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What happened to people who do the very best they can for the joy of it? What happened to integrity at work?

When I was growing up, everyone I knew was devoted to doing their very best at whatever work they did. My parents worked hard, and my friends' parents worked hard. Everyone I knew had a sense of integrity about their work, getting good feelings from doing their very best.

When I graduated high school more than 50 years ago, all my friends were deeply motivated to do well in college and do their very best at a job.

We all had a very strong work ethic, which meant:

  • We did not have entitlement issues - we did not think of being handed anything without working for it.
  • We did not try to get away with as little work as possible.
  • We had no problems starting at the bottom and working our way up.
  • We had a sense of integrity about our work. It meant something to us to put forth our best effort. We felt a sense of inner worth at giving our all to something.

What happened to this work ethic? Why are so many people resistant and try to get away with as little as possible? Why do they work half-heartedly? Why to they have so many entitlement issues - expecting to be rewarded even when they have done a poor job? Why do they expect to be handed stuff without working for it?

When I was growing up, I never heard "good job" for anything less than a stellar job. Now, kids hear "good job" for everything, from finishing the food on their plate to turning a somersault. Many children not only get approval for EVERYTHING, but they are handed so much and catered to so much that they grow up feeling entitled to it. Many parents scrimp and deprive themselves to give their children everything they didn't have, only to have the children grow up expecting others to give themselves up for them. 

My parents were poor, so I had to earn and save money for everything I wanted, starting when I was very small. Nothing was ever handed to me. There was no one to give me a charge card (even if charge cards had existed at that time!) or any extra money. Sometimes I wish it would have been easier, but at other times I'm so grateful that I learned to put forth my very best effort. It never occurred to me to do anything less, and as a result I learned early the joy that comes from doing my very best.

In school, my teachers were not trying to bolster self-esteem by giving out a "good job" for every little thing. We had to earn our accomplishments, and earn the good feelings that come from making effort.

Today, too many children grow up believing that their good feelings come from external approval rather than from their own efforts. They lose touch with doing for the joy of doing and learn to do for the approval. This takes away their internal motivation to do well for the joy of it. They get so addicted to approval that they even forget how to put forth their best effort. I find this very sad.

When we find helpers - a handyman, plumber, electrician, housekeeper - who get obvious pleasure and a deep sense of self-worth from doing their very best, we think we have found a treasure! What a joy to know that this person is not going to try to cheat us or slack off because of his or her deep sense of integrity.

And how sad that there are so few people like this.