Why we don’t work

Aug 7, 2010 by

Opportunity is missed by most people because
it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
–Thomas Edison

I recently went on vacation to Mexico.  It wasn’t my first choice of places to go, but my wife wanted to get away and “just lay by a pool”.  So we did.   We went to Cabo,  we stayed at a beautiful resort, and we laid by a pool.

I hated it.


OK, I didn’t “hate it” hate it, but I was bored out of my mind immediately.  I made the conscious decision to not bring my laptop and not work while I as there.  I decided I would be present in the moment, and take the time to do nothing and just recharge my batteries.  Turns out my batteries don’t recharge when I’m doing nothing.

My batteries charge up when I am doing what I love, and I love to work.  I love building things.  I love fixing things.  I love finding simple solutions to complicated problems.  I love working with smart creative passionate people all day and then coming home getting my hands greasy tearing apart an engine in my garage.  I love remodeling my house.  I love taking something old and restoring it to new. I love growing food in my garden. And  I love being inspired by others doing great work.

Work and our view of work has gotten a bad name in our culture.  A lot of people don’t want to work.  There’s a thousand get rich schemes out there, and lately the “start your own business and work from anywhere” fad has caught on and promises freedoms to travel the world and work only 4 hours a week.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Tim Ferriss and I love the idea of ROWE.  Our 2010 idea of work needs to catch up and move past the old industrialized history it still holds on to, but we still need to do great work.

We should want to work hard.  We should take pride in the work we are doing.   We should try to do the best job we could in every job we do.  How and where we do this work is negotiable and its not the point. The point is the ethic of work.  Its the satisfaction of knowing you gave your all into the project.  Its the pride of seeing the job completed and enjoying the fruits of your labor.  No where in our culture is that message being said or taught.

We need to get back to the idea that work is good.  Everyone should take pride in working hard at something and then should also enjoy the results of that work.

What I’m not saying is that everyone should work 100 hours a week, sacrificing time with family and friends to make more money. You’ll notice that nowhere above did I mention making money.  Work isn’t about money.   Work is about creating something great.  You may be a farmer, a CEO of some high tech company or someone who makes candles out of their garage.  The point is to make the best product you can and enjoy the work you are doing.

This wonderful TED video of Mike Rowe from the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs inspired this post.  I highly recommend watching it.  Mike knows how to tell a story.

What do you think of work?  Love it, hate it?  Let me know in the comments


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  • http://twitter.com/roy204 Damien Chavarria

    Nice post Ben. I recognize some of my own character traits here. I don't know if you've read Linchpin by Seth Godin but it covers some of the same topics about working in an environment that makes you want to work hard and contribute something instead of being told what to do all the time and hating work. I'm off to watch that TED video. Cheers.

  • http://www.trulysimple.com Ben

    Linchpin is on my list to read. I’ve heard it’s great but I have a few more books to get through first. Just finished ReWork by 37 signals and that was good and a very quick read.

  • Brie

    my fiance and & are both workaholics and believe in hard work. while i agree with you, my perception of asking my fiance to “do nothing” with me, like laying around for a bit, really means i want him to stop working on gadgets and “work” on me. i also need “maintenance” and think getting him away from everything sometimes helps him realize this so he can focus on us/me without distractions. because if i really just wanted to lay by the pool and do nothing for some reason, i'd just do that by myself.

  • http://www.trulysimple.com Ben

    I totally agree with you Brie. I'm all about quality time and spending that with my wife, but sometimes I need help from her to tear me away from my gadgets and projects and just focus on her. Us boys love our gadgets too much sometimes ;-) .

    Thank you for the comment


  • Melloajello

    Love this post dude!! Its a great thing to keep in mind, especially those of us who work our butts off at a job for 8+ hours then come home and have other projects like a garden, construction, etc. It's important to keep in mind the ethic and to just DO the work, and that it is honorable simply to work!!

  • Kevyn

    Honorable. I hope my kids are learning this from watching me.

  • Dave

    While I enjoy a lot of the posts you put up, this one resonates with me. Watching the video actually about made me cry. I think of my grandfather who built houses all over Tacoma, my dad who sold cars and felt like it wasn't a greasy profession-but a need that people had to have met, and others. I work in a school, and a district that places ALL of it's emphasis on the college bound. It's so hard when I watch kids whose talents and gifts are not books and school practically forced out unless. . . great thoughts bud!

  • Stacey

    Much like you, I like to work remotely. My laptop goes with me most everywhere. However, when my six year old demanded today that I throw my blackberry out the window and stop emailing (because she wanted me to tell her how to spell a word and I was ignoring her), it again made me wonder if we have taken this too far. We are such a new generation. People from earlier generations may have loved their work, but most of them also left their jobs at the end of the day and the rest of the evening belonged to their families or hobbies. I never leave my job and my time is rarely allocated to my family free from interruptions. Working remotely provides me with much more flexibility, but I generally have one foot, “in the moment”and the other in the “working moment”.