How I Developed a Work Ethic

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I owe much of my work ethic to my mom who was my number one role model. My mom worked hard and believed that in doing so she could make a better life for us. When I was five or six years old, she had a full-time job as a teacher, went to graduate school at night 45 minutes away and had a second job on the weekend. As a single mom, this was hard work. She was lucky to have help from her parents, who often babysat.

But I knew that my mom was trying to better herself, not just to make more money but to be better educated and prepared for the future. My mom pushed me hard academically. We began discussing where I’d go to college when I was in kindergarten. She made it very clear that she had big plans for me, and I embraced those plans. I wanted nothing more than to make her proud.

So by watching her work hard and having her push me hard, work ethic became engrained in my brain. As a child, I won lots of awards and was routinely the brightest star. I won those awards because I worked hard – this was way before the “participation” trophies.

I was always very interested in making my own money. Before I could actually get a job, I talked my friends into having yard sales and made hair bows that I also sold to my friends. By the time I was 12, I did have a job, although it was only on Saturdays cleaning offices. At 16, I had a real part-time job and never stopped working. I worked throughout college as a nanny and then of course after graduation, I got my first post college job, which was a wonderful experience, mainly because of the mentors I had. I already knew how to be on time, be reliable, ask lots of questions, think about the things no one else was thinking about and never think something wasn’t my responsibility just because it was outside of my normal duties.

No one is born with work ethic. It has to be developed. Even if you didn’t have to get a job until after college that doesn’t mean you don’t have a work ethic. We shouldn’t equate having a job to work ethic. It’s not the same. Work ethic is about looking at a position or your career as more than just a paycheck. It’s about looking at any job as an opportunity. I’ve had lots of jobs I didn’t love. But I always showed up and tried to find opportunity in all of them.

I thank my mom almost every day for so much that she imparted to me. I’m so glad that she was such an amazing role model who told me I could be and do anything. Not everyone has that kind of cheerleader. And maybe that’s why not everyone is able to develop work ethic. Whether you are 20 or 40, you have learned or will learn that life’s not fair, and it rarely turns out as expected. But we must make the best of the hand we’ve been dealt. Having a strong work ethic has helped me get through many of life’s hardships. To me, it’s a critical asset to have in life. And even if I won the lottery, I’d still want to work (just maybe a little less and with a view of the beach!).

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