Back in 2013 a YouTube video went viral about the importance of hard word and making your own luck, values I am fortunate that my ancestors passed on to me. The speech came from an unlikely source: a young Hollywood actor. In the video, Ashton Kutcher stands in front of a bunch of teenagers at the Teen Choice Awards talking about the importance of hard work:
“When I was 13, I had my first job with my dad carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job at a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground,” Kutcher said.
“And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.”
As I said, this video went wildly viral (which is how I came across it) and it got me to thinking about my own work ethic. The credit for it sits squarely on my dad’s shoulders, and also my grandparents shoulders, and their grandparents shoulders.
My dad was the first in his family to get a college degree. (image above: Dad and my proud Grandpa at Dad’s Graduation) He went to school and studied all day and worked in the local hospital morgue at night!
I remember endless nights as a kid creeping up behind him as he sat in at the makeshift office in my parent’s master bedroom, puffing on a pipe and studying for his CPA. We didn’t have much in common to talk about, but it was what I saw in action that was communicating to me. Dad went on to become a successful businessman in a large company, and later created several vibrant businesses.
Getting the Message
I guess it was that non-verbal communication between father and daughter that inspired me as a kid to pull weeds, babysit and yes even shingle the side of the garage to make a few bucks.
And I vividly remember taking a temporary job caring for a 100 old year woman for a few weeks one summer. She was testy at first as she felt generally ignored, but warmed up to her inquisitive caregiver until she was soon sharing stories of traveling as a little girl in a covered wagon. She’d found her audience and I was entranced.
At 15 I lied about my age so I could get a job at pizza place washing dishes. Within two days they promoted me to cook, a position a girl had never held in that restaurant.
Later I went on to my teenage dream job – sales clerk at the record store at the mall. (Sheer persistence helped me beat out all the other teens for that one!)
And then, on to a job at Radio Shack (this time the first female to be hired in the state to the best of my knowledge) as the TRS-80 computer hit the shelves.
I started my professional career working for free at a travel agency to get a little resume cred as I finished travel agent school, and was the first to land a job a week before graduation. I went on to working in corporate America where I received invaluable career development.
An Entrepreneur at Heart
But like my dad, I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve created a couple of businesses and positions for myself over the years, and find myself now with Genealogy Gems living my dream and drawing from all of my past experiences.
There have been many challenges along the way – no one ever said work was easy. In fact, my mom’s favorite saying that was drilled in to us as kids was “life isn’t fair – get over it!” She was absolutely right, and she removed the obstacle of fretting over fairness from my life, so I could just get on with working hard and creating my own dreams. I was one lucky kid!
Now whenever a challenge arises, my instinct is to say to myself: I can’t wait to find out what future opportunity this dilemma is training me for!” Almost without exception, I can look back over my past work experiences and see how they are helping me today. Some of the very worst have turned out to be blessings.
(Update: I talk more about this and my career in an interview I did on the Genealogy Professional Podcast Episode 29.)
The Good News About Your Family Tree
Even if the most recent generations that came before you let you down or hurt you, family history offers you centuries to pull new and positive values from.
Your ancestors were survivors and yep, that’s why you’re here! You may have parents or grandparents who went astray, but you have countless ancestors to find, and learn from.
Best of all, you get to pick which values you wish to embrace, and which will fall by the wayside.
Let us pass on what our ancestors taught us so our kids and grand kids can enjoy the opportunities, growth, reward and freedom that comes from good old hard work.
So what “lucky” opportunities have you had and created?
On this Labor Day I hope you’ll join me in the comments below and share what you learned about work from your previous generations.
Why not share this post with someone YOU know who works hard? Let them know how much you admire them.