The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012


In chatting with my sister earlier this summer, I had a realization that I cannot remember the last time I felt "bored" or at a loss for tasks, work or things I wanted to do or accomplish.  This is not to say that my days are always filled with important effort--in fact, there are days when gardening, cleaning closets and mopping the kitchen floor feel like adequate effort.  What it did mean to us (my sister and I) as we were talking about the values we shared about what work should and shouldn't be, was that boredom, laziness or idleness simply weren't an option.

I have learned a few things in my five decades.  One is that "work ethic" is not a static or singularly defined term.  It is subject to family heritage, gender, culture, age, politics and myriad other factors.  We tend to want to use "good work ethic" to define how we work and to pass judgement on how others don't. Even with that understanding, I have also come to realize that I bring what I bring in terms of my "work baggage" and what I like to call "grandparent voices" to how I approach every single day.

When I was getting to know Teri, we had quite a few chats about values, belief systems and personal philosophies. We realized that we were kindred spirits in terms of our solidly working class backgrounds and that while we both managed to get ourselves educated in ways our parents or grandparents never did, we strongly valued and appreciated some of what had been instilled in us.  I remember a story Teri told about how as a young child, all she understood about her dad's work as a machinist in the U.S. Navy was that he had to work with a bunch of idiots and slackers.  As we chuckled with understanding, I recognized that high standard of what it means to work a full

In order to live in the real world and work with a variety of people, I've had to figure out what values, voices and assumptions I bring to each day and to acknowledge these are not carved into stone anywhere, but they are part of how I work and who I am.  Some came from my upbringing; but some were also developed out of response and resistance; through education and travel and evolution:

  • Be reliable, follow-through on promises and commitments, don't let people down
  • The more you do, the more you can do--do your part and more
  • If you don't know how to do something, learn or find someone who can do it better
  • Don't take things personally
  • Learn from mistakes (but making the same mistake multiple times is irresponsible)
  • Surround yourself with awesome people, whenever possible, and try to hire people who are smarter, better and more or differently skilled--then learn from them
  • Enjoy the effort, as well as the end-product
  • Take pride in work well done
  • Thinking is work...sometimes...other times it is avoidance of what really needs to be done
  • Working as a team means doing your part and being appreciative of what others do
  • Your team is only as strong as the weakest player
  • Rest is earned
  • Live within your means
  • Approach problems with the assumption that they can be solved, and that there are probably multiple ways to solve them
  • You'll never get this day back, so make the most of it
  • Balance personal goals and efforts with what is best for the good of the order
  • You don't have to like everyone you work with, but respect is imperative
  • Know when to step away, move on or let go
  • Work and effort are equally valuable, whether they are paid, volunteer or for home, community and family
  • Don't try to make other people responsible for your personal stuff
  • Avoid excuses, defensiveness and rationalizations
  • Do a job as well as you can so you won't have to do it again
As you can see, these are mine--I own them and acknowledge that other people have other branches on their work ethic tree.  My truth and my mission are in no way one-size-fits-all despite the reality that values and belief systems can sometimes feel like commandments carved in stone.  I work because I love to be useful, purposeful and productive and because I choose to.  If I look puzzled when someone tells me they are bored or overwhelmed or wondering what to do next, it is because it seems foreign to me--it's coming from a different world of work.

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