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 my job. I like what I do, where I’m employed, and I enjoy the people I get to work with. Over the years, I have had many parents come up to me and say things like, “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 thought I knew everything about being a parent I would laugh at this conversation. Now with three teenagers at home, I definitely relate.
My parents made developing a strong work ethic in me a priority. Lazy people, to my dad, were on the same level as thieves, liars, and other criminals. Mom and Dad were serious about instilling hard work in the Jones kids. Dad was a car dealer, but spent time as an insurance salesman, oil field mud truck driver and 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 at 71, and him answering the phone and saying, “Hello, S&J Investments, this is Jonesie speaking. How can I direct your call?"
When I was about eleven, he took me to work with him at the car dealership. We went into the janitor’s closet, grabbed a bucket and a mop, and went 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.” You can only imagine how nasty that bathroom was. Now multiply that by a thousand. After I cleaned the restroom, dad marched me up to the service department manager and said, “Joe, you know my son, Rick, work his tail off.” About 10 years later, Dad called me and my two brothers together and said, “Boys, I’m getting out of the car business. Who wants it?” Surprisingly, my hand did not shoot up and neither did my either of my brother’s. I got all of 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 come to the realization that one of my greatest weaknesses 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 jobs around the house, I have taken the easy way out. I just do it myself. This 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 everything we had as a family was the result of the sacrifice of my parent’s time and energy.
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 one dime stood between me and my college education; however, the lesson that I learned was that there is value with money. If you work hard to make money, you are careful in how you spend it.
More than anything my parents did to teach 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 confident that I wanted to be a football coach. I never once thought about quitting college. I never considered dropping a class. If you have ever spent eight 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 worst 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 by the way people in the service industry are treated. There are people doing very hard jobs to make our lives better. I have to believe that if they ever worked in the service industry at some point in their lives, they wouldn’t treat the employees 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 bad thing about the service or the food, there he was ready to fight. He had done the work, he understood, and he knew that it wasn’t 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. Working those jobs when I was young taught me two very valuable lessons:
1. I respect people that do tough jobs that make our lives better
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.