In days gone by, it was described as coming from “good stock.” While I am not exactly sure what that meant, as I get older I understand the concept better. It means growing up with the right values, including treating people properly and working hard.
I recall growing up wondering why I had chores to do when many of my friends did not. I recall my mom – multiple times each week – telling me and my siblings to get our work done before we were allowed to play.
I recently interviewed a young man who is graduating from college later this month. He is looking for a position as a consultant to start his career. As I interviewed him, he talked about his experience working in the family businesses. He has also worked a variety of part-time jobs while in school. During the interview, he shared with me some of the things he had learned from his various jobs.
One of the reasons I took the time to interview him is that he comes from “good stock.” That is, he learned as he grew up that nothing in life that is worthwhile comes without hard work.
This attribute is essential, particularly in today’s climate where many young people have had it far too easy. I have told my children that they have an advantage over their peers because they have been taught to show up on time and work hard.
The point about learning to work hard at an early age was made poignantly from an experience that occurred several years ago near the end a speech by a motivational speaker. It is noteworthy that about eighty percent of the people in the room were either business owners or professionals. The speaker asked everyone in the room who had worked while in high school to stand up. The speaker noted that research shows an extremely high correlation between people who worked in their teen years and people who achieve above average economic success in their adult life.
The speaker then asked everyone who had children at least 14 years old to stand. He then asked everyone whose teenager was not working or whose child had not worked during high school or college to sit down. About half of the people sat down.
He then courageously pointed out to the people who had sat down – because their children were not working as teenagers – that they had messed up. In the interest of providing their teenage children with a fulfilling life in their youth, they had deprived their teenagers of one of the most important lessons to learn early in life. That lesson is that learning to hard work is critical to success.
The lack of a work ethic in this country has become an epidemic. I recently saw a statistic that pointed out that teenage unemployment is at the highest level ever. The article suggested that this is because teenagers can’t find a job. I would suggest instead that it is because of two things. First many teenagers, guided by their well-meaning parents, don’t want to work because they don’t want to miss a minute of their “great” high school experience.
Second, many teenagers don’t want to work in the jobs that my generation worked in as teenagers. We cut grass, washed dishes, did yard work, stocked shelves, etc. Now, these jobs are held primarily by Hispanics who come to the US to work hard to achieve better lives for themselves and their families.
A quick look at US history clearly shows that hard work has been a large part of our culture and the success of our country. Fifty years ago, it was expected that most teenagers and young people worked in some way during high school and college. Now our culture has replaced this model with the idea of having as much fun as possible until you are eighteen or out of college. This often results in students taking on large amounts of student loans for college which can become a strangling burden later when they are working full-time.
It is no wonder that so many people in their twenties have a difficult time getting or holding a job. Their lack of work experience makes their entry into the full-time workforce more traumatic than it needs to be. Robbed of the opportunity in their teen years to have both good and bad work experiences, they lack personal knowledge of what it is like to have to meet the standards of someone who is not a parent or a teacher. Work experiences in their early years also teaches them the difference between a good work environment and a poor one.
If you are a parent of school age children, I encourage you to make work part of the training that your children receive from your parenting. With our four children, we were able to provide many in-home experiences of capitalism in the grade school years that provided opportunities for our children to earn money. We paid them for tasks and avoided the home welfare program (also known as an allowance) that many parents use. Our focus was on teaching them that money was a result of hard work, not a result of a new date on the calendar like government socialism programs. My children learned that we could always think of something for them to do if they wanted to earn money.
When your child hits their teen years, don’t give them a car. Make them get a job and earn money to purchase at least some of it. Teach them that rewards come as a result of hard work, not for just being alive another week. Require them to get a part-time job to earn gas money and entertainment money.
Love them enough to teach them that hard work is part of life and part of being a successful person. If you can do this, they will have an advantage for the rest of their life over many of their peers who have not learned what it takes to hold a job and work hard.
And, if your job involves hiring people, make sure during the interview process that they have experienced working, particularly in their teen years and through college. The experience learned in those part time jobs will be an asset to them for the rest of their working lives. Also, see if they come from “good stock.”