Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Life Observations, #1

Life Observation #1


 I am going to post these life observations occasionally, as they happen.  Not all the time.  I expect my life observations to be a portion of the content here, but not all of it.  Also, I remind you that I encourage you to comment with any insights of your own that the blog may generate in you. 

The balance between working hard, and working smart.

I was raised in a purely blue collar family with blue collar ethics and ideals.  My example of manhood; my father, is one of the hardest working guys I have known.  For most of my life I too have enjoyed blue collar professions, not surprisingly, since that is how I was raised.

When I was a younger man, in fact up to fairly recently, it was very important to me to be the hardest working guy on any job, and I was.  I didn’t do that to be noticed or to inspire comments from others (although that did happen), nor did I do it to impress my boss.

 I worked that way as a matter of my own personal pride.  That was my way of challenging myself and continuously improving, it made me feel good at the end of the day knowing that I accomplished more physically than anyone else on the job.  The question is; was it smart of me?

In my case, it turned out OK.  I was never seriously injured trying to lift something too heavy or straining my connective tissues past the breaking point.  I never had to take time off work because I was injured.  I was very lucky…I have known others who were not.

Perhaps this topic is more on my mind now because I just turned 51.  My current job is still very physical, and I like that because it keeps me from getting fat, but I am making the shift into working smarter, not necessarily harder.  It is a tricky balance though, at least for me.

I started working smarter in my 30’s by analyzing every situation and determining if tasks were being executed in the most efficient manner, but that is only part of the “work smart” equation… I would still push my body to incredible limits, completely oblivious to the possible consequences.  Looking back I shudder to think what the effects would have been on my children and life if I had seriously injured something by being too careless, by not being smart. 

I still am doing the job of a much younger man, but its OK, because I’m in pretty good shape.  Recently though, I have refused to do certain task that I simply deemed “unwise”.  The risk of injury was not worth the wage I would receive to perform it. 

I really need all of my limbs and my back, and I want them to carry me happily into old age.   What is my health and long term happiness worth?  A lot!  A lot more than I am earning.  It is priceless, really.

The problem with this, the hard part for a guy like me, is that because of my blue collar mentality I start to feel like I am a big sissy if I refuse to do something.  In my brain it equates directly to my worth as a man.  It is not a good feeling…I am still working on dealing with that.  Yesterday it got to me, and I carried some extremely heavy objects up stairs by myself rather than have someone help me.  I did it alone on purpose. 

Was that smart?  No.  It was dumb actually.  But…It did make me feel good just to remind myself that I was capable of it, even though it was stupid. I don’t regret it, because I didn’t get hurt…but, I could have.  That is what I am trying to remind myself of.

The same thing applies to people who are in a white collar position.  I have known white collar people who work so hard that they lose their quality of life, and their family, it becomes all about “the job” rather than being about the things that really matter.  That isn’t smart either.

What it comes down to are priorities; and the constant evaluation and identification of those priorities.  Whether you are a fence builder, a truck driver, a secretary, nurse, executive or circus clown…you have to always be aware and focused on those things in life that are most important, and make decisions based on that. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the vocational whirlwind, especially in this economy, when it might not be that easy to get another job if you lost the one you have. 

But what is more important; your kids having a dad with a job…or, your kids having a dad that is alive who can take them to the park, or fishing?  

What is more important; your kids having a mom with a job…or, your kids having a mom who is emotionally healthy with enough energy to take walks and spend time to teach them about the things that matter in life, like my mom did for me?

Those are just a couple examples, but you get the idea.  I’m not suggesting everyone quit their job or tell their boss to go to hell, just that you start having the conversation in your own head about what’s most important in life, and how to work smarter…not harder.    

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