Real World, Real Life: Why Your Kids Need a Good Work Ethic

Men of a certain age have problems that they’ve never encountered before. Most of us were never even warned.

For me it started simply enough: Sports radio was no longer preset number one. Instead, when I started my car one morning, some guy with what must be marbles in his mouth was trying to rhyme cash with blast at 100 decibels.

Like I said, I have teen-age daughters.

The youngest, and most expensive of these, blesses me with her brand of entertainment on the way to school; and most of the music (if I may borrow that term), that she’s listening to describes how rich the singer is. So I tell my precious little tax break that the guy is rich because people buy his “I Have Mo’ Money than You” song, and doesn’t that seem odd to you, honey?

“Life doesn’t work that way”

Then I tell her about the guy who advertises that “You too! can learn the secret of becoming a millionaire if you just send him $10.” Six weeks later a package lands on the stoop. Shaking with excitement, you shred the envelope revealing the super special secret to being as wealthy as your new mentor: convince 100,000 people to give you $10 each.

Every generation has their problems.  God knows mine did what with Michael Jackson and all, but this group is different.

For every kid I hear talk about a job, 20 gab on about how they’ll become famous. For every one that prepares for a life of productivity, 10 are scheming to get on to a TV show. Prepare yourself, kids — life doesn’t work that way. While it’s true that some leeches have slimed their way to money and fame, advertised results are not typical.

My girls are a good example. They see the reality stars and think “If those fools did it, then I deserve it too.”

What they don’t know is that the world of TV celebrity is a pyramid scheme. The top cats earn a mighty fine living, but only because they have adoring fans. The money comes from the fan base, and the money goes up. Without having people who pay attention, the structure collapses. Without an audience, the fame and money don’t exist because nothing of value is actually produced.

It isn’t just this new generation though. Parents dive into this fantasy world, too. I applaud Olympic athletes and the parents who take them to practice – but it also makes me sad. For every 12-year-old Olympic gymnast, there are 5,000 girls who have spent eight hours a day for 10 years jumping around gymnasiums with little chance of making the team.

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Why having a worth ethic matters

But at least they learned a work ethic, and they will probably succeed somewhere else. It did cost them a childhood, but at least they have something to show for it.

Meanwhile, some parents pour their toddlers into bikinis while others nurture a mediocre singing talent, hoping to make their kid rich and famous. I understand their desire, but they may as well be teaching the little monsters to scratch off lottery tickets since the odds are better.

There’s only one sure way to have a chance to succeed in life, and that’s by work. Not labor necessarily, but work at the things that matter – like learning the skills that will make you successful. Yes, they need a work ethic.

I’ll probably get letters telling me that everyone should follow their dreams and shoot for the stars. I’ll reply that getting rich quickly isn’t the kind of fantasy that should be encouraged.

If you dream of scaling Mt. Everest, I’ll say: That’s awesome! In your spare time practice climbing, and then, when you have the resources, go for it. What you don’t need to do is put your future eggs in one get-rich-quick-or-fail-completely basket.

Kids should be learning the benefit of producing something of value, and the joy of being rewarded for it. That’s what a work ethic is about. It’s life in the real, Real World.

David Sneed is the owner of Colorado-based Alpine Fence Company and author of Everyone Has A Boss – A Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company. As a Marine, father, husband, entrepreneur, author, and teacher, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the personal benefits of a strong work ethic to entry-level employees. Contact him at David@EveryoneHasABoss.com.

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