malevolent aspect the student had first discerned. »Pay up, you cheating cheap skate. About to run off, were you? Thought you could get away without paying, eh? Do you think I’m made of money to provide you with all the best produce of this region for free? Typical scrounging student.«

The student, who had been caught totally by surprise at this vicious attack and was mesmerised by the dagger held at his throat, suddenly snapped out of his inertia. He opened the envelope and read the bill in which he was charged for everything he had and hadn’t eaten two hundred times over. The money demanded was a staggering sum, far more than the student had with him. But with a broad smile wreathing his face and a lightness in his movement, the student dismounted from the horse and gave it to his former host. He removed his fine hat and travelling cape and handed these over too.

And with joy in every step, the student continued his journey, celebrating with his each and every breath the fact that his seven years of education had not been waste after all.

Source: The Magic of Metaphor: 77 Stories for Teachers, Trainers & Thinkers by: Nick Owen, 2001

Lessons from this story:

  • You need to put in the work and results will come.
  • Find your passion, work hard at it and perfect your craft. Do not doubt yourself.
  • Trust in your skills and knowledge. Always be willing to test yourself and get better.
  • Do not be afraid to experiment.
  • In the end we are sorry for the things we didn’t do and the things we didn’t experience.

Are there any lessons I missed? Please let me know in the comment section.

Source of the featured image: The Reward of Study

I hope you found this post helpful. Let me know what you think. Talk to you in the comment section.


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