My friend and colleague, Dr. Adolph Brown III, would always say to our staff and students, “You have a choice in the position you want to take in this organization and in life … Balcony or basement.” I will give you a moment to scratch your head on that one while I tell you the story of Mr. B and Ms. B.
Once upon a time, there were two people, Ms. B and Mr. B, who were very talented in their professions. They were both blessed by God to rise up in the ranks of their respective organizations. Many people helped them along the way toward their success. Soon they were in a position to reach out and touch others.
Let us first look at the type of help they received. They both came from a fairly traditional American home (if there is such a thing these days) you know … father, mother, sister, brother, dog, cat, food, clothing, and shelter. Neither were extremely poor or wealthy families—like I said, an average American family. They both did fairly well in school. However, school is also where they parted ways. You see, in school, their lives were not equal. Ms. B struggled because she was not very strong in math and science and she happened to have math and science teachers that felt it was not as important for girls to be strong in these subjects as boys. She had to work extremely hard to remain competitive and to keep her grades up. Mr. B did not have that issue; he was given a tutor and he was given extra attention concerning his future plans. No one was very impressed with Ms. B’s career choice and it showed in the amount of assistance she received from teachers and counselors.
Let’s move ahead a few years. Mr. B and Ms. B both graduated with honors and full scholarships to the university of their choice and in the fields of their choice. Again, Mr. B’s university catered to his academic needs by providing the necessary tools he needed to be success. Ms. B’s university also provided the same necessary tools, however, Ms. B chose a career that is not a traditional field for a woman; therefore, she was, again, not given the full attention of her advisors and counselors. Many times she was told that she might consider a less “arduous” field of study. However, she maintained her position and worked diligently toward her goal. The day came when both Mr. B and Ms. B graduated, again with honors in their respective fields. Throughout their careers they both had ups and downs, but were able to achieve their goals and were employed by the finest organizations.
Mr. B was able to move quickly because he was always in the right place at the right time. He was very competitive and very dogmatic in his approach to every situation. This attitude also was evident in his personal life, especially with his sons. He felt that their struggles were self-made because they did not press hard toward the mark. He offered some assistance but basically expected them to figure it out for themselves. After all, no one really helped him—he had to pull himself up by his own bootstraps. He studied and worked very hard to get where he is and they should do the same. At work, he had the same attitude with his staff. He felt it was not his responsibility to pull them up. Although his employers were very pleased with his work and his dedication to the organization, they were not impressed with his lack of interest in the needs of those less fortunate. He did not make himself available to help his staff and volunteered as little time as possible in the various community projects sponsored by his organization. His stance in life was that he worked hard to get where he was and others should do the same.
Ms. B had many struggles because of the career field she chose. She had to prove herself on every end. With every assignment she was given, she worked hard, asked the right questions, and soon proved that she was exactly where she was suppose to be. Her supervisors were always impressed, not only with her actual performance, but more so with her strength and her humility which explained her determination and ability to walk alongside any man in the organization. They were also impressed with her passion for helping others in the field. Because of her struggle in math and science, she volunteered as a tutor in the local high school and at her church. She also became a mentor to young people, especially girls, who were interested in her field. What amazed them more than anything was her ability to take off her work hat at the end of every day and become a devoted wife and mother. Her perspective in life was that regardless of the assistance, or lack of assistance, she received along her path, it all helped her to be where she is today. She feels that it is her responsibility to help young people understand that hard work is a good thing and that you should always want to reach back and help someone walk their path.
So, are you still scratching your head about the basement/balcony thing? Well, let me break it down for you. As we look at the characteristics of the basement/balcony concept, we see that people chose their position in life. Basement/balcony people come from all types of lifestyles, races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and socioeconomic statuses. Everyone chooses to accept or not accept assistance in achieving their life goals. Everyone decides what their responsibility is to others. Basement people are the ones that feel they are where they are only because of their efforts or lack of effort. They feel that they achieved their goals with very little assistance from others or that they did not achieve their goals because of the lack of assistance from others and that others prevented them from realizing their achievements. Basement people feel that people who were in a position to help them were doing their job—nothing more. Basement people feel that they are not responsible for anyone else’s success and in some cases will allow them to fail as oppose to help them.
Balcony people, obviously, are the exact opposite. They recognize that they would not be where they are without the efforts, both negative and positive, of others. They recognize that they are where they are because of the choices they made and that those choices paved the road they walked. Balcony people believe that it is their responsibility to set an example for others by performing their daily task with their highest caliber of integrity. They also innately believe that it is their responsibility to help others achieve. Just as they had to stand on the shoulders of someone to move up, now their shoulders are to become the ladder for someone coming up behind them. They believe that a smile brightens up a day and the lives of many and that a listening ear can move mountains.
Mr. B and Ms. B both had good and bad influences that helped them to get where they are today. Mr. B had no struggles because everyone he needed was right there for him. He had to prove to his employers that he was capable of the job, but he did not have to fight for his right to be where he was. Ms. B, on the other hand, had several struggles because she was a woman in a man’s world. She had to work hard and she had to prove her position. Over time, she was able to show people that she was capable and that others coming up behind her were also capable. It should be obvious that Mr. B portrays the characteristics of a basement person and that Ms. B portrays the characteristics of a balcony person.
There are many examples in the Bible that portray both basement and balcony personalities. However, even if you are not a Bible-reading person, you know the golden rule, which is Matthew 7:12 (taken from the Clear Word Bible translation): “So do the same good things for others that you would want them to do for you. That’s what the law and the prophets are all about.” Also if you just read about the life of Christ you will see that he lived his life teaching and showing others how they should live and help others in order to have a better life.
Which character are you, basement or balcony?