Work ethic

The prospect of going back to work has been on my mind a lot lately. Probably because it is inevitable that I will be forced to, it is food for thought nonetheless. I have to say that despite never really reaching a level of security and financial well-being I did accomplish a lot in my career and if n0thing else I know that some of the things that I did mattered to someone. I was never a guy that took a day off and noone noticed.

My father was a huge influence on me as a worker. More than one person remarked on my work ethic over the years and I simply explained that it is impossible to not be this way if you knew who raised me. My Dad was always working, either at work or on the house or yard. It came naturally to me to help him without being asked and it was unacceptable to sit inside and watch him work. So from an early age I was cutting grass, splitting wood or pounding nails. I didn’t mind, in fact I liked it.

My Dad was the epitome of old-fashioned. He believed in loyalty to a company. He believed in retirement parties and gold watches after 25 years of faithful service. He believed that the company rewards loyalty and that noone will ever succeed by changing jobs every few years. Most of all, he believed in shutting your mouth and doing your job, if you don’t like what you are doing then quit. Otherwise be quiet about it. This approach worked for him and was permanently etched into my psyche. He was a Union truck driver for a good company that he retired with. My mother wasn’t so fortunate.

My mother was the first in our family to experience the “new” corporate America in the 80’s. She was a manager for a now-defunct publishing company that sold textbooks to schools and colleges. They put her through school and she moved up the ladder steadily. 6 weeks before her 25th anniversary with the company she was laid off. They had already ordered the watch. When she asked what the company planned to do about replacing her she was told that S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) would be to replace her with 2 or 3 young college graduates who wouldn’t make cumulatively in one year what my mother did and farm some work out to a developing country. It didn’t matter that she was experienced and very good at what she did and none of her replacements knew the first thing and that the job was sure to suffer.

My parents had very different work experiences. I wanted to believe in my father’s way but my mother’s experience was not lost on me. I vowed that I would be a loyal employee and work hard but if the company was not loyal to me then I would always be prepared to look for something better. But I always stayed true to the basics my father taught me; your employer and you have a contract that if you provide a service then you get paid. It’s not a complicated relationship so don’t let pride and hubris get in the way.; work harder than everyone else and you will move up; be the guy who offers solution, not one who points out the problems; do good work and the rest will fall in place.

I started out in retail, then food service, then sales and finally management. I always managed to be a guy that my employers relied on to go the extra mile per the lessons of my father. I also learned to recognize a zero-sum game when I see it and if the job was a loser or the employer didn’t value me then I applied the lessons of my mother, move on before you become extinct. I developed my own hybrid work-ethic, work hard for those who value you and suck up what you have to because an an adult with responsibilities I needed the job and there was no room for ego unless somehow ego can pay my bills for me.

So going back to work is an intimidating prospect. On one hand I would like to be needed again, especially now that my kids are older and my parental superpowers are no longer needed. On the other hand I don’t know if I am too old-fashioned and jaded to work in certain industries. The last job I had before I got too sick to work was one that hired me for my experience and then never asked me to apply any of that experience despite having more of it than my manager. It was the final time that an employer failed to deliver to me when I delivered for them. How do I avoid that happening again?

I guess that I will know the right opportunity when it presents itself. I have learned an awful lot about people, in particular employers, in my life and my Bullshit detector is calibrated and fail-proof. I will know right away if I can work for someone or not. I know there is someone out there who appreciates a guy with his father’s work ethic and his mother’s resilience.

There has to be.

under the radar

Yesterday I watched President Trump take a moment to share the podium with America’s Truck Drivers. He put some guys front and center and thanked them for their contribution in this time of National crisis. It was a nice moment, one of many across the country honoring the professions that are on the front line at great personal expense as a unseen enemy ravages our Country. Our President knows that America needs heroes, it sells and makes people feel good.

My Dad would have appreciated it. To a degree.

My Dad drove a truck for 35 years. He was unequivocally the hardest working man I have ever met. I say that without bias. His work ethic was unparalleled. If he was to watch yesterday’s press conference he would have watched with interest for a while, smiled and then turned it off. It wouldn’t have been news to him, he always knew that America moved by truck and that just the slightest disruption in the supply chain would expose just how necessary his profession was. He didn’t consider himself a hero or essential. He just liked being needed.

He didn’t pick his industry by accident. He was a talented guy despite only a High School education. He was skilled at carpentry, electrical and plumbing. He renovated/rebuilt our house as we lived in it. But he chose driving a truck because it was one industry that would never be affected by the economy. I will say it again, America moves by truck. Everything would shut down if not for daily deliveries by trucks. I’ve always known this, many are just now learning.

As we honor the nurses, the grocers, the truck drivers, the mail carriers and other essential workers keep it in the back of your mind that it’s a day late and a dollar short. These are the people that have always kept us in the basics of life. They enable us to eat, to maintain communication, to stay or get healthy, to just function. We don’t urge our kids into these jobs because they don’t make what bankers and stockbrokers do. We want our kids to wear suits.

Sure, the world needs stockbrokers and bankers and other people in suits. But somehow in the push to make everyone go to college we forgot that our great Country was built by men in overalls with calloused hands and nearly destroyed several times over by men in suits.

Sure, celebrate the working man today as if it’s a new thing. But the grocery clerks, Nurses, Mail carriers and truck drivers and every other essential worker have always, and will continue to be the one who are making our lives as we know it possible.

When this is over, please remember to respect the Blue Collar. They are our real heroes. My dad would politely thank you. And then he would go back to work.

more on being a man

This is the third installment in my series on being a man. If you have been following this series, you will know that it is a reaction to the attack on masculinity. Being a man has become taboo and traits formerly known as “masculine” are under attack as toxic. I have detailed and acknowledged a few that are indeed toxic and have tried to outline “good” masculinity and the traits that define a good man. So far I have listed Honest, Accountability, Integrity and Humility.

Let me continue.

Work Ethic.
There is an old saying. “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will feed himself for life.”
Why is this significant today? Hard work is under fire in this country. Young people are told that they have to go to college and consequently the trades are suffering. They are told that the dirty hands of the working man is somehow crude and beneath societal standards. Consequently, the unemployed guy with the Philosophy major and 100k in student loan debt is having his power shut off by the guy who went to work for the power company right out of High School, did an apprenticeship, has no debt and is earning 80k a year. Hard work is not a bad thing. Would you rather wear a suit and earn 50k or overalls and make 100k?

There is a push in this country towards Socialism under the guise of Democratic Socialism. I get it, our system is not perfect. There is inequality in all areas of society; income, gender, the list goes on. In many ways it is unfair. Our system is based on free markets and industry which are driven by the workers. At the heart of any booming economy is the drive of the workers to succeed. Because men inherently want to earn, to succeed, to achieve, to accomplish and to win. Not to win against each other, but to collectively win over complacency and the need for a handout. A real man will always choose to work for his paycheck over having one handed to him. The best beer is the one that is placed on a sweaty forehead and then twisted open with dirty hands.

Do more than the bare minimum. Someone will almost always appreciate the extra effort. Don’t just show up, make your mark while you are there. Be a great worker and a greater co-worker. At my Dad’s funeral, several of his co-workers showed up to pay their respects. I asked them one question,
“Was my Dad a good co-worker?” The unanimous response was that he was the best.

The thing about work ethic is that it tends to be learned early on, usually from the father. Myself, I was raised by a man with a tremendous work ethic and I would like to think that I grew up with a similar one. I always wanted to be the best, to be valuable. My dad always said “be the guy that when he calls in sick, people notice”. But you don’t need to learn it from your dad, some people are born with it and others develop it out of necessity. But it is definitely generational. If you come from a long line of dependency, it is much more difficult to develop a killer work ethic. But it is possible.Which brings me to my next, related topic.

Grounded.
A good man is grounded, feet firmly planted on the ground. The best way to get somewhere in life is to know where you come from.

It is said that the best father can come from two things. A great father or a terrible father. Either way, the tools are there to do a great job. You just have to know your roots. Humility, work ethic, the entire way you carry yourself comes from having a healthy knowledge of who your family are and where they came from. Heredity motivates us to either maintain the good or change the bad and a good man is capable of both.

My father had a terrible upbringing. His family was very poor. Welfare and alcoholism were prevalent. Instead of falling into the same trap, his upbringing motivated him to do better. Consequently, I was raised with a better life and I was motivated to do the same for my children.

A man with a healthy goal for the future must have a solid appreciation and understanding of his past.

more to come…