“Robbie, a man makes his living by the sweat of his brow.”
So, by my father’s logic, I don’t actually work. Then again, dad logic can sometimes get you in trouble. I mean we all remember the shit our dads tried to tell us at one point that was the worst (drunken) advice ever, right?
My dad and both my grandfathers believed in hard manual labor.
I hated it. Loathed it. Despised doing anything that required getting my hands dirty.
But writing. Creating stories with my imagination. Now, that was exciting.
From some dark recess in my brain, I could create an entire world. And for hours, I could live in that world as I worked to flesh it out. But creativity wasn’t what my father felt was work.
Hell, even my adolescent dream of playing basketball wasn’t concerned work to my family. Athletes who made millions of dollars didn’t understand how what a hard days of work really was. They had it easy sitting in their mansions and playing a game.
Work. Hard work.
That was the sign of a true man. A true American.
See, for my father, work was a job. You clock in. Perform your duties. Clock out. Rinse and repeat until Friday at five.
Oh, and if they ask for overtime, then you take it. You work hard and move up, climbing the rung until either, there are no more rungs or decide it’s time for a new ladder.
Taking a break in the middle of the day to read a book because you feel exhausted creatively would be frowned upon by my father.
“Why aren’t you working?”
“What are you a lazy bum?”
“I sure as hell didn’t bust my ass for eighteen years and sacrifice everything so that you could “take break” because you feel like your creativity is zapped. I didn’t raise no bum, goddamn it.”
For my father, my grandfathers, and the men I was raised by, work was done by your hands. You built things. Erected homes. Installed gas, air conditioning, or pipes. For these men, Genesis 3: 19 was all you needed to know about work.
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Decades later, I make a living training clients in an air conditioned gym, replying to emails at a coffee shop, or writing a
Facebook post while streaming Narcos on Netflix.
But what they don’t see is the toiling of the ground within my mind. The seeds sown by the books I ingest. The weeding of the words around the sentences I write. The daily chores I partake in that help keep my tools — my hands, mind, eyes, soul, and body — operating in tip top shape.
Though I use no tractors, horses, or hammers in my daily life to build homes or farms, the seeds my father and grandfathers sowed in my mind about work are still sprouting every day.
For me, work is about giving my best. But the best doesn’t come by happenstance. You can only create your best when you’re working every day, striving to get better, and sweating over the things that matter most to you.