The Ethic of Work

May 21, 2019 by John Andrew Williams

I was asked recently how I created all the training manuals, books, and website content while leading up to 20 hours of life coach training webinars a week. And I had little ones under the age of 5 while putting the bulk of the material together.

I thought about it, and the one lesson, if you want to call it that, I learned as a kid was how to work hard. The two places I learned how to work: the farm and the wrestling mat.

I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania. Puritan country. Work then play. Summertimes, I worked on a farm. I picked corn in the morning, tomatoes in the afternoon. 8 hours a day.

I also wrestled from the age of ten to college, Division I at Brown University. Wrestling in southwestern PA is tough. I wrestled guys who trained by throwing around bales of hay and picking up a baby cow each day until the calf is just too big for a human to squat.

Now I’m working as an academic life coach for teenagers, and I’ve put all that work ethic into creating programs helping people, especially young people, do the inner work necessary to live a flourishing life.

The ability – and willingness – to put in the work is the one skill I see that makes the biggest difference in a student’s happiness and fulfillment.

The best part of learning how to work, and doing work for the sake of work, is that it plays into a growth mindset. Longterm, meaningful accomplishment isn’t so much a function of talent as it is of effort.

When I was 13 my dad asked me to dig a ditch for a french drain. It was a hot and sticky Pennsylvanian June day.

I dug that ditch all morning. It measured 10 body lengths (my unit of measurement at the time).

I was proud. So happy that the task what finally done. Ready to go off and do something fun.

I ran to show my dad.

He took one look at it and said, “It’s a great ditch, but it’s in the wrong place. You need to dig it over here instead.”

When I was just a little older in high school I used to make fun of the fact that my parents asked me to dig ditches and fill them back in again.

Now I think it was a brilliant lesson and wonder if he told me to dig the ditch in the wrong place to begin with so that I’d have to hustle a whole day. I wouldn’t put it past him.

The best part of doing the work, is that when it does come time to play, you feel really, really good about yourself.

Now let’s get to work. 🙂

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