One of the great tragedies of life today is the common perception that work is something to avoid. Many people have grown up thinking that with the smallest effort and time invested they should earn as much or more money than their parents, have important-sounding titles, and enjoy all the niceties the world has to offer. They feel like those who have more than others should give and give until everyone has the same, regardless of effort expended.
I’m not singling out millennials. I’m not part of the millennial generation but I’ve noticed many of my contemporaries exhibiting the same attitude. They believe that they deserve things — that someone should give them that to which they are entitled. Usually, unless born to wealthy parents, I’ve observed that these folks become bitter, dependent, and angry. They misunderstand two things vital for long-term happiness:
- The world doesn’t owe them anything.
- Work, over time, is the only way to earn what you want.
There’s a verse of scripture in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible that goes like this:
Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise (Proverbs 6:6)
Ants are known for their industrious hard work. Once they’ve matured past larva and pupa and are physically able, they begin working and contributing to the well-being of the colony without waiting for anyone to give them anything. We should look at the ant as an example to follow.
Beside your mom and dad, the world doesn’t owe you anything
Literally nobody owes you anything. Your parents are an exception, but even then, what they owe you is simply:
- Food and shelter until you’re an adult (in the US one is considered an adult at age 18).
- As much informal education as possible (your whole life, evolving from direct instruction when you’re a child to judiciously proffered advice when you’re an adult). I’m not talking about formal education here. Of course they should make sure you attend as much free public education as possible — in the US that is kindergarten through the end of high school. It is probably different in other areas of the world. But they don’t owe you tuition for college. What they do owe you is wisdom that they’ve gained, and continue to learn, over the years.
- Reliable and supportive familial and emotional bonds of love and affection (their whole life).
In short, your parents should love you, keep you safe and fed, and send you to school until you’re 18. After that, you need only count on their love and advice.
[You do owe them everything, though. So if you’re lucky enough to keep your parents well into your own adulthood, you owe them as much love and respect, and possibly physical care as possible.]
Your neighbor doesn’t owe you anything. The mayor of your city doesn’t owe you anything. The CEO of any company doesn’t owe you anything. Certainly, besides roads, schools, and safety from bad guys the government doesn’t owe you anything.
Work is how to get what you need and want
One of the lectures I give my kids often goes like this: “are you going to be the kid that stays in bed and let’s others pick up your slack, or are you going to be the kid that gets up and gets stuff done?” It’s annoying, I’m sure, but it’s a valid question. Those who get up and get stuff done are those that also most enjoy the results of the labor.
My grandfather lost his father when he was early in his teenage years. That forced him to end his education and start working to help support his mother and siblings. He worked his whole life until he had enough money saved to retire. In that time he got married and started a family, served his country in the military (yes — he was drafted and served during WW II even after being married), built a house for his wife and kids, managed a farm, worked a full-time job, and served in his church and community. He didn’t sit and expect or even ask for anyone to give him a home, food, a job, or money. He worked for those things. He took the advice of the ant and got to work.
Be grateful that you can work
There is a very small minority of people who cannot work. Those of us who can work should take care of them. But that is a very small portion of the overall population — folks with mental or physical ailments.
Those who take the biggest risk, or commit the most, benefit the most from work
There are those who might say that since they grew up poor, or struggled in college, or had a rough childhood they’ll never be able to earn as much as the kid who grew up in a rich house with a responsible mother and father. Yes — that’s obviously true. But still, the privileged kid doesn’t owe the other kid anything. Yes — it’ll be easier for her to earn more money. Yes — she will live in a safer neighborhood most likely. Yes — she’ll have easier access to better healthcare most likely. But she doesn’t owe the other kid anything because the other kid can still go to school and work hard and earn his own way.
Beware of those with power
Here’s one last thought on the value of work. Those who have political power want more power. And in this world, power = money. There is a growing effort of those with power who want to make sure that folks who aren’t born into money think that just because of their race or financial situation the world owes them those things. Those in power preaching that message are not doing it for the welfare of those who need help. They’re preaching that message to stay in power. If they truly wanted to help those in need they’re preach hard work, effort, and risk not dependency and entitlement.