For this past month, and especially the last two weeks, my work has dominated my wakening hours. It has also reduced my sleeping hours as the work days stretched on. One work stretch went from 5:00am last Friday to 3:00pm Saturday. 34 hours with no naps, no lunch hours, just the “Got to get this plant up and running and catch up the production line… this is costing us over a thousand dollars a minute to be down.” kind of pressure. Personally, I don’t know how my “Beautiful Wife” works around the clock like this so routinely. I am hopeful that my labor and maintenance problems at work have diminished to the point that I can begin to resume some kind of life outside of work.
These past few days, while in the thick of battle (hiring new employees, catching up the production line, shipping out the orders, and plowing through the stack of paperwork which has been on “ignore” for much too long for Corporate’s liking), my pondering time thoughts have been on work in general.
I love my memories of working on our farm. With no child labor laws applying to family farms, I can’t remember NOT working. But for the most part, I didn’t think of it as work. I was just out helping Dad, and my brothers on the farm. Much later, when I was about 12 years old, I got my first paying job from another farmer. For 6 cents per 40 foot pipe, every morning at 5:00am and again at 5:00pm, I got to move sprinkler irrigation lines across the field to water the crops. Other outside jobs followed. I was a movie projectionist, a lights and sound man at the local college, along with many other personal projects I did in my spare time. Mechanics, photography, electronics, you name it… I always had something going.
In the years since, as a manager, I have hired and worked with hundreds if not a thousand or more people. I am always intrigued with how an individual reacts to a job. Generally, a new hire (whether they are new to the workforce, or just new to that particular job), said all the right things in the interview and is happy and excited to GET the job. It takes about as long as it takes for them to really learn how to do the job, and how they fit into the organization, to separate the wheat from the chaff. It doesn’t matter if they are entry level (first time ever employees), management, or something in between, there is plenty of chaff mixed in with the wheat when it comes to workers.
I am thankful for the strong work ethic in my childhood home. The very stringent child labor laws have done many children a disservice just as no child labor laws disserved the children of my ancestors. As I watch many young adults, fresh out of school, trying to make it in the world, I wonder what makes a few workaholics, while many experience work culture shock.
Because I have studied my family history, I know where my strong work ethic comes from. Samuel Webster and John Smith in the British coal mines. Harald, Christoffer, and my other Norwegian ancestors out on the oceans of the world battling for their lives in leaky ships. John Everett, my Prussian ancestor who at the age of 13, left home never to see his family again to work as a sailor. Johann Tillack who was a farmer from Prussia, who chased after the gold fields of Australia in 1855. Jorgen Jensen, my Danish ancestor who always was a farmer, even when he immigrated to America. Frank Rubbra, who at the age of 16, left his Eastern Canadian home, joined the Canadian Mounted Police, and ended up going to South Africa to fight in the Boar War. All these and the many more that were not mentioned have given me a legacy of work. If it’s in the genes, then I should be an all time classic workaholic. I should look into the ancestry of my “Beautiful Wife”. There must be some awesome untold work stories from her genetic past.
Obviously, the key to a happy work life is to do something that you love doing. Like too many others, economics and a changing world has forced me to trade what I loved to do (continuing our family farm), to something that I like to do. Too bad I can’t get paid for storytelling. Then I would be a workaholic comparable to my “Beautiful Wife”.