business, career, personal

Work ethic

I feel like I have a very strong work ethic. I have been told that by others throughout my life as well. I believe it was inspired by my parents’ work ethic.

In school I didn’t really take shortcuts, I enjoyed doing the work. I tended to “over achieve” and write a research paper, for example, as if I was actually hired to solve the problem. I got scores on the CPA exam that were higher than they needed to be: we used to say that if you got any score above the minimum, you studied too much. I embraced going to CPA exam prep twice a week for four hours and then studying and practicing on the weekends.

In my early work days, during high school and college, I often worked more than one job, one summer three jobs. I was always volunteering for extra shifts and learning every task, so I became a manager at a young age.

In my professional career, I worked the most overtime in the office at the accounting firm most years, and volunteered for things like teaching and travel assignments. I have always seemed to have multiple projects going on, but love getting down to the task level and seeing a project come to fruition.

My Dad had the “work a lot of hours” side of things, as a grocery store manager. We often didn’t see him until 8 or 9 at night after a full day, and he usually worked at least one day on the weekends. Then he got a job in sales, and was fine with the travel trips and knowing he’d have to still do the “day job” in less time when he got home.

My Mom was the variable worker, taking multiple jobs, working on different things within her field (again at grocery stores, but then as a sales person for a variety of consumer companies).

They never complained, it was just “what you did.” I know they got it from their parents, as they all (moms and dads) worked and were very much blue collar types.

One thing I find interesting about generational differences is how fast some things change within just one or two generations after a family “lands” in the US. Kids of first generation immigrants seem so “American” yet their parents can seem so “traditional.” I recall my best friend in high school who was Vietnamese, his mom came post the Vietnam war. He and I would go get fast food then take it to his house where the smell of fish stew permeated the house; “I never eat the stuff my mom eats’ – I know you have all heard (or said) that if your family is a more recent immigrant.

But work ethic seems to be one of those things that can be a bit stickier. Again no statistical sample here but I seem to see lots of folks work hard and when I do it seems their parents were workers too. If it is handed down to generations, I am thankful for that as I feel strongly that my work ethic has been a huge part of my success. People often think of me as the “smart guy” in the room; but in many cases that came from lots of homework like reading about the subject I was working on, or extra time spent volunteering on projects to learn more about that subject and also learn how variable it was so I could be more adaptable in future scenarios. Sort of like Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule I suppose.

I feel like in business now, most successful businesses out-work their competitors, “grind it out” to succeed with lots of small wins. Sure there are the occasional home run stories, but business is mostly trench warfare, and things like discipline, will, effort and hours spent practicing count for a lot in those situations. So, work ethic is really important to me and I am inspired to maintain my work ethic thinking about all the work my parents put in during their careers to ensure the kids had some opportunities in life.



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