A Note on Work Ethic

Let us begin 2017 with a slice of harsh reality, that: nobody owes us anything.

This is the prerequisite to strong work ethic. It is also the greatest, most profound lesson I ever learned in my young adulthood. It's the secret to that deeply lodged, wine-corked joy; a type of buoyancy for the soul. 

I expect nothing from anybody. So in the event that I receive something from somebody, I am surprised. Call it pessimism, or having low expectations. The only thing I expect from people is a basic level of respect and humanity, various weights given dependent upon their role in my life. 

So prior to this revelation, I expected my Dad to buy me a new car at 16. I was embarrassed that we lived in an apartment (and not a house) until I was 11. I was ashamed that I came from a poorer suburb in the West of Sydney, and agreed when my friend said I lived in a suburb that smelled like fish.

When I turned 21, something inside me shifted. I remember feeling so ashamed at the ugly, gaping trap-hole that was my entitlement, I started profusely apologising to my family for the brat that I was.

I realised suddenly, that throughout my childhood, it was a miracle we even owned a car.

A photo of the interior, just to mix it up a little, you know? This car pictured represented my Dad finally being able to purchase something he liked after a decade of being a work-horse.

A photo of the interior, just to mix it up a little, you know? This car pictured represented my Dad finally being able to purchase something he liked after a decade of being a work-horse.

Now aware of my own entitlement, I have huge respect for my parents, who never earned more that $50K, and yet managed to buy a house in the most expensive city in Australia.

No inheritance, no help, we were crow-wling on the ground, says my Mother, over prawns and peanut sauce at our kitchen table. My Mother is proud, and so she should be. She comes from a gutsy, resilient, non-entitled legacy, and she has worked hard for everything she owns.

THE LINK BETWEEN GRATITUDE AND WORK ETHIC & a Brief acknowledgment of communist russia

In places like Sydney, Oslo, and perhaps Toronto, this "attitude of gratitude" works out well for us. Minimal corruption in government rewards the happy and hardworking.

The compassion for people with disabilities, or single parents with 4 kids permits them to jump into the safety net of welfare payments. Not saying Centrelink is all pot pourri, but the fact that we can even opt to receive something called Medicare is heaven to newly granted PR status Americans. (Trust me, I used to do reception for a medical practice.)

Dinner guest, dead or alive? Definitely George Orwell (1903-1950).

Dinner guest, dead or alive? Definitely George Orwell (1903-1950).

But here's where it doesn't work. And I have to spend a significant chunk acknowledging this by summarising Animal Farm by George Orwell:

An allegory based on the Russian Revolution leading to the tyrannical Stalinist regime, the most heartbreaking character is Boxer the Horse, who represents the fierce work ethic of the peasant classes.

The pigs are the smartest animals (believe it or not) in the book. When Pig Snowball (representing Leon Trotsky) almost gets assassinated by ferocious dogs and runs off the farm to preserve his life, Pig Napoleon (representing Josef Stalin) rises as the unrivalled tyrannical ruler of Animal Farm.

Boxer far surpasses all the other working animals in strength, stamina and conscientiousness. Lessening their food rations by quoting fake figures on food increase, the Minister of Propaganda Pig, Squealer (representing a Nazi Germany-like Josef Goebbels type character) convinces the other animals that they are better off now than when they were under human rule (Farmer Mr Jones representing monarchy ruler Tsar Nicholas II).

Most of the animals cannot read or write. Which is why I was so traumatised when Pig Napoleon denied him his right to a corner of the pasture to graze and learn the alphabet for the remainder of his life (animal superannuation), claiming that such conversations were not in writing, therefore never happened. Of course, Pig Napoleon didn't do this to his face, he sent a cart pretending it was for taking Boxer to the animal hospital, but he actually sells him to the horse slaughterer in exchange for a slab of whisky. 

The pigs are evil in Animal Farm.

The pigs are evil in Animal Farm.

So when Boxer and his work ethic gets abused, I'm furious. This is a character I'm clearly over-invested in. I'm livid, eyes protruding. I'm sitting in a waiting room reading this with my mouth dropped open, in utter disbelief that the animal who deserved the greatest respect is treated like collateral in an afterthought exchange of greed.

And here, while there are so many parallels we could draw - Boxer the Horse could easily represent sweatshop factory workers in India who trusted their corrupt leaders too much, or the 7 Eleven workers who were grossly underpaid in 2016... nothing makes me angrier than the abuse of someone's work ethic

As a privileged white Asian, my blinkers assumed human rights were a given. But to my once-immigrant Mother, she is used to struggle, hardship and crawling, working hard for very little, and for authorities to be corrupt and greedy.

So she takes what she can get, because the Indonesian system failed her. And while Australia is far from flawless, I still believe it's trying to be a fair work society, with many companies promising to provide fulfilling jobs with more than adequate pay.

Now, with that established, here is the other side of the coin. That the permitting of coasting along when one does have a job, where the person is clearly getting paid for the job they are doing is the abuse of work ethic too. They are abusing their company's trust in them to fulfil a role, their bosses dependence on them to complete tasks, and their team's reliance on them to accomplish something together as a united front.

This is bred from a petri dish of entitlement, believing that their mere loyalty to a company deems them immune from being fired for half assed levels of performance.

If you cannot put in the effort the job requires, with a minimally fair attitude, make a choice about whether to lift your game, or quit. Stop wasting your company's hard earned money. 

And if you're slacking off because they don't pay you enough, ask for a raise. If this doesn't work, quit. Go somewhere your work ethic, fresh ideas and stamina will be appreciated. 


I can't help but think that a job-well-done is connected to our self esteem as individuals. 

I can't help but think that a job-well-done is connected to our self esteem as individuals. 

When we give it everything, and energy is spent at the day's end, are we not filled with dopamine highs? If we receive accolades for our innovative ideas, do we not become more confident to release more of ourselves and our brain juice? 

Maybe the "lazy" or "coasting" just haven't had enough wins, or they don't feel ok about failing, or their philosophy and theology of failure warrants crying-in-the-foetal-position. 

Or maybe you are nearing the age of retirement and have worked hard all your life. 

When you visualise the glory that results in doing a great job, people will work hard. Call it "taking pride in your work". I receive joy in writing a good blog post, one with pretty images and ideas that flow. One that amuses me and brings relief that I finally articulated my strange ideas to the world.

Then, when readers email me with feedback about the help it brought to some part of them, it fuels me to write even more. 

This is why I love work.

Every time I do, someone's life improves. What's not to love about that?

What's your perspective on work? Do you despise self-entitlement? comment below and share. Let's get this ball rolling!