PODCAST: Why we work.
In this age of entitlement, some young people are wondering if they should be enjoying life as opposed to working as diligently as we do. This explains why Millennials do not seriously think about long-term employment. Studies indicate they would rather see the world now, not later, sample new delicacies, relax and play games as opposed to being attached to a career. From their perspective, they have two lives, personal and working, but they do not see them intertwined. This is the antithesis of preceding generations who worked hard, not just to survive, but to prosper.
As someone from the old school, I tend to believe we were put on this planet to work, e.g., to explore, to discover, to invent, to compose, to engineer, to basically leave the world better than how we found it. Of course, this represents evolution, to aspire for perfection, knowing we may never achieve it, but to improve it nonetheless.
Some do not see work in this light as their job may seem too mundane, such as pushing a broom or digging a ditch. However, I believe there is dignity in all forms of work and I, for one, certainly do not look down my nose at anyone regarding their form of employment, as long as they do it professionally. The work of common laborers may seem trivial, but as Michelangelo observed, “Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle.”
To illustrate, a janitor is typically responsible for cleaning, sweeping and tidying up. The cleanliness of the work place has a huge impact on the other workers as studies have shown people work more productively in a clean environment as opposed to a cluttered one. If the janitor doesn’t perform the job properly, it could very easily have an adverse effect on the output of the other employees.
I remember a time when I was working with a customer late at night in a large office. I happened to observe the janitor cleaning up as most of the staff had gone home. He noticed a framed picture was skewed ever so slightly. Where some people would skip over it, he stopped and straightened it. I asked him why, to which he replied, “It just wasn’t right.” In other words, he took his responsibilities seriously and developed a professional attitude which ultimately influenced the lives of others in the office.
To those who take on a professional attitude, there is no separation between personal and working lives, as they are merged into one. Our working life is an extension of our personal life. After all, there is only one you. Even when we are charged to perform a task at work we do not like, this is essentially no different than doing a difficult task in our personal life. The marriage of the two affects both sides; our skills and ethics on our personal side influences our decisions at work, and our working side teaches the personal side new lessons.
When a person decides to retire, it severs an important part of their life. Some people begin to deteriorate shortly thereafter as they have lost their sense of purpose and have difficulty finding a new endeavor to pursue. To illustrate, when American presidents leave office, it is not uncommon to see their health and mental acuity diminish. Lyndon Johnson is a good example. Here is a man who spent his life in government as a member of the House, the Senate, as Vice President, and finally as President. He was a man who stood at the helm during our Viet Nam War and oversaw the civil rights movement. Regardless of how you felt about LBJ, when his term of office was over, and he retired to his Texas ranch, his health declined rapidly and he died just five years later. This is why it is important to remain busy in some pursuit following retirement.
There are fundamentally three reasons why we work:
- Survival – to put food on the table and secure the well-being of ourselves and loved ones.
- Improve the human condition – to go above survival and endeavor to achieve greater things.
- Spirituality – for our mental well-being and development as a person.
As to this last point, learning to work and mastering a craft gives the person a sense of purpose, structure, and sense of accomplishment (reward gratification). It also teaches us to learn the differences between right and wrong thereby affecting our sense of ethics. Bottom-line, work leads to the development of our character, our sense of worth and dignity.
This is why it is important to assume a professional attitude regardless of your job. If you are not happy with your current job or want to do something else, quit and move along, but while you are charged with a task, do it to the best of your ability if, for no other reason, your mental well-being.
Consider the adverse effects on a person who is unemployed. They become unstable and a burden on society. The old adage, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” comes to mind.
On the other hand, “if you find a job you love, you’ll never work again,” as you have found stimulation and fulfillment as a person.
While others want a free ride, there is something to be said about the satisfaction of earning something on your own, which can be very motivational to people and instills pride in our work. I am, therefore, a proponent of the benefits of gainful employment.
Finally, always try to remain positive and never embrace a defeatist attitude. As former President Theodore Roosevelt observed in a talk to schoolchildren in Oyster Bay, Christmas-time 1898:
“There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live – I have no use for the sour-faced man – and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do.”
Keep the Faith!
EDITORS NOTE: This Bryce is Right podcast is republished with permission. All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.