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About Hard Work

Posted on Friday, April 12, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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28 Comments
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Construction worker, team work. Two construction workers working hard together to install the sidings of a building.

As generational change occurs, labor productivity – and motivation to work hard – seem to be declining, which mystifies economists, now guessing about the role of technology, training, macro-policies, capital, job quality, wages, and wonky data. It might be simpler.

Even with freer markets, better technology and training, less government, more capital, lowering taxes to create better jobs, saving, growth, and reduced debt, the answer may be this: Just teaching the value of hard work.

In the end, people do the work. How they do it is about attitude. With technology, it is people who change tires, clean floors, cook meals, build houses, unclog toilets, make planes, trains, and automobiles go, write software, respond, and prepare.

Maybe we start …with people and our culture’s attitude toward hard work. Each generation lives different experiences, which shape their attitude to work. The Silent Generation (pre-1946), Boomers (1946-1964), X Generation (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-1996), and Z youngsters (1997-2012) see things differently.

As our workforce composition changes, attitudes do too. The Silent Generation knew the Depression and WWII and valued work by itself. The Boomers were their children. Generation X was independent, less institutionally anchored, but alert.

Millennials, now 20s to 40s, are different, digital, technology-dependent, less focused on history, what made their lives possible. Many miss work’s goodness.

Finally, Generation Z is impatient and sees digital mastery as the fast track to riches. Often, they lack important historical, strategic, and intergenerational context, where their world came from, the risk, sacrifice, and work that made their world.

Splaying these groups on a chart, the 2025 workplace looks like a whale with no tail, low on the left, hump in the middle, sloping to zero on the right. From left to right, five percent will be under 19, 15 percent ages 20 to 24, 18 percent 25 to 29, 19 percent 30 to 34, 19 percent 35 to 39, 18 percent 40 to 44. That is the hump.

The last eight columns slope right, 17 percent of those working will be aged 45 to 49, 16 percent aged 50 to 54, 16 percent aged 55 to 59, 13 percent aged 60 to 64, 8 percent aged 65 to 69, 4 percent aged 70 to 74, two percent aged 75 to 79, one percent aged over 80.

What does this mean? Several things. More than 93 percent of the workforce will be under 44 next year, 56 percent – more than half – under 34, and more than one-third under 30.

Going forward, the attitude of young Americans toward work, the pride they have in it, and the value they see in it, will matter for all of us, not least their own futures.

While the Silent Generation saw value in hard work, getting stronger physically and mentally, feeling confident because self-reliant, and grateful for peace and work, they populate the workplace in single digits now.

Boomers and X’ers, while numerous in their heyday and workers are also tapering.. Like their parents and grandparents, many valued “blood, sweat, and tears,” being a Renaissance person, handy and smart, able to fix things yet professional; they took risks, failed, learned, succeeded, paid dues, and liked work.

What remains is the new culture, one that often forgets – never knew – how good it is to work hard, just gratitude for the chance. They miss the value of a hard thing, aiming high, failing, getting up, aiming again, failing again, getting up again – the work ethic and how it teaches strengths, limits, and appreciation.

What many in the workforce miss, while good with iPhones, apps, and instant information, is what came before, why others have no interest in victimhood, entitlement, social media, “likes,” “dislikes,” “followers,” being witty, no self-pity.

Most of the young have never seen war, deprivation, or global depression. They do not know what they could, that work is good, emboldens a soul, teaches confidence, how to meet adversity with perseverance, the value of doing things with your own hands, and how that produces ingenuity and resourcefulness.

In sum, hard work is good, just that simple. If we teach that, while others push dependence, ease, and entitlement, those who follow will prevail, America will.

The process is simple. As St. Francis of Assisi famously wrote: “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” You do not know what lies within unless you try.

As Albert Einstein added, hard work produces surprises. He had his surprise and his principles. “Out of clutter find simplicity. From discord find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

But Thomas Edison put it most simply: “There is no substitute for hard work.” America’s young workforce can again be the best in the world if we teach them about hard work.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Max
Max
1 month ago

RBC, interesting article. Work ethics are definitely important for the younger generations. These ethics were learned from the parents for the most part. In my second government job, I was a trainer for 27 years before my retirement. I could read people very good as to whether or not that they would be able to do the job properly. In the 1990s, usually I saw about 80% of the employees that I trained stayed with the job. As time passed, that percentage declined by 2015, it was lucky if 10% remained in the job. Most of these new employees quit after a month because they were looking for jobs that would put them in front of a computer screen and not have to do real manual labor. I keep in touch with colleagues and the situation has not improved especially after COVID and FREE GOVERNMENT MONEY where people did not want to work.
Well, have a great weekend.

Patriot Bill
Patriot Bill
1 month ago

Be sure to thank the government and the public education system for destroying several generations of minds.

Patriot Will
Patriot Will
1 month ago

Hard work promotes an individual to be less self-absorbed and more self-reliant. Those who do for themselves as much as possible have a can-do spirit of productive accomplishment. We need more Americans who have pride in their own abilities and don’t expect a centralized government to do for them that which can be done by the freedom-loving individual.

Melinda
Melinda
1 month ago

Hard work leads to self respect. Maybe that’s why, in younger people, there is so much mental illness. As a teacher, I remember about 30 years ago (maybe more?) The push to give kids “self esteem”. That was a false premise which led to narcissism. Self esteem must be earned, not given.

TOBS
TOBS
1 month ago

I AM A SELF EMPLOYED PLUMBER/STARTED IN 1975/I HAVE BEEN IN BUSINESS FOR 41 YEARS/ALL MY EMPLOYEES ARE OLDER LATE 30S AND OLDER,YOUNG MEN DONT LAST BUT A FEW DAYS. I AM SADDENED AT THE LACK OF ENTHUSIASM FOR THE TRADES IN GENERAL, YES IT CAN BE HARD WORK AT TIMES,BUT IF ONE STICKS WITH IT AND PAYS ATTENTION IT CAN BE VERY REWARDING.

Hurry it up
Hurry it up
1 month ago

Your words have inspired me sir. to tell you to pick up a good pair of bootstraps and go out there in sweltering heat and work for 7 dollars an hour. What’s that? Your old? Sounds like a communist would say to get out of work. Now quit crying and go earn your healthcare. Lol

GTPatriot
GTPatriot
1 month ago

mystifies economists ? If a person works 40 hours a week and cannot afford a decent place to live or (god forbid) buy a home and drive a decent car, whats the incentive ?
Workers today are not willing to work 15 years for paltry pay to pay rent.

uncleferd
uncleferd
1 month ago

As this article explains, challenging work is a fine exercise that improves a worker’s approach, efficiency and ingenuity. This elevates individual skill, work ethic, and passion for quality, and is why real producers have increased satisfaction (provided that they have suitable means to do the work, and are empowered with enough authority to work effectively).
The work ethic killer is the apathy of many “woke folk” and others who see their “entitlement” as adequate justification for receiving pay checks. Sadly, these misguided people miss out on the passion they might otherwise feel if they made more meaningful efforts to make a bigger difference for customers. The most unfulfilling routine is to work under the authority of an individual with this type of attitude.

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 month ago

Waiting for approval? All I said there is a new workforce ready to start working a be one of us The new immigrant

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 month ago

Not to worry we have the whole new force here ready to roll up their sleeves and start working The new “immigrants” Remember? were we not told they are coming here for a new life, to find work and live productive meaningful lives?

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
1 month ago

Hard work? What’s that?- says Gen Z. They need spellcheck to spell “lol” after every lame posting.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 month ago

Teaches Team work, values, esteem, alone

cliff
cliff
1 month ago

your generation elevated oj simpson

ronald reagan
ronald reagan
1 month ago

robert charles takes credit for the hard work of others while he does nothing, robert charles sucks

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