3 Ways Hard Labor Prepares You For Success in Business


When I was a a kid, we didn’t have the stringent child labor laws we do today. In grade school I worked the strawberry fields and in high school I graduated up to the raspberry farm, where I got to interact with actual machinery. There’s a lot to be said for getting your hands dirty, and you don’t have to be Amish to benefit from the lessons of hard labor.

#1 – Hard labor facilitates contemplation

Hard labor is pretty much that, hard. Also monotonous. Your energy is either completely channeled into the physical exertion, or your brain is numbed by the tedious nature of the work. I have worked on the back of a raspberry picker, and punched a ten-key for eight hours and they are essentially the same work. In both jobs my mind was free to wander, mostly toward how to get another job. There’s nothing like hard work to make you realize you’d rather use your brain for a living.

#2 – Hard labor builds empathy and confidence

The hardest jobs often pay the least amount of money. Once you’ve labored for a week only to receive a three digit paycheck, you realize it’s not always easy to earn your way. On the other hand, working a less desirable job provides confidence you carry for life that no matter how bad things get you can always support yourself. That can facilitate the risk taking necessary to run a successful business.

#3 – Hard labor teaches you to respect everyone

We all know the cliche about the CEO working his or her way up from the mailroom. (Okay, who am I kidding, in the cliche it’s never a woman. Anyway…) There’s a lot of value in knowing how an organization works from the bottom up. One thing you learn quickly is that the bottom layer – whether that’s producing a product or interacting with customers – must be respected. If they’re not happy, no one’s happy.

What do you think? Are the most successful business people the ones with more letters behind their names, or the ones who started in the ranks?

  • Excellent article and very valid points! I, too, worked long and hard (in a factory) before contemplation opened my mind to the capabilities within.

    If there is one thing I have learned as a consultant to a number of successful business owners, it’s that success comes from all manner of events, not just hard work. Some get lucky, some step on others to get a leg up, some steal, some are in the right place at the right time, etc.. The question you should be asking is “Are the most fulfilled business people the ones with more letters behind their names, or the ones who started in the ranks?”

    Thanks, Scott

  • Christopher


    Starting out in the ranks has been for me the foundation of my “head and hands” profession for over three decades now. At the age of nine I threw the evening newspaper to over 180 homes nightly on an overloaded bicycle. It took three loads. At twelve I operated metal shaping machinery in a job shop. I made a two digit monthly income! It gave me time to think, save my money and plan for a much better future. By the time I completed high school I had already chosen my future profession and was working in a related field so as to prepare myself for it. I may not have a string of letters to the right of my name, but I do have a mountain of practical hard earned experience for that name to stand on. It has served me well in all aspects of my business endevors. While child labor laws exist for good reason, I do belive it unfortunate that kids today don’t have access to some of these valuable learning and life changing experences.


  • Great post. When i was a kid, I had to help my dad farm. We had an old tractor with a two bottom plow, which meant it took all day to plow the field. Talk about contemplation time.
    The real lesson came when my dad said I had to do the whole field over the next day, because in my day dreaming I had plowed some of the furrows were not perfectly straight. I learned a long term lesson that day.