A couple of weeks ago I was walking into my local convenience store to get my morning mug of coffee and almost ran into a man about 20 with a big grin on his face. It could have been one of those joking grins but it looked to me more like the kind that comes from being tickled with oneself. Turns out the young man worked for a Flagger Force, the group that holds up STOP and SLOW signs at construction sites. I have no idea how much money he made doing that work, but when I asked him how things were going, he shouted out: “Livin the Dream!”
Ethic of Hard Work
We Americans are enthralled by the idea of setting ourselves up for a future full of money and influence. We tell our kids that there is no limit to what they can accomplish if they work hard enough. There may be an American here and there unimpressed by the idea of partying with Bill and Melinda Gates or the Trumps at Mar a Lago, but most of us would jump at the chance. We pride ourselves on our ethic of hard work and believe almost religiously the myth that the sky is the limit.
But deeper down most of us understand that however much we may sing about having lots of land under starry skies above, we actually are, despite what the song says, to some degree fenced in. Has any one of us not had the experience of working so hard reaching for the skies that after a time our world starts to empty out. We begin to lose touch with our partners, our children, our capacity for enjoyment, even nature itself.
Unplug & Reconnect
Nevertheless, I admire the work ethic, which has made America the energetic and innovative country it remains. But when we have a few minutes to spare and are so afraid to use them to stop, reflect, or breathe that we feel compelled instead to re-check our smartphones, we overdo that ethic. Using the phone has then become an addiction, not a choice. At such times I try to remind myself to look out the window or step outside for a bit so I can reconnect with a world that can never again be exactly the same as it is right at that moment. It is a precious world, well worth taking the time necessary to notice it.
And so again, as the old song says, let us, by all means, listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees, and only then go back to work again.
This blog article was written by Flying Angels Corporate Ethicist Ronald Wendling. In addition to his posts here, his thoughts can be found on his own blog page Keeping up with Ron.