Working Smarter v. Harder

There are many important lessons my mother and grandmother have taught me, lessons that I live by and will continue to live by the rest of my life. One of the first lessons my mom taught me was to always push to make things better in your life, an education she told me would do this. By the time I was in Kindergarten I had already decided that I was going to go to my state’s biggest university since everyone said it was the best in our state, as I got older I changed my mind on the particular school but not on attending a university of some sort.

My mom taught me that I needed to better myself so my life would be better when I was older, as I got older this lesson tied in with one of  the most important things she taught me; you can’t achieve your goals by simply saying what you want, you have to put in the hard work for them. In short, you reap what you sow.

My family has never been wealthy and therefore we’re no strangers to hard physical labor. When I was eight I got the opportunity to start working, my first job was helping my grandma with her house cleaning business. I was one of four, later three, then two employees (all members of the family). It’s when the lesson of put in hard work to get a reward really started to be hounded in.

When you haul heavy totes of cleaning supplies, mops, vacuum cleaners, mop buckets, etc. up and down stairs and scrub until your arms are sore, you definitely feel like you earned your money but it also made me glad I only worked 1-2 times a week and not everyday.  This time working with my grandma from age 8 to 15 gave me a real appreciation for hard work but it also made me determined to do as my mom always encouraged; work hard in school and get the easy job later in life, rather than goof off in school and work hard later in life.

When my grandma couldn’t keep doing the work anymore that message got even more important to me. She physically couldn’t do any hard labor anymore, the years of it had worn down on her and caused her to have health problems that made her unable to do her job. She had to quit and without any training or degree, was unable to get a job she could physically handle, so money worries weigh heavy on her.

My mom was faced with a pretty similar problem and now works in a physically straining job running a daycare. I work with her and I can honestly say that as hard as it can be I love it, but it doesn’t pay much nor will I be able to do it forever.

Before anyone gets upset and thinks I’m criticizing labor workers and those without college degrees, I’d like to say this; I’m 100% aware of the importance of that work and I know it’s not fear of hard work early in life that lands people in those positions. I have however been seeing amongst the people I grew up with an over glorification of these jobs and feel like the younger people of today really need to look at the decisions they make in the long term.

Your life goal should be something to make you happy, and while plastering pools, digging ditches, etc. may be okay when your young and you may be happy with the pay you have to think about when you’re older. When you get old your body can’t do everything that it used to, it isn’t as strong anymore, especially if it’s dealing with the strain of years of hard labor.

My dad, who plastered pools most of my childhood, slaved away for hours in the hot sun day after day for pay that was just enough when combined with mom’s pay to get by. He went back to school while doing this and was able to get a college degree that landed him a nice office job with better pay, and less hours that was physically less hard. We’ve actually talked about this a bit in my family as my dad, now in his mid-forties could no longer handle the physical labor of his old job he did in his twenties and early thirties.

An extremely troubling thing I hear many of my former classmates saying is that they don’t need a high school diploma or college degree because they can make $15 an hour (minimum wage) doing a job like plastering pools, cleaning, etc. and live just fine. They say they don’t mind the hard physical work, which is good since hard work is so important, but they don’t seem to be thinking about the fact that someday that work will take a toll on their bodies to the point that they can no longer do it. Then what? Most jobs that you don’t need some form of education for require hard manual labor.

There’s nothing wrong with working a job like this, but it’s not realistic to believe you can do it all of your life because you will find it harder and harder with age until you simply can’t do it one more time.

What I’m hoping the people my age, these kids going out into the world, will realize is that it’s better to get the hard work done early on in your life and work easier later than to spend your whole life working hard and never get ahead. The people who I know who spend their entire lives doing hard physical work that never got an education beyond middle school/high school have all expressed how hard it is to keep doing their job in their older age and how worried about surviving they are when their bodies finally won’t allow them to continue. My Great-Uncle is almost in his seventies and still working a job that he goes home everyday in pain from and has been hospitalized with conditions he’s gotten as a result of having done that work his whole life.

Many of the people saying they don’t mind doing hard work don’t seem to have an answer to questions about what they’ll do when they physically can’t do that job anymore, and ironically many claim that they don’t want to get a degree or high school diploma because it’s too hard.

I actually really enjoy hard work, I love seeing the results I can produce and feeling like I’ve actually accomplished something. That being said, I don’t want to be stuck in a job that forces me to work my body into a state where I’m in constant pain when I’m older. I don’t want to be doing hard physical work until I begin to deteriorate and then have to worry about my survival when I can’t do that job anymore. There’s nothing wrong with hard physical work, but you can’t deny that it does damage to your body long term and eventually you become too old to do it.

Getting a GED, high school diploma, or college degree has been made easier today thanks to technology. Is it still hard work? Obviously, but personally I’d rather work hard while I’m young, balancing work and school, than not get an education and be in a difficult situation later in life.

I’m basing this on my observations of the people I’ve know having grown up in a what’s been dubbed the “rural getto” a place outside of the south side of the city occupied solely by gangs, meth labs, “trailer trash”, and the poor working class (it’s not the best area but it’s the second cheapest place to live).

I’ve seen what happens to the poorer people living in areas like mine when kids drop out of school or just settle for hard jobs that don’t pay well. They don’t get ahead in life and are always worrying about money, eventually they end up regretting their decisions. I’m worried about these people my age making these choices without thinking a few years into the future. I don’t want to see them someday regret not doing something to better their lives when they were young.

Personally, I want to be able to feel financially secure when I’m older and have a job that allows me to pay all of my bills and not have to decide what I’m going to let get shut off. I want to be able to take care of my mother when she can’t work anymore and have her not worry about money anymore, I want to have access to the easier jobs you can only get with a degree. I’m not afraid of hard work, I’m afraid of putting in too much of one form of hard work and not another. I’d rather put my hard work into securing future for myself with minimal financial worry and physical pain than spend my life working physically hard and struggling later as I’ve witnessed others do.

I’m hoping other people in my generation will realize this as well and get some form of education be it via a college, university, trade school, or even just a GED/high school diploma. I’ve heard this saying before and I think it’s defiantly good advice; work smarter, not harder.

Thanks for reading,


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