Work is Not a Four-Letter Word

I saw an interesting post on Facebook from one of the kids I watched grow up in the neighborhood.

“Labor Day the communist holiday!”

I’m sure he was just having some fun, but it got me thinking how young adults see work very different from past generations.  We saw work as an opportunity to achieve all of our goals and dreams.  In other words, we saw it as a way to get a car.  Most of the kids I know today just see work as a hassle and something to be avoided.  Heck, most of the kids I know don’t even have cars.  Times have definitely changed.

Why it Pays to Work Hard

War Department Labor Poster

Image by DonkeyHotey

Anyone who watches any sport realizes the star players make a lot more money than the others.  A baseball player with a .300 batting average often makes four or five times as much as a player who hits .250.  There is always someone who is willing to pay top dollar for the top performers in any field.  Everyone else is competing for the scraps and left-overs.  Even if your employer fails to recognize your talent and effort, someone else will.  If you have your own business, you will be picking up the best customers, instead of your lagging competitors.

Everyone knows that times are tough right now.  The bad news is they may be getting tougher.  Even if we do recover from this prolonged recession, millions of good paying jobs may have been lost permanently.  Corporations are banking record profits and squeezing maximum productivity from employees.  Most of the new jobs being created are low-paying retail positions.  The gap between the haves and the have-nots is going to continue to widen.  Now, more than ever, it’s important to be a top performer.

A Good Start is Important

The unemployment rate for teenagers is almost 25% in the U.S. and much higher in other countries.  Young people with college degrees are having a tough time finding work in their field.  Employment experts believe many will have permanently lower incomes, just by graduating into this recession.  College grads are supposed to be the winners in our society, but they are struggling, along with everyone else.  The kids I see winning right now are the ones who have worked through college or completed an internship.  Those who come out of college in their 20s and have never held a job aren’t finding a receptive market.  Employers can afford to be choosy right now and they are only hiring the best and brightest.

I was 17 years old during the Jimmy Carter recession and conditions were very similar to what they are now.  It took me six months to get a job as a box boy at the local supermarket.  I showed up twice a week and got the only open position in six months.  Tough times call for tough measures and a lot more hustle.  There are good jobs out there, but most of them aren’t being advertised.  If you are looking for work, it’s important to knock on doors and hit up your friends and family.

Employment is an Opportunity

Employment is much more than an exchange of hours for pay.  It is an opportunity to reward yourself from hard work and dedication.  It’s also an opportunity for your employer to enrich themselves to from your efforts and talent.  Understanding this is the key to success in employment.  Those who shirk their workload or resent their employer’s income aren’t going anywhere.  People who want a bigger piece of the pie need to find ways to help enrich their employer and share in the reward.

I chuckle at the people who post on Facebook about how much Monday sucks or about how happy they are that it’s finally Friday.  To them, work is a burden or jail sentence.  It is something to loathe for 40 hours, while they are dreaming about freedom on the weekend.  I have a different attitude.  I like to enjoy every day, whether I have to work or not.  Life is too short to live in drudgery.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that truly happy people like their jobs. They know each day is a gift and every problem an opportunity. Truly happy people like to give of themselves and have gratitude for everything they receive.

Happy Labor Day!

“Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.”

Ulysses S. Grant – 18th President of the United States

Recommended Reading

Barbara Friedberg – Positive and Negative Consequences of Globalization
First Generation White Collar  – Work is Just Like School
The Biz of Life – Happy Capital Day

14 comments to Work is Not a Four-Letter Word

  • Nicely put Bret. Not that one should aim to work for others forever, but for me there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of a paycheck. Someone is willing to give me money in exchange for what I know and what I can do to help their business or organization. That’s pretty cool!
    Kurt @ Money Counselor recently posted..Tweets and Links, Week Ending 2012-09-01My Profile

    • I feel the same way Kurt. I really want to have my own business at some point. But, right now, I have the best job of my career. And, I make the most I have ever made. So, I am really thankful for the benefits and the paycheck. More important, I am thankful I enjoy going to work every day.
      Bret recently posted..The High Cost of Planned ObsolescenceMy Profile

  • I totally agree Bret. It seems as if people want to take the path of lease resistance but still get the big reward at the end. That just doesn’t happen unless you’ve acquired the skill to work hard for what you want.

    I own 2 businesses, my blog, and the family business which I just took over in 2009. My father started that business in the early 1980’s while also running the family farm and over the years of working hard was able to turn that business into a decent success.

    • Hi Chris,

      It seems like some people have lost the hustle, that makes all of the difference. If you check out at 5:00 and watch TV, you just can’t get ahead.

      I have always had a demanding job, plus a side gig. This blog alone takes about 20 hours per week. For many years, I went to college on top of that. It’s the only way I know to pull ahead in life, instead of settling for what comes along.
      Bret recently posted..How to Make Money In the Stock Market For BeginnersMy Profile

  • Danyelle Franciosa

    Yeah you are true there. I hate this reality, that many graduate people are still unemployed and some graduate students fall into the wrong field of work.

    If this situation continue to arise, many individuals will suffer.

    • Hi Danyelle,

      Millions of graduates are suffering and I hope the job market improves soon. I even had one person knock on the company door looking for a job and I used to coach him in baseball with my son. A motivated young man like him with a biology degree shouldn’t have that much trouble finding a job.
      Bret recently posted..How Large Corporations Skirt TaxesMy Profile

  • I can’t say that I’ve seen the same thing. Most people I know who have a career that they want to do, are very enthusiastic. It’s usually those that are still trying to “figure out” what they want to do who are aimlessly wandering about. I think that it might be universal and not generational.

    I digress.

    You are completely right. Employers aren’t about to give large pay increases to just anyone. They will reward those that perform well. I started out working at a very low salary, but have worked my way up in only a few years. I’m definitely earning more than the average professional now.
    JP @ My Family Finances recently posted..How to Save Money Without Giving Up Your Social LifeMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by JP.

      I clearly remember trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I was young and having no idea. I asked my Dad what I should do and he told me, “Don’t worry about it, nobody knows what they want to do when they are 18.” He was right and I didn’t figure it out until I was 21.

      The difference between me and most of the kids I know who are that age right now, is that I hustled until I figured it out. I worked hard, bought a car, moved out and took classes in college. Most of my friends who wandered aimlessly when they were young, still are.

      Like you, I started at a very low salary in my field and worked my way up to a high salary. Unlike you, it took me about a decade, instead of a couple of years. Still, hustle was the key to my success and I strongly recommend it to others.

  • Is hard work becoming outdated? I know people at work who are happy with putting in 40 hours. In Europe, even less. And in Asia, 48 hours is standard. Will the hardworking countries overtake the “developed” world who want to take it easy?
    Andrew @ 101 Centavos recently posted..Gunning Up Your Investments, Part 2My Profile

    • “Will the hardworking countries overtake the developed world who want to take it easy?”

      That’s a great question Andrew. My opinion is yes, the hard-working countries will excel, but not all of them are developing. For example, the people of Germany, Japan, Asia, India and the U.S. work hard and are doing well. Others, who are known for taking it easy, aren’t doing so well.

      I worked for two Japanese companies in the 80s and 90s. I still remember them being upset about working Saturdays, while we got it off. I believe they stopped working Saturdays in the 90s.

      At my last company, I had three programmers in Bangalore India who worked for me. They were very dedicated and did pretty well, compared to others in their country.

      At the company I work at now, I asked the President of our German distributor about the EU crisis. He was very candid about how the Greeks wanted to work fewer hours and retire at 50, while the Germans worked 40 hours and retired at 65. He didn’t feel it was right to have to support them.
      Bret recently posted..How to Make Money In the Stock Market For BeginnersMy Profile

  • Jennifer

    I completely agree with the post. Would like to add a bit. It’s no secret that children begin to adopt the opinions and attitudes of their parents. If this spirit of dissatisfaction finds its way into the home, kids begin to believe that work is bad. But work is not bad. It is not a punishment or curse. It is the means by which we share our unique gifts, talents, and skills with the world. Just think where the world would be today without the works of Edison, Einstein, Jobs, Gates, the Wright Brothers, Ford, and others. So yeah..Work is beneficial.
    Jennifer Goldblum

    • Thanks for stopping by Jennifer.

      I believe the younger generation’s ideals regarding work have more to do with their peers than their parents. At least, that is what I see happening in my own household. Although, I have seen a number of articles that say kids watching their parents getting laid off creates a lack of trust, ambition and loyalty to employers. I can easily believe that’s true.
      Bret recently posted..The High Cost of Planned ObsolescenceMy Profile