Sixty years ago that question was often asked of me and my friends during our high school years. The suggestion was being planted in us that we needed to become something important – to be Somebody.
Our parents had lived through the Great Depression of the 1930’s and wanted a better life for their children. They constantly encouraged us to “get an education, so you won’t have to work as hard as we did.”
Thus was planted the subliminal suggestion that work was not really a good thing. And the way to avoid it was to spend the requisite number of years in an institute of higher education in order to obtain a certificate designating one as someone who was above such a menial status.
It turned out that work was pretty much a necessity, a necessary evil one might say. So people my age did what they had to do and dreamed of that magical day of retirement when they wouldn’t have to work anymore and could spend time with their friends doing all the things they had dreamed of doing.
Reality stuck it’s ugly nose in here too. It turned out that our friends were the people we worked with. When we retired we had nothing in common with them anymore. Many retired men having, by virtue of being men, the conviction that they could fix most anything began tracking their wives around the house and advising them how they could do their work more efficiently. Finally, the wives reached the breaking point and said, “Why don’t you go out and get a job?” Many men did and found more satisfaction in the work they did after retirement than they had in their careers.
Maybe work isn’t such a bad thing after all. Surveys say that employers don’t care much for fancy pieces of paper offered as proof of sitting through so and so many hours of tenured duty in a classroom. They are looking for people who want to serve. People who want to learn the specific skills needed by their employer to serve their customers. People who find satisfaction in contributing to the success of a team.
The robots are coming, you say? I suppose, but so far more jobs have been lost to Asia than to robots. A renewed appreciation for good workmanship would go hand in hand with a renewed sense of dignity in work.