On my birthday, I wrote about 29 lessons I had learned during my 29 years here on Earth. There was a particular lesson I believe needs more fleshing out, a bit of conversation around it. The lesson was to Make a Difference in Your Work. I wrote:
Every single day, you should be able to answer this question: “How do our products/services help people in their lives?” You can probably get away with not answering this for a while, but it’s not sustainable.
Work is a significant part of our lives, a task/calling which requires more time than any other aspect in life. Since this area of our existence is so time-consuming, there’s no question our society was in need of this shift towards employee happiness, the importance of culture, and the popular buzzwords “doing what you love” and “pursuing your passions”.
I cannot underestimate the value of this in your life. People who work in jobs where they feel intrinsically motivate to succeed, will routinely outperform employees who do not feel this inner drive, regardless of pay! However, a part of this movement has felt a tad misguided to me, and I’ve dismissed it as fear or ignorance. But the feeling remained. There are so many jobs and working parts of society that the majority of people would not classify as a dream job or a passion. Workers in food service, waste management, toll booths, and other places would probably not classify their work as a passion. Perhaps they are saving up to pursue a passion, but this does not include everyone. Many people work jobs they feel rather indifferent about, simply as a way to make ends meet. What then? And what about youth employment? What can be gained in placing 16-24 year olds in menial jobs? To me, they make an incredible on our country and development of youth, and this is what I want to concentrate on.
Here are 10 Reasons Why (Any) Work is Valuable
1. Work Teaches Responsibility
When you have a job, you are immediately places in to a sphere of influence. This sphere may only include the toilets, but you matter around those toilets! For anyone who needs to walk in and use those toilets, you matter greatly to those people as well! The point is, you are given responsibility. You are expected to show up, give your best effort, and improve the experience of the customers. The important aspect of work responsibility is that no one there cares about you. When I say this, I mean the boss will not put up with you if you shirk your responsibilities. You will be fired. This is the first real world experience most of us have with this type of consequence. You don’t get fired from your family because your bed isn’t made for a couple of days. But if you skip work and leave tasks unfinished, you’ll be out.
2. Work Connects People
Because of the time spent at work, you get to know your co-workers pretty well. You share in the joys and sorrows, the leadership (or lack of) by a boss, and the interactions with customers. When you’re young, connections with co-workers can build the network of people as they grow and choose a career. I know people who I worked with at restaurants, UF work-study programs, and summer camp who have gone on to a vast array of careers and adventures, all over America. When we drove across the country, we spent several nights with friends who we worked with in the past.
3. Work Produces Endurance
Sometimes, no matter how powerful the motivation, work is difficult. And that is OK. We want everything to go just right, to have sunny days every day. But this is not the reality of any kind of life. When you begin working, you figure this out much quicker, because you’re not shielded (usually by parents) from the days and people which make life hard. Here’s the good news: When you begin this education early in life, your endurance for the tough days increases, and spills over to other parts of life. There will be times when your marriage is tough, when being a parent is tough, when money is tight, and so much else! But, you will know that you can endure, because you’ve persevered and endured many times before. click to tweet this
4. Work Increases Self-Esteem
When you know you are a person who can be relied on, who produces good work, and makes a company run more effectively, you get a boost of self-esteem. You have fulfilled the responsibilities of your job, and in the future you may be given more! Another aspect of this boost is being paid. Suddenly, you have your won cash flow, and no longer rely on the allowance of others to be able to exist. I certainly understand the incredible temptation to have parents or guardians act as your personal financial aid office, and it’s fine to have some supplementary money. But I can vividly remember the personal pride I felt when I knew I no longer needed to rely on my parents to pay for my rent and groceries. I was becoming self-reliant. Parents, you do your children a disservice by financing their life beyond age 18. People need to work.
5. Work Gives You Money!
Tagging on to the previous point, let’s not forget the money! Of course, money isn’t everything, but it is an important thing. It allows people to feel a sense of pride and ownership their lives. For young workers especially, it’s a critical part of the journey towards self-reliance, and being able to strike out and be productive, contributing members of society. Money also teaches us the value of prioritizing purchases, budgeting, and saving. Your priorities shift when you realize those new shoes get in the way of eating or keeping the lights on!
6. Work Offers Daily Impact
Each day you have the opportunity to affect positive feelings on the lives of others. Doing this in jobs where friendliness is unexpected is even more of an opportunity! For example, when I go to Chick-fil-A, and the employees end conversations by saying “My pleasure”. This happens after taking my order, refilling my drink, or handing me bbq sauce. Their attention to kindness is a step above many similar restaurants. Even though their work would not count towards most people’s dream job, the employees know they have an opportunity to make customers happy.
7. Work Challenges Comfort Zones
“Here’s a brush, go clean the women’s bathroom” – says my Boss
“Uh, what?” – says I
“You’ll be fine, just say ‘maintenance’ before you walk in”
Let’s return to self-esteem, and the knowledge you have a responsibility to contribute in life. Sometimes that contribution looks like cleaning toilets, wiping up vomit, dealing with unhappy customers, and more. We would not choose these tasks independently, but they are thrust upon us. Each of these challenging situations builds upon itself, and you learn habits which allow you to deal with these challenges as they come along.
8. Work is NOT About You
When you go to work, you give yourself to a mission bigger than yourself. The company does not exist to make you happy! It exists for the betterment of the customer (hopefully), and profits usually follow the companies which do that best. Honestly, this realization is a gift. Part of why work challenges you and improves self-esteem is because they don’t care about your happiness! Managers who do this well can lead by example, and have the strength to hold ground when an employee doesn’t want to clean the toilets. There is a difference between caring about you as a person, and caring about your happiness. I can care about someone as a person, and how they develop and contribute. It also means I can ask them to do things they don’t want to do, in service of the group. The manager’s job is to not back down from the right action just because he perceives the employee won’t like him anymore. It’s to help a young employee realize the work is not about him, but the service as a whole. This produces the endurance described in #3. You’ll be able to do hard things because you have done them before.
9. Work Improves Society
People are intrinsically wired to work and contribute. Unfortunately, we are also wired to do get food and money the easiest way we can, which is why when people are faced with the choice of working to eat, or just eating, we eat! You can apply this to countless parts of life. When a teenager is confronted with the choice of making his own bed, or having Mom do it, they will allow Mom to make the bed. When we can provide meaningful labor and life skills to not just the youth, but all people, society works much better.
10. Work Allows Independence
I had breakfast with my sister last week. As we were talking, I complimented the fact that she has worked throughout her college experience, at times putting in 20-30 hrs/week. She lives at home now, but has lived in an apartment, paid rent, bought food, and is now paying off her first car. She has money to spend on her own, and rarely asks my parents for money. She knows she could move out and live independently, and the self-confidence this gives her. She said, “The world isn’t a scary place for me, I know how to work, budget, and interact with people”. Her self-assured attitude gives her a leg-up on other college graduates who have gone through their time without working, and haven’t gathered the skills to thrive in the workplace. Work allows us to develop a mindset that we can be ok, that no matter what happens, we can find work, take responsibility, impact lives, and contribute in meaningful ways.
That is the Value of Work
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please click one of the share buttons and let other people know. I would greatly appreciate it! If you have any additional content or value to bring to this post, please let me know in the comments, or on twitter @mattragland.
Want more Sketchnotes?
Let me send you 5 quick lessons on creating your own sketchnotes.