Too many among us are continuing to fetishize long working hours. Too many of us are wearing our fatigue as a badge of honor.
–Michael Rucker, Ph.D.
I love hard work as much as the next person.
I just told the story today about my worst ever day at work; digging a hole about five feet deep into a packed gravel driveway, cutting a clogged 90° fitting out of a 10″ sewer pipe, bailing hundreds of gallons of manure by hand out of the hole, patching the pipe (with 2x 45° bends instead bend to prevent future clogs). I still remember the almost apologetic way my boss asked me to fill the hole back in at the end of the day.
The fitting wasn’t the only thing that was 90°. That was one of those miserable, stupid-hot, crazy-humid Minnesota late summer days. I must have drunk 2 gallons of water that day. My boss’s wife made me breakfast, lunch and dinner. I climbed out of the hole to clean up and eat, but other than that, I was in that hole all day and up to mid-shin in manure for a lot of that time.
Manure takes on a certain potency when the sun hits it. There is no wind at the bottom of a five-foot deep hole, and no geothermal cooling effect could take the edge off of a noon-day sun in late July in Minnesota.
“Steve, we have feed being delivered in the morning, which means the semi-trailer needs to go right where that hole is. If I do chores for you, do you think you could stay and fill it back in?”
And I did.
I had done chores at 5 am that morning, and spent from 7 am to 5 pm digging a hole, bailing out liquified manure, and patching the pipe. By the time I got done shoveling all that gravel back into the hole, it was nearly 8 pm.
My boss told me, “Thanks.” and offered to take my shift doing chores in the morning, too, so that I could get some rest.
When I got my next paycheck, he had given me a $2/hour raise.
I didn’t ask for it. And he didn’t tell me about it. But evidently he really was grateful.
I’d do that again tomorrow, for him, or any number of farmers around my hometown who gave me the opportunity to work hard and earn some spending money in high school and college.
But even from a guy who thinks longingly about the simple hard work offered by a day like that, this idea of Gary Vanderchucking it for 80 hours a week has got to go.