Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Value of Hard Work

Have I ever told you all how much I love quotes? If not, allow me to indulge myself:

" I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it" Thomas Jefferson
"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in coveralls and looks like work" Thomas A. Edison
"Unless you are willing to drench yourself your work beyond the capacity of an average man, you are just not cut out for the positions at the top" - J.C. Penny

The digiot generation (yes, I just made up that word and yes, that includes myself) seems to have lost the powerful virtue of hard work.  I often struggle with the idea of work. My main problem is not that I am unwilling to break my back for a cause, but that I too often question whether the cause is worthwhile.  Having spent 4 years in the military practicing that very habit, my teenage snobbery taught me that if I want to go nowhere in life, it is to stubbornly resent any work that I do not find up to my very high standards.  I lagged at the bottom of the totem pole, wallowing in my unhappiness while my friends got promoted, earned special privileges and earned the respect of more powerful superiors.
Some people would say these qualities are good, and young workers definitely have a lot more power and influence at work than they used to, and are subsequently fueling change, innovation and start up businesses in an economy that is as uncertain as we are about ourselves.  I agree that it is good to push the box, think creatively and focus on how to change your enterprise for the better. But there is a fine line between entrepreneurial spirit and just plain spoiled rottenness.  We twenty-somethings tend to carry a sense of entitlement that will leave us disappointed when things don't come easily to us.  In the recession we are now feeling stuck in jobs (or stuck without a job) that are below our value and it's causing us to think and feel negatively about where our life is headed.
I may have hated the navy, and often moan and groan and whine about my current job, but at the end of the day I have to face the hard truth: until I earn my next opportunity, I will garner more value out of doing my very best at my current job, even if I hate it.  I will also never, ever submit to my current position in life.  If I don't like what I am doing, why would I ever say to myself "Oh well, at least I have a job."?  Funny how so many of us give in to this type of thinking even though we think our situation is unjust.  We are afraid to dream big because that might mean we have to be accountable for it. We are afraid of being poor, failing, we feel responsibility to our family, or we are paying off too many debts.  Needing money is not a bad reason to stay in the job you are in, but if you are unhappy you need to change your life.  Otherwise, what is the point? And don't say it's impossible, say that it will be hard.  And it will be hard.  If you want to go back to school, start a business, or just get rid of your debt, you need an exit strategy. Saving money is like losing weight. If you are committed to it, you can do it.  You will have to make sacrifices though.  Here are some suggestions:
Give up coffee, soda, refined sugar and alcohol
Reduce your meat intake (meat is expensive)
Cancel cable
Use the library
Eat at home
Keep a spending journal to track your habits and maintain accountability
Route some of your direct deposit into a bank account at a different bank so that you never see it
Prioritize your debt and start paying it off
It might take a few years, but anything is possible. Anything is possible. This over used expression is likely to be met with such snark as "Well I want to fly but I can't do that, can I?". Obviously.  It is so easy to sneer and commiserate with other bottom feeders who are just as frustrated, jaded and scared.  This is where hard work comes in handy.  Determined people don't have time for naysayers. They have a job to do, goals to accomplish.  Hard workers don't look at problems as deterrents, but rather as opportunities.  They are solution oriented.  They earn the respect of their bosses and business partners.
Your crappy job now, whether you like it or not, is the vehicle to your next opportunity.  This could mean what you have to do to earn a  promotion, or may be paying the bills while your other goals fall into place.  Stop busying yourself with feeling dejected and start thinking about working your ass off to get where you want to be.
It is time, Gen Y, to wake up.  There is no easy way up, only the easy way out.