I am one of the luckiest people I know. I have “worked” as a football coach for 37 years and still love going to work every day. There are many reasons that I enjoy it so much , but the easy answer is that I like what I do, where I do it, and enjoy the people, both young and old, I get to work with and for. Over the years, I have had many parents come up to me and say something to the effect, “how can you get my son to run 56 sprints, when I can’t get him to take 10 steps to the sink with his dirty dishes?”
When I was a bachelor and a great expert at child raising, at least in my own mind, I would often get a good laugh out of that type of conversation. With three teenagers at home, I can say that I can relate better than I would like to admit. As I look back at my time at home , I can clearly see that establishing a “work ethic” in their kids was a very high priority for Mom and Dad.
My Dad looked at lazy people with the same contempt that we look at thieves, liars, and other criminals. Mom and Dad were laser-beamed focus on making sure that the Jones kids would be good workers. Dad was a car dealer(while that is true, at other times he was also an insurance salesman, oil field mud truck driver/owner, rancher, oil field roughneck and roustabout, Mexican import business owner, grocer, full-time player of the commodities market, and his last job was as a receptionist for a stock broker. It still makes me smile when I remember calling him at work, when he was 71, and Dad answering the phone and saying, “Hello, S&J Investments, this is Jonesie speaking. How can I direct your call?) .
When I was eleven or twelve years old, he took me to work with him at the car dealership. We went to the janitor’s closet, grabbed a bucket and a mop, and went directly to the mechanics’ restroom. Dad looked at me and said, “Son, clean this room.” “I will give you two hours to have it spotless, top to bottom.” If you use your imagination, you can try to guess exactly how nasty that bathroom was. Multiply that by 1,000 or so, and you wouldn’t even be close. After cleaning the restroom, Dad marched me up to the service department manager and promptly said, “Joe, you know my son, Rick, work his tail off”. About 10 years later, Dad called me and my two brothers into a room one day, and said, “Boys, I’m getting out of the car business. Who wants it?” Surprisingly? My hand did not shoot up. Neither did my either of my brothers.
I got all the car business I wanted that first day when I went to work in the mechanic’s restroom.
If I brought one of my kids to the locker room today and told them to clean the toilets, I’m afraid they would be on the phone to their lawyer before you can say, “toilet plunger”. I have come to the belief that one of my greatest weakness as a parent is that I haven’t made my kids do the things that I don’t like doing.
I have a long list of things to do around the house that are not my favorite ways to spend time. Instead of struggling with a 5 year-old or a 15 year-old to do a mundane job around the house, I have taken the easy way out. I just do it myself. That approach does not help my kids develop a good work ethic. It also doesn’t give them an appreciation of the time and energy it has taken to provide our family with nice “things.” One of the greatest gifts my mom and dad gave to me was an awareness that every thing we had as a family was the result of the sacrifice of time and energy or the “work” of my parents.
When the “popsicle man drove down our street selling 10 cent popsicles, the answer was always the same. “We are not buying popsicles, we are saving for your college education.” As I look back at it, it might seem silly to think that that one dime stood between me and my college education; however, the lesson that I learned was that there is value and cost with money. If you work hard to make the money, you are careful how you spend it.
More than anything else my parents did to teach all of us a good work ethic was to make sure we had horrible jobs growing up. At different times during my “formative” years, I was a grocery store employee, hay hauler, freight dock worker, tire company truck loader, farm/ranch hand, grease monkey, car washer, wood chopper, yard man, door to door Christmas card salesman, sod layer, youth baseball umpire, and the worst of the worst, worm ranch wrangler.
Let me be perfectly clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these jobs. They are all noble in their own way; however, I decided very early in life that I wanted to be a football coach. Having those jobs all along the way made me more sure than ever that I wanted to be a football coach. I never thought once about quitting college. I never thought one time about even dropping a class. If you have ever spent 8 hours a day separating red wigglers from night crawlers, or cramming 1,000 tires onto a 45 foot trailer(during the summer) I promise you that the college life looks pretty good, even on its worse day.
The other thing that we cheat our kids out of by not making them do horrible jobs is that they never have an appreciation for the people that serve us on a daily basis.
I am shocked at times by the way people treat other people that are in the service industry. There are people doing very hard jobs to make our lives better. It is a shame that some people treat waiters, workers in the fast food industry, maintenance people, and others in the service industry so poorly. I have to believe that had those folks ever worked at those jobs at some point in their lives, they wouldn’t treat them so poorly.
I once worked with a coach that worked his way through college by working in a restaurant. Any time we went to eat, if one of the coaches said one thing bad about the service or the food, there was going to be a fight. He had done the work, he understood the work, and he had an appreciation for the fact that it wasn’t that easy.
I did not love counting 24 worms into a cup. I did not love rolling barbed wire. I did not love operating a jack-hammer eight hours a day. But working at those jobs when I was young, taught me at least two very valuable lessons:
1. I respect people that do tough jobs that make our lives better and
2. I am thankful that my parents gave me an understanding that if I didn’t want to be a worm wrangler for the rest of my life, I better do something about my level of education or learn a skill.