“Slow down everyone, you’re moving too fast.” – Jack Johnson
I’ve worked since I was 13. It’s all I’ve ever known. I’m not quite sure when the ethic was ingrained in me but it could very well have started with my grandfather. As a boy, I used to visit “The Shop,” our nickname for my grandfather’s tool, die, and manufacturing business. The impression it left on me was indelible. Desks, phones, catered lunches, handshakes, and the clear delineation between the office part of his business and the “floor,” where machines would whir and grind precise borings into steel parts utilized by other businesses to do business. As young as I was, the impression was clear: those who worked in the office earned their way there. They weren’t better than the shop workers, but their work lives seemed a whole lot more comfortable. The takeaway? Work hard, earn a desk in the office.
No matter where I’ve worked (in what is now a long career in advertising), I’ve listened to the same voice that whispered in my ear about the makeup of The Shop. Work hard. Get the desk. It’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s what has always been in the back of my mind. That voice, whispering in my ear.
You reach a point, I suppose. Working hard for the sake of working hard only has merit in how much it satisfies one personally. You can’t do it for anyone else. Because at the end of the day, no one else really cares. Employers will keep asking for more, which is perfectly understandable.
I spent the last week recovering from bronchitis that was hours away from full-blown pneumonia. I did not work for almost a week. Unheard of and for me, unsettling. But recovery often leads to introspection, which includes stepping back and taking stock of what’s truly important.
I used to say that I’m a lucky guy. But it’s not luck. It’s hard work. So these days I say that I’m fortunate. I have a good job, good pay. But I’ve worked for it all. I’ve earned it. But being ill caused me to focus on how important it is that I take care of myself first. Because in the end, it’s not about how hard I work. It’s about being able to work at all.