Work Ethic


work ethicWelcome back to work.

(This applies to Americans who were lucky enough to have a long weekend.)

I know it is a struggle for some of you to even show up after three days off. It doesn’t feel like three days off, does it?

Since I started blogging back in 2004, I’ve read hundreds thousands of letters from people (like you) who come from dysfunctional families. You tell me that you are trying to navigate tricky work situations — or a lack of employment — all while reconciling past (or current) issues around physical abuse, sexual abuse and mental illness in your families.

You are exhausted. You would like another day off, please, only this time someone should take your kids for a few hours so you can get a nap.

And now it’s Tuesday. You are back at work — a place where you can supposedly showcase your best skills and abilities. But it’s nothing but drama and hassles, too. Work should offer a diversion from your family drama but it never does. It is a burden and folds into a broader, darker narrative.

Elizabeth Edwards wrote a book called Resilience. It was very helpful to many readers who have endured heartbreak and challenges in their lives. (I haven’t read it but feel free to check it out or tell me if you liked it in the comments section.) Resiliency is the ability to recover readily from illness, depression and adversity. It’s a mental state.

But I think people who survive and thrive demonstrate something more specific than resiliency. They have a work ethic — a belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.

Me? I am not resilient. When something bad happens, I don’t recover easily. It lingers with me. Then I blog about it six months (or six years) later. This is part of how I am wired. But I do have a work ethic. It’s not huge. But even when it is ridiculously painful and hard, I know that the bar is so low in the American workforce (and the education system) that just showing up demonstrates character and gives me a competitive advantage.

Just showing up and doing what is asked of me — even in the worst moments of my life — has never been a bad idea. On my most challenging days, I got paid. On good days, showing up distracted me from whatever pain and drama was in my life by giving me a different kind of pain:

  • I felt pain that really didn’t matter. After all, it’s just a job.

So welcome back to work. Happy Tuesday. And remember: Show up, be an adult and get paid. The difference between having a work ethic and being a drag on society is so slight that it’s almost immoral not to show up.

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