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?