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Honest Toil. . .

My mother told me, "There is nothing wrong with good, hard work," on the day I started as a 19-year-old part-time stock clerk at a local supermarket in October 1986. . .  for slightly less than US$4 an hour.  This was after my grandfather delivered the ultimatum to me -- I had been out of high school roughly 15 months -- of choosing either school or work.  I could not hang around doing nothing anymore. 

For the next five years, I developed callused hands unloading 50' (about 15.25 metre) trucks three (early) mornings a week, occasionally four, with an old-fashioned manual pallet jack.  I also stocked shelves in the dry grocery, frozen food, dairy, and produce departments, bagged grocery orders when the store was busy, mopped filthy floors, cleaned and maintained refrigeration equipment, and gathered up shopping carts in all kinds of weather year round, shoveled snow outside the store, cleaned public toilets as well as all kinds of other tasks associated with working in a non-union supermarket.  

Usually, I spent about nine hours a day on my feet, six days a week.  Overtime was a routine occurrence, and sometimes there was the occasional 18-hour day.  I remember many late afternoons when I was so tired that I'd collapse on the sofa after arriving home around 5:30pm, only to wake at 11:30pm, head straight for bed, and fall back to sleep.  The clock radio came on all too soon at 5am.  Even the eventual promotion to "department manager" at 20 for the princely wage of US$4.75 an hour didn't change that, or the duties expected of me.  When I finally left a few years later, to begin studying full-time at a community college, my pay was US$7.50 an hour.

Fine.  But what's the point in this rosy walk down memory lane?  Here you go.

It strikes me that far too many average guys in 2014 have an aversion to hard work, whether that effort is physical or mental, manual labor or more academic in nature.  Too many guys of various ages and backgrounds seem content simply to sit on their hands, cry foul, and blame others for adversity.  They seem content to wait for someone else to fix their problems, and all the while whine about their particular set of hardships.  

You know what?  That's life, and life ain't always easy.  Unfortunately, it's true that some people have it easier than others.  Some might be born smarter and more analytical, and end up knowing more.   Some might be blessed with greater manual dexterity or athletic prowess.  Still others might simply just seem to be in the right place at the right time and manage to make good use of opportunities that arise through the gift of gab and a keen eye.  And some people are simply born into more fortunate circumstances all the way around.  But let's not hate them for it.  Resentment is an ugly, ugly thing, and you don't want to be like that.  

Here's my suggestion to average guys on how to advance through life.  Instead of begrudging the mental or material affluence of others, how about some hard work with a bit less attitude on your part?  Stop wasting time and energy grinding away about how others somehow owe you something.  Why not take charge of your own life instead?  How about taking responsibility for yourself?  What about helping others with a kind word and a smile whether you are on the clock, or not?  How about showing some initiative, seeing what needs to be done, and taking care of things before you are asked to do so?  Why not make a habit of thinking things through more carefully before you act rashly and screw up not only your life, but the lives of those around you?  How about cleaning up your own house first and keeping it that way?  

Change, advancement, and progress can only come from within.  No one else can do that for you.  Success in life cannot be superimposed from above.  Achievement comes through your own hard work, which -- Surprise! -- can and does transform one's life and situation for the better.  All that's needed is a little time and some effort.  Dig deep and find that initiative within yourself.  Refuse to accept and wallow in the status quo.  Aspire, instead, to become something better.  Don't tolerate anything less from yourself.  Or those around you.  And don't expect things to be handed to you on a silver platter in exchange for nothing.  Average guys who want to kick up their everyday style several notches should keep that in mind.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 


BlueTrain said…
Greetings! I linked to your blog from Muffy's place.

I'm not really an average guy. More like a little less than average, maybe. Anyway, my first job out of high school, and beyond mowing lawns, was working on a tobacco farm (in Massachusetts, no less). That was hard work, relatively speaking. When I was in college I worked in fast food places, which is also hard work, relatively speaking. But I wonder is that is even possible these days, "my days" being in the 1960s. One doesn't see high school or college kids at McDonald's anymore, or much of anywhere else for that matter. I'm sure that's not a good thing.

I've only been a moderate, so-so success in life but of those I've seen over the years who seem to strugged more than I have, their biggest problem seems to be that of showing up for work. If you can just get to work on time every day, that's half of it right there.
guy said…
Three cheers for this. Elder daughter has just come back from 8 months in Africa working in a v deprived school. All in favour of this and mucho brownie points. However uni kicks off at the end of September so I suggested a job. After 2 weeks of general hibernating/festering in her unspeakable bedroom things snapped yesterday. I marched her round town with a fistful of CV's and she started a pub waitressing job at 12 noon today.

I take the view that I worked from about 17 onwards in pubs and in those days my first job was to clean out the horrible ash trays. Absolutely nothing wrong with some menial hard grafting and for minimal pay. She has to understand that at 19 she is at the bottom of the food chain. I'll let you know what happens!

Thanks for the comments, men! Yep, nothing wrong with starting at the bottom. And I think it was Woody Allen, who said something along the lines of half of success in life is simply showing up. Bad paraphrase, but you get the gist.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.
Big Jon said…
This was amazing, Heinz. You should put this in a commencement speech.

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