How much are you worth?
A short parable about self-confidence
Once, a youth went to see a wise man, and said to him:
’I have come seeking advice, for I am tormented by feelings of worthlessness and no longer wish to live. Everyone tells me that I am a failure and a fool. I beg you, Master, help me!’
The wise man glanced at the youth, and answered hurriedly: ’Forgive me, but I am very busy right now and cannot help you. There is one urgent matter in particular which I need to attend to...’ — and here he stopped, for a moment, thinking, then added: ’But if you agree to help me, I will happily return the favour.’
’Of...of course, Master!’ muttered the youth, noting bitterly that yet again his concerns had been dismissed as unimportant. ’Good’, said the wise man, and took off a small ring with a beautiful gem from his finger.
’Take my horse and go to the market square! I urgently need to sell this ring in order to pay off a debt. Try to get a decent price for it, and do not settle for anything less than one gold coin! Go right now, and come back as quick as you can!’
The youth took the ring and galloped off. When he arrived at the market square, he showed it to the various traders, who at first examined it with close interest. But no sooner had they heard that it would sell only in exchange for gold than they completely lost interest. Some of the traders laughed openly at the boy, others simply turned away. Only one aged merchant was decent enough to explain to him that a gold coin was too high a price to pay for such a ring, and that he was more likely to be offered only copper, or at best, possibly silver.
When he heard these words, the youth became very upset, for he remembered the old man’s instruction not to accept anything less than gold. Having already gone through the whole market looking for a buyer among hundreds of people, he saddled the horse and set off. Feeling thoroughly depressed by his failure, he returned to see the wise man.
’Master, I was unable to carry out your request’, he said. ’At best I would have been able to get a couple of silver coins, but you told me not to agree to anything less than gold! But they told me that this ring isn’t worth that much.’
’That’s a very important point, my boy!’ the wise man responded. Before trying to sell a ring, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to establish how valuable it really is! And who can do that better than a jeweller? Ride over to him and find out what his price is. Only don’t sell it to him, regardless of what he offers you! Instead, come back to me straightaway.’
The young man once more leapt up on to the horse and set off to see the jeweller. The latter examined the ring through a magnifying glass for a long time, then weighed it on a set of tiny scales. Finally, he turned to the youth and said:
’Tell your master that right now I can’t give him more than 58 gold coins for it. But if he gives me some time, I will buy the ring for 70.’
’70 gold coins?!’ exclaimed the youth. He laughed, thanked the jeweller and rushed back at full speed to the wise man. When the latter heard the story from the now animated youth, he told him: ’Remember, my boy, that you are like this ring. Precious, and unique! And only a real expert can appreciate your true value. So why are you wasting your time wandering through the market and heeding the opinion of any old fool?’