I grew up on a farm and hard work was the highest virtue while laziness was the lowest vice. I shoveled manure, hauled food to the livestock and pitched in at haying time. I transferred all this ‘workiness’ to my various jobs and became a workaholic, an addiction much appreciated by my supervisors. I was a real Amurcan.
I even taught job skills and work ethics for a couple of colleges and non-profits. If you work hard, you will succeed. Period. If you have not succeeded, you must not have worked hard. I am ashamed that I never stopped to question this ideology until the crash of 2008 when millions of hard workers lost their jobs, their homes and their very faith in the work ethic they had lived by. One of the most painful aspects of their disaster was the scorn of those who called them lazy.
I now think the Amurcan work ethic is baloney. Let me illustrate:
An American executive worked hard, taking his work home and worked nights and weekends. He made good money. When he was 65, he retired and went on a fishing vacation to a little village on the coast of Mexico. It was paradise. He became friends with a young fisherman and they had lunch together.
Exec: So, tell me about your life here. What do you do all day?
Fisherman: I catch fish and sell them in the morning. Then I have lunch and take a siesta with my wife. In the evening I go to the café and talk with my friends.
Exec: You know, if you fished all day, you could get enough money for another boat. You could hire other fishermen and get still more boats. You could make a lot of money. You could practically own this little village.
Fisherman: How long would that take?
Exec: Oh, twenty-five or thirty years.
Fisherman: Then what?
Exec: Then you do like me; take vacations.
Fisherman: What do you do on vacations?
Exec: You come here, fish in the morning, have lunch, take a siesta and then in the evening go to the café and talk with your friends.
Fisherman: I’m already doing that.
I’m not saying that work itself is baloney. On the farm we worked because the animals needed care and because our family needed food. I rather enjoyed it most of the time. But when I brought the briefcase home and stayed up late and worked, worked, worked I was not living. I was ignoring more important things.
What is important? Sometime soon, take a walk alone and figure out what is important to you. Then do that. Oh, and leave the cell phone home when you take that walk. J