Jay Rifenbary

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Work Ethic - A Forgotten Principle?

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Did I miss the recent memo entitled, “Work Ethic No Longer Necessary”? Have you ever encountered a service experience where you as the customer felt like you were the one providing the service? A situation where you were treated as if you owe the employee for doing business with them? An attitude conveyed as if you have disturbed them because they had to do their job? Is it just me, or does it appear that there is an accelerated increase in laziness, apathy and avoidance of hard work? Work Ethic is defined as, “the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward”.

There is an expectation among many of wanting more out of life without having to work hard for it. This propensity can be attributed to several items including a lack of pride in one’s avocation, a lack of personal motivation, a trend toward entitlement, an all about me attitude, and most importantly a lack of personal responsibility. Are we losing the understanding that a rewarding and fulfilling life, and high personal self-respect, is earned not given? As in most everything in life, the amount of effort you put into an endeavor will determine the level of success achieved. It is certainly simple to understand, yet so difficult for many to execute. The amount of effort to be contributed is an individual decision, and therefore attaches personal responsibility to personal achievement. As Gandhi stated, “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.”

On a macro level the most significant contributor to this dangerous trend is the continuous structuring of a Nanny State in our Nation. When more is provided without contributing to the effort to receive it, there is less incentive to work hard for what you want. You become increasingly dependent on the government for your future well-being. The more dependent you become the more control and power someone else has over your own freedom to make independent choices. A democracy requires an intelligent electorate to keep a democracy functioning properly as a “We The People”. Take away the ability for citizens to create their own future, the democracy ceases to flourish, and the few have greater control over the many.

I am not suggesting we do not help those in need. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” The system fails when those who have the ability and resources to work hard and achieve decide to let someone else do it for them. A significant character weakness is promulgated as a result, a lack of personal ownership for one’s life. Excuse making becomes rampant, and an understanding that hard work is a requirement for a fulfilling life is lost forever. It then becomes acceptable for many to take advantage of the system, because the system allows it. When life presents challenges do you take the bull by the horns and persevere through it, or call on Nanny to come to the rescue for every need? The latter does nothing to promote a worthwhile individual work ethic, nor a strong society. Those in power only gain more power as a result of the dependency created, and the expected handout to follow. Spoiling our children is no different and is an injustice to them. It sets a precedent, and a belief, that much is expected without having to work for it. As the legendary basketball coach John Wooden stated, “Nothing will work unless you do.”

There are many who have much without having earned it, but few of them take pride in themselves or what they may have, as it is unearned. Actions speak louder than words and when one exemplifies the value of hard work, it not only enhances one of the core values of yourself, but also transcends into the core values of your family and our society. Reflecting on your own life, there have been failures and successes, yet the effort made to succeed, and at times fail, teaches you what it takes to have a fulfilling and self-respected life.

2 Responses to Work Ethic - A Forgotten Principle?

1. Dale Fye Says:

Jay, You are right on with this post about lack of work ethic, I see this every day, especially among our youth. But be careful about using the "democracy" word. America is not a democracy, we are a Constitutional Republic, "if you can keep it". Not sure of the source of the quote, but as I recall, it is attributed to Benjamin Franklin after the signing of the Constitution.

2. Collin Agee Says:

Jay, you come pretty close to making a political statment here. But I think you are on to something and my fear is that it's generational. There are exceptions to all generalizations, but I see too many young people who exhibit the sense of entitlement and the lack of a work ethic that you describe.

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