We've all heard the cliches, "Hard work pays off", "You'll get out of it what you put into it", "Hard work never hurt anybody", and on they go. I've always considered myself a hard worker give credit to my parents and the farm I was raised on. I can't say for sure if that "work ethic" we so deeply desire for our children (or perhaps ourselves) is born in, or worked in. In my case I had no choice on the matter. Full days at school then a fair share of chores on our farm were more than most kids my age would ever do in a day their entire lives. I got my first job away from our farm at age eleven. During summer vacation I worked twelve hour days (an hour off for lunch) Monday to Saturday. On Sunday I cut lawns, a five hour lawn one week, a seven hour lawn the next week. I was getting around three dollars per hour on the lawns and it was easy work compared to the farm where I made only two dollars an hour. For the record minimum wage at the time was four dollars per hour, except on farms where there was (and I believe still is) no minimum wage, or minimum age.
A few years later we moved off the farm and into town. I heard about a local fast food chain hiring some other kids and paying four dollars and fifty cents per hour. Rumor was they were only getting forty hours a week. I figured I'd need the extra pay for it to make sense when I'd been accustomed to working nearly eighty hours a week. My parents had always insisted that I do a full resume even made me do one for the cabbage picking job. I included the resume with my application and threw my name in the mix for employment that summer. I got a call in early May to come in for an interview. As I recall I road my bike to get there, then waited nervously to speak to the manager. My interview went well, I've always carried myself well in interviews. I was sure I had the job right up till the end. The man who shall remain unnamed told me that as of that day I was still only thirteen years old, I wouldn't be fourteen until August seventeenth nearly the end of the season (the store was seasonal and closed around September first each year). He told me that he couldn't hire me until I was fourteen, and had only given me an interview because he had never met a thirteen year old with two years work experience, and so he was a bit curious. By the end of it all the man and I agreed that I would need to be fourteen as of that day if I wanted the job, and if anyone asked my age I needed to answer fourteen. We both kept our word, and our silence.
So I've given you just a bit of evidence of my hard working history, but selling you on the fact that I'm a hard worker isn't really my purpose here. I want you to consider that in my situation hard work was a necessity not a choice, and if given more choice I might very well have faltered. I see this on a regular basis. People who work because they need to more so than because they have that work ethic in them. When given the choice I see many, in fact most walk away from what they don't need to do. There once was a day when "moral obligation" held us to the task. We always had some who didn't need the money but stayed because others needed the help. It's the things we do when we don't "need " to, or don't "want" to that I believe are the best measurement of people.
I recently spent a week at the University of Toronto summer writing school. My class was taught by Kelley Armstrong, a very successful writer with by Canadian standards a big name, and likely a very decent pay check. Class was scheduled to run from 9 AM until around 3 PM with a one hour break for lunch, and two smaller breaks through the day. I was first there as I usually am, and only a few others arrived before Kelley who was more than a half hour early. When it came time for first break we needed someone to watch our belongings while we were gone, Kelley Armstrong our teacher volunteered. I was impressed by this, but not so much as by the events that followed that week. Kelley soon told us that she would arrive a half hour early everyday, and would answer any questions we had. She never took either of the short breaks, and asked if we were OK with cutting the lunch from an hour to a half hour because an hour seemed excessive to her. If your not impressed yet let me tell you that Kelley remained in the class during that shortened lunch except for a brief refreshment and taught optional grammar lessons while we all ate lunch.
For all my years I thought I had a monopoly on being the hard worker. When I consider my own rules about what we do when we need to, and what we do when we don't need to I was given a real awakening by Kelley Armstrong. She didn't need the money, didn't need to teach us, she really had no need whatsoever for being in that class at all. She was there because for her own personal reasons she was compelled to be there. With more success and money than the entire class combined are likely to ever have Kelley Armstrong out worked the entire group of us.
When your thinking about why your hard work isn't getting you where you want to be perhaps you've been a bit like me and given too much applause to your own efforts. Perhaps you think what you've done in the past owes you something in the future? I can honestly say when I hear about how someone like Kelley Armstrong got where they are by chance, luck, right place right time, I now smile and chuckle inside. Most people don't even understand hard work, very few will ever have the passion, desire, and perseverance to focus hard work on a goal until they get there.
The Blog of Timothy Weatherall
Timothy Weatherall is a fiction fantasy writer from Ontario, Canada.
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