By Philip Lower
There’s a parable about not casting your pearls before swine. But, I’m not going to deal with the foolish swine we occasionally run into. However, I do want to apply a natural perspective to a spiritual principal. As almost everyone knows, pearls come from oysters. Oysters come in many different species and in both fresh and salt water varieties. So, without diving too deeply into my gemological training, suffice to say that while both are formed in essentially identical biological processes, salt water pearls are almost always going to be more lustrous than fresh water, in part because of the harshness of the environment.
This being said, why do oysters make pearls? Is it something they simply do periodically? Is it a form of reproduction? No, neither. Simply, pearls are formed because something is irritating the oyster. Whether it is a grain of sand naturally finding its way into the oyster or whether it’s a bead used to seed a cultured pearl from a “farmed oyster,” with a little luck, a pearl is eventually created.
Pearls are thusly graded for quality and critical to evaluating the pearl is the luster and uniformity of the nacre. Nacre that does not have the depth of luster and is pock marked, or dimpled, is going to be less valuable than pearls which are smooth, uniform in shape, and have lustrous appearance. Additionally, the oyster must remain in the flow of nutrients and water passing through its gill to help form the color and essence of the pearl.
The irritants of life we deal with, whether on the job, at home, or wherever, come and go. Some of them we simply blow off. These don’t really deposit anything into us, much like a traffic light not staying green long enough when we’re trying to get somewhere. Other irritants are capable of destroying the oyster much like a toxic supervisor. For these types of toxicities departing is often the only healthy option. (And, they wonder why they have turnover.)
The key to developing a pearl is remaining in the environment and building up the nacre to reduce the effects of the irritation. Now, how valuable the pearl is will depend on our attitude about it. So, while not exactly correct for pearls, the following is for humans.
If you have a bad attitude, you will eventually develop a pearl. But, it will be blistered and ugly. Your negative perception of the good that will eventually come from it is, in fact, almost as ugly as the irritant.
However, the more you try to rise above the irritant, learn and grow with it, the more lustrous will be your nacre. Then, as you develop more depth and personal capacity, your pearl will grow in both size and value that will be reflected in other people’s perception of your value and rarity.
Therefore, don’t harvest your unfinished pearls before the process of your own growth and maturation is complete: i.e. giving up on yourself, and what you can become, by leaving a situation because you think it’s too difficult and don’t see any way to improve it.
Frankly, some of these factors are real and some of them are false. The false ones are frequently only changed by adjusting our attitude and thus your own perception. The real ones require effort and development of our personal skills – usually the non-technical soft skills – like communication and leadership.
If you want to deal with difficult irritants, then learn to deal with the difficult people that are causing the irritation. Work on your time management, or handling conflict, or even improving your active listening. Just be aware that you are frequently also the irritant to someone else’s pearl.
Phil Lower is the Founder of Paladin Business Coaching. we use our unique blend of e-Learning courses, coaching, and training workshops we help leverage technology and bring development to organizations that want to grow in creative and customer-centric ways.