10 Of My Most Powerful Beliefs About Work

It is Labor Day here in the United States. It is a holiday where we honor working people which, as far as I can tell, is everyone. I am romantic about work and working. Work has been of one of the essential factors in my life, starting from a very young age. My relationship with work, and discipline, and effort has only grown stronger, and what better day than Labor Day to share 10 of my most powerful beliefs about work.

  • Work is either drudgery or something more: Work is either drudgery or something far more significant. It is either your job or your work. The difference is what you believe about your work and how you approach it. If it is a “have to,” it is toil. If it is “get to,” then it is undoubtedly something more. Since my 13th birthday, when I started my first full-time position washing dishes, I have never felt that work was drudgery. That was true when I put stucco on houses, worked in a warehouse, or shoveled driveways. It always felt like contribution to me, and it still does.
  • Work is your reflection: Work is a reflection of the person who does it. The outcome is a variable, meaning one person’s work can be wildly better than others. If you believe it is something to be avoided and decide to do as little as is required of you, your relationship with work will be negative, as well as your outcomes. If you believe you are creating, then your relationship with work will be positive, as will your personal and professional outcomes.
  • Regardless of what it is, work is honorable: In acting, they say there are no small parts, only small players. The truth about work is that something needs to be done, and someone needs to do it. That something might be leading the largest enterprise on Earth, or it might be ensuring that the trash is removed from the building (which in some recent cases, might include removing the person leading the large enterprise). All work is honorable, and you should treat it as such.
  • Work can improve you: Work is one of the ways you grow. It can improve you. It can improve how you feel about yourself. You can learn new skills, including the skills necessary to work with other people. Work can enhance your competencies, helping you to become something more than you are now, and making you more valuable to other people.
  • Work improves others: Much of the work we do now is to benefit another person or persons. The value we create is for customers and clients. In the public sector, the work is for the benefit of many different groups of stakeholders. I often wonder how people would feel if they knew their work was appreciated and valued.
  • No one will stop you from doing more work than is necessary: I have only rarely ever found a person who was willing to stop me from doing more than excepted. In my case, the people I worked with threatened me with violence for working harder than they found acceptable. They believed the owner wasn’t paying them enough to work as hard as I was working. That one experience is the only one of its kind in my memory. Any time you want to do more than is necessary, you are going to find that no one will stop you from doing exceptional work where others do what is required of them (or as little as they believe they can get away with).
  • No one should ever need to tell you what work to do: No one would ever tell you what to do. You should be proactive in your approach to work, always looking for what needs to be done and doing it before anyone can ask you to. If you don’t need a boss, you will likely be the boss. Call it being proactive, taking initiative, or hustle, you should make your work your own.
  • Accountability brings greater responsibility: The person who decides to be accountable for some set of outcomes ends up responsible for those outcomes. When someone gives a person some responsibility, they also give them resources with which to achieve those outcomes, i.e., a management or leadership role. The opposite is also true; one that avoids accountability will not receive greater responsibility—or opportunities.
  • Work is part, but not all, of your identity: I am a writer. I am also a salesperson, sales leader, and speaker. I am also a teacher, and sometimes, I am a business philosopher. Because we spend so much of our time working, we identify people, in part, by what it is they do. It tells us something about them, and it lets us tell them something about us, even if it isn’t the most important thing one might want someone to know.
  • Those who don’t love work are doing it wrong. If you don’t love work, you are either doing it wrong or doing the wrong work. One is as likely as the other. You might be doing it wrong by going through the motions and leaving your emotions (your passion) at home. Or maybe you are meant to be somewhere else doing something different. Either way, you can do better.

Do good work. Tomorrow.

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