Charlie's Blog: Work Theory


Work Theory

The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.

This post will not be an organized one. It is written from the jumble of thoughts I glean from my work life. I have been doing various forms of blue collar work ever since my old man put me to work at thirteen. Over those years, I have learned and developed a body of principles that constitute a theory about work in particular and life in general. I call this body of principles my "work theory."

Theory is defined as a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based. In my case, the activity is just work in the blue collar mode. The first chunk of work theory is what I call my "work rules." These are the three things I have learned over the years make the job better and even more fun. Here they are:

1. ABD
2. ABH
3. QYB

They are letters, but the letters stand for something. I just use the letters as an easy way to remember the rules. Here is the explanation.

1. Always be doing.

Idleness is the enemy of productivity and work. This doesn't mean that you can't take a break or get rest. Those breaks just have to be earned, and they are sweeter when you have actually earned them. Otherwise, your every waking moment should be dedicated to some activity or task. Idleness needs to be obliterated in your life. Such a relentless dedication to always working might seem hellish, but you will find it blissful if you commit to doing it. Don't let those Zen practitioners fool you. Nirvana is not found in stillness but activity.

2. Always be hustling.

Hustling has to do with the tempo of the work you are doing. Decades ago, I used to lift weights with a friend at the gym, but we never had time for cardio because we were students. But we worked on the same job, and he said our job could be cardio. You do the same things, but you do them faster. From him, I learned that work should also be a workout. There should be some aerobic benefit to the work you do. Now, don't go cutting your fingers off with the circular saw. Some things can't be rushed. But if you find yourself on the end of a shovel or a sink full of dishes, do the work briskly as to train the body like at the gym.

3. Quit your bitching.

I cannot recall a single time on the job where complaining made any difference. There are those workers who would rather bitch all day than work all day. At some point, you realize their bitching and whining is their way of getting out of the work. You can shut them up with a little mockery and ridicule and a command to "suck it up." But the main thing is to shut yourself up. Yes, things can be really bad on a job, but humor is the best way to handle it. If you have ever watched Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs, you learn what it is to find humor in the unpleasant and the dirty tasks of life.

Do I always follow the work rules? Heck no. They are more ideals to aim at than to achieve. I have been idle on the job before, and I don't always hustle because I get tired. And, sometimes, I groan pretty loudly about management stupidity. But I am not better for breaking the rules. But I am better when I try and follow them.

The next component of my work theory is the Law of Work Attraction. I'm not a believer in the Law of Attraction or any of that New Age pseudocrap. But the Law of Work Attraction is totally real. Here it is. Work flows to the one who wants it. It can also be stated with another phrase. The reward for good work is more work. There is also a corollary to the Law which states that work flows away from the one who does not want it. I will explain how it works.

In any workplace I have ever encountered, you have about 10-20% of the people doing the real work with the remaining 80-90% just hanging out either doing nothing or doing the bare minimum to avoid getting fired. These people are either slackers or management. All managers are lazy by nature and scheme their way out of work. Why are things like this?

It never fails that on any job I do I end up with overtime on a weekly basis. I don't plan this, and I think it is a sin to milk the clock. But managers find that it is easier to get me to do a thing because of my willingness to do it than to argue and threaten someone else into doing it who doesn't want to do it all. This is how that 80/20 thing develops. A good manager would work hard to get work out of the slackers, but managers are lazy by their nature. So, they take the path of least resistance which is me and people like me. By the end of a workweek, the worker bees have 10 to 20 hours of overtime. The perplexed manager is left trying to explain to his boss why he has to pay out the extra. So, he blames the worker bees for "milking the clock." Somehow, these hard workers become lazy schemers getting over on the company. Yes, it is a ridiculous notion, but managers will say anything to excuse their own laziness.

The Law of Work Attraction is the cornerstone for success in life. You can be an unemployed bum, and you can rise if you embrace this Law. Once you decide that you want to work, work will flow to you like a river. It won't be immediate, but it will happen. This is how a lowly Mexican immigrant can end up owning multiple shops and restaurants within a decade. People love to dump work on hard workers forgetting that those people get paid for that work. If you just work hard at everything, good things will flow from that dedication. I can't guarantee that you will become a billionaire, but  the circumstances of your life will steadily improve as a consequence of this dedication to hard work.

This brings us to the third aspect of my work theory which deals with stress. Like it or not, the workplace can really stress you out. Yet, I have encountered people who never seem stressed about anything on the job. Nothing flusters them. They never get mad. They never bitch or complain. Their attitude tends to be positive. I have racked my brains to understand their secret until I realized something about these guys I admired and envied. They all had solid work ethics. They worked really hard. So, I tried it myself, and I discovered something. The antidote to stress is exhaustion.

When you are really tired and sleep deprived on the job, you never lose your cool. This is because anger and stress require energy. When you are exhausted from always working hard, you don't have the energy left to feed these things. Consequently, there are two ways you can burn yourself out. You can burn yourself out with work, or you can burn yourself out with worry. Choose the work option. I'd rather be pleasantly tired than stressed to a nervous breakdown.

All of this talk of tiredness and exhaustion probably makes you tired and exhausted. There is a belief that doing well on a job requires you to be in good health and rested. You may hear this when you read some article about the work benefits of taking vacations. The problem is that all of that "rested" talk is crap. I have learned another truth from doing blue collar work over these many years. Feeling bad is not the same as doing bad.

Yesterday, a co-worker told me of a day when he was physically ill and vomiting on the job. He tried to get the boss man to relieve him, but the boss did nothing because all bosses are slime. The irony was that my co-worker had one of his best days ever performance wise on a day when he should have stayed home to recover from his illness. I have had similar experiences. I have lost count of the days when I have worked while sick, sleep deprived, heat exhausted, injured, etc. I just never call out for any reason whatsoever. When I do call out, it is usually my vehicle that has failed because the battery was dead, or I had a flat tire on the way to work. When it comes to my body, I find suffering at work is not any different than suffering at home except you get paid to suffer at work. And don't worry. The moment you are too sick to work, they send you home because they aren't going to pay you to do nothing. This only happened to me once.

This constitutes my work theory at this stage of my working life. I will probably learn new things in the future. What I do know is that there is no end to work. Work is forever. What matters is how you think about that work. Embrace work as a reward. Don't endure it as a punishment. How you think about it affects how you do it. We have Mark Twain to thank for this insight. If you find the pleasure in work, you will have truly made a Heaven out of Hell.