By Michael Gunther

I was at our local drug store picking up a few items the day after Thanksgiving, when Leon, a clerk there, asked how my holiday had been. I said it was great, and asked him the same, but he replied that he had worked until two in the afternoon. So I said, “Well at least you had the afternoon off to enjoy the holiday.” But he said no, he had gone to his second job to work another eight hours.

Most people sharing this story might sound exhausted, or resentful, but Leon went on to tell me how much fun it had been. His second job was as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. He said they were so crowded that the flow of dishes was constant and seemed never ending.

He told me there had been a new co-worker with a great sense of humor who had kept everyone laughing, and it made the evening go by fast. In addition, he described how the four dishwashers quickly discovered which roles they needed to play in order to keep the clean dishes, silverware, and glassware meeting the demands of all the hungry customers. He went on to say that he is excited for Christmas because the crowds are even larger, and he couldn’t imagine it being busier than what he’d just experienced the day before. He said he was looking forward to the challenge.

His passion and excitement inspired me. I wonder how many people would be enthused about working a busy holiday as a dishwasher after working eight hours as a retail clerk. There wasn’t a complaint in his message or tone. He felt fortunate to have jobs, and his attitude as well as his work ethic was admirable.

On my walk back home, I began to think about how often people do not value what they have. They complain about their situations or jobs without any appreciation. Some folks refuse to take a job if they feel it is “beneath” them, much less happily work two eight-hour shifts on a holiday like Leon. I realized his perspective wasn’t very common in today’s workforce. I’m not saying that people don’t work hard or do what it takes, but I do think sometimes people get too comfortable where they are and forget their options with no appreciation for what they have.

I’ve spoken to many business owners who wish their employees would have less of an “entitlement” attitude. They feel that some of their employees want all the rewards of success without necessarily putting forth the effort and work towards creating their own success. These employees believe they deserve it. Are the business owners being petty? Or is there a portion of our workforce that expects to get everything they want just for showing up because they’ve always been given everything they wanted throughout life?

I don’t know what the root cause is, but I do know someone like Leon will definitely earn rewards over time due to his initiative and his attitude. I think of what the CEO of Xerox recently said to a group of college students (and I’m paraphrasing): Don’t take the easy way because there is truly no easy way. Work hard, challenge yourself, and be persistent. Success is not entitled to anyone.

Bottom Line

People should appreciate what they have and find the good around them. It was fitting that this all happened the day after Thanksgiving as we are entering a holiday season focused on good will. I encourage you to appreciate the individuals who are willing to work hard for what they want and maintain a positive attitude. The individuals who are always willing to do whatever it takes to improve themselves are the most inspiring to me.

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