Think, Act and Go Beyond Yourself…

Author: Donna-Marie Rowe

Photo by Kaboompics .com on

While on a trip to St. Vincent, we heard a story that resonated with every listener. The rapt audience consisted of participants in a seminal Leadership Development Programme under the Caribbean Leadership Project. The main characters in the story were a beggar and baker. 

The beggar had a familiar response to the baker, who gifted him with a loaf of bread daily. The man who needed the bread for his sustenance often told the baker, ‘Whatever good you do, you do it for yourself. Whatever bad you do, you do it for yourself.’ This was to be medicine for the heart of the baker especially since the beggar could not repay him.

For years the beggar went to the baker begging for bread and daily the baker would oblige and give him a loaf.  Daily the beggar reminded the baker that whatever good he did, he did for himself and whatever bad he did, he did for himself.  This went on for an enormously long time. One day the beggar went by the baker’s and instead of receiving the usual loaf of bread, he was given a sandwich.  The beggar was pleasantly surprised and reminded the baker that whatever good he did, he did so for himself and whatever bad he did, he did so for himself. 

The beggar decided to take home the sandwich as he wanted to cherish it a little longer than normal.  After all it was not just a loaf of bread as he was used to.  He would enjoy the sandwich at home. 

On his way he met the baker’s two sons who had gone hunting.  They knew their father was always kind to the beggar by giving him a loaf of bread.  They were hungry and so they asked the beggar if their father had given him the usual loaf of bread today.  They were so hungry they told the beggar that if he gave them the bread they would ensure that their father gave him two loaves tomorrow instead. 

The beggar thought long and hard about the sandwich which he received for the first time from the baker and thought, “These are his sons, let me give to them the sandwich which the baker gave me for he has been so kind to me over these many years.”  The beggar gave the baker’s sons the sandwich.  They devoured it and went on their way. 

In the night, the sons started to feel ill and cried out in their pain to their father for help.  Their father was astonished at their writhing and wanted to know what they had eaten that day.  The boys said, “Nothing, other than the sandwich which the beggar got from you”. 

The father held his head in disbelief and wept bitterly.  He had planned that day to get rid of the beggar once and for all for he was tired of the begging.  He had poisoned the sandwich which he now found out his sons ate.  His beloved sons died that night and it was then that the baker remembered the beggar’s recurring words …but it was too late.

Oh how devastated the baker must have been at the end of the day. The evil he concocted, unfortunately impacted his own house and heart. He got weary in well doing but he never did it from a clean heart in the first place. What was he thinking?

The good you do…you do for yourself…eventually

Leaders, at times, are drunk with power. We see that on the world stage even in this time of crisis when decisions need to be made for the benefit of all.

Leadership requires that we look at our purpose…to bring out the best in the people who we lead and to inspire and elicit that which they did not even know they had within themselves. The good you do in investing in your direct reports will see you and your team reaping the successes of growth and increased capacity. Don’t be weary. Keep making the bold moves. Care more than everyone else. Be watchful over your hearts, your intentions and motivations. Be careful of minimising thoughts. Do good, even more so, for those who cannot repay you.

But is it always true that when you do good, you will get good in return? That question may be badgering your mind especially if you are the recipient of a difficult situation, my euphemism for a toxic environment of betrayal, false accusations, covetousness, malice and just pure evil. Instead of complaining and becoming bitter, become better. That is not a cliche. It is the thing to do. It is through these situations that leaders grow. It is through the crisis…the discomfort… that you develop new skills and find new levels of maturity and growth. This is one good that you will be sure to reap. Your faith anchors you in these times when you are shoved outside of your comfort zone. Be encouraged to be the light and go beyond yourself… anyway.

People are illogical, unreasonable and self centered. Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

Excerpt from the “Anyway” poem by Kent M. Keith

Be sure to share your thoughts on when you went beyond yourself especially outside your comfort zone and the outcomes.

PS. It is a great moment to honour the memory of my late beloved Daddy, Donald A. Wallace, who would have celebrated his birthday today. He and my Mom, Doris, went beyond themselves and taught me the joys of writing.

Donna-Marie Rowe has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) since 2009 and is the recipient of the prestigious RJRGleaner Honour Award 2019 for Public Service for her inspiring leadership of the JIS, managing its transformation into a modernized government agency.  


What the world needs now…

Be kind…you may be remembered

The world is in need of kindness, compassion and alternative thoughts to that which bombards us on newscasts and negativity in our heads. That’s why I am here…

This is our space to share:

  • Lessons learnt on a journey of excellence and leadership
  • Provide encouragement that will strengthen you to believe in your purpose




Donna-Marie Rowe

There is no one route to success!

Scores of students were gathering outside the lecture theatre long before the official meeting start.  This was a rare opportunity and students in the Faculty of Arts and General Studies or FAGS for short, felt short changed and less than highly favoured.  They didn’t know it at the time…they felt less than those in the Faculty of Social Sciences where courses in Management Studies were highly sought after.  But their actions this morning showed.  They didn’t realize that they were sending a strong signal to the head of the faculty that they really didn’t want to be in FAGS, that they were just looking for a pass to transfer to the more prestigious Management Studies courses.  Everyone wanted to start at the head of the stream when they graduated.  After all that’s why we came to the University.

When the door finally opened, there was a rush, a mighty rush that saw students scrambling over each other to fill up the waiting seats.  So now there were hundreds of students waiting to get on the quota list for Management Studies courses.  Wow…this was the only way to become marketable it seems.  This was the only way to secure a job when we graduated in three years.  Yes I was in the crowd too.  I was an English Major but I wanted to be able to say “English Major with Management Studies.”  Hmm that had a nice ring to it.  Happily I secured a seat, about 10 or so rows from the back but not quite in the middle.  How come the back was so empty?  Because no one wanted to sit there duh?  In fact students who were late – male and female – plopped themselves down IN THE FRONT of the lecture room.  Yes they were making rows and rows in the front of the SEATS.

And so when Head of FAGS, Mr. Joseph Pereira came in and saw the multitude siting before him and he had little space to maneouvre to the blackboard he became enraged.  He spewed rebukes when he surveyed the room and saw that there were empty seats in the back.  Clearly these brilliant students squatting on the floor thought that this would be a numbering system and that the numbers most definitely couldn’t run out on those in the front, those under the lecturer’s nose, those up- in-your face students who didn’t care about their peers who had in fact arrived earlier and were seated.  They were going to get on that quota list come hell or high water and nothing was going to stop them.  That’s how the corporate world works isn’t it?  Climb over others, shove them out of the way to get where you are going because your success is the only thing that matters.

Wise Mr. Pereira, with one fell swoop and a sharp sweep of the hand ordered them to get out of his face and marched them away to the seats in the back.  He barked at them ever so harshly because he now knew they never really wanted to be in FAGS.  But even more despairingly that these upstarts thought that there was only one way to be successful…get on a quota list for Management Studies courses.

“There is NO ONE ROUTE to success,” he said sternly when he assessed the situation before him.  I made a note of those words in my head.  In fact I engraved them there.  They are among the gems that have kept me going through life.    

I was happy to see him many years later, hold his hands and look in his eyes and let him know he had a profound impact on me that day.  He didn’t seem to understand the depth nor the significance of the moment then.  It just goes to show the power of words to change a moment, to change a mindset, to change a life.

And today, with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the novel coronavirus that is wreaking havoc on the health system in every country, turning lives upside down, causing stress and strain in every sector, many are assessing the route they were taking to their future. We are on lockdown…in quarantine. Told to maintain social or physical distance and the future is now more uncertain than ever before.

What will leaders, the world over, be forced to do? An assessment of the current route is a must. Going where no one has ever gone before is the order of the day. Church leaders are exploring services online. Corporate companies are ramping up work from home facilities. Technology has come to the rescue yet there is need to build the mental and emotional capacity of those we lead to keep pace.

What route will we carve out for ourselves as we chase the elusive concept of success?

Share your thoughts on that new wave that you are now riding as the beacon shines on your journey.




Donna-Marie Rowe