Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Make Something of Yourself!

Often, when I talk to people about the inequity of the pay scale for those who provide society with basic and needed services, someone will remark, "Well, if people don't like what they're being paid, they should make something of themselves!" Get more education. Get more experience. Make more connections. Sharpen your ambitions. Climb the ladder of success.

A lot people believe that low-paying work solely is for students and young people just getting started in the workaday world, old folks looking for a way to pass the time and dead-enders who possess little smarts and no ambition. If you don't fit in any of these categories, then low-paying work should just be a way station on your trip to the top.

I find such attitudes to be very condescending and smug. It suggests that ONLY people who get professional degrees/jobs, own a major business or find work in one of the many self-serving (i.e., gouging) industries has a right to feel good about their contributions to the betterment of society!! It is a sneering way to suggest that being a great grocery clerk, janitor, construction laborer, garbage hauler or home care aide isn't something to be proud of.

I knew a fellow a few years back who was the quintessential grocery clerk. He had made it his life's work. He knew all the ins and outs of his store and he was a fount of information. He could have easily chosen a more "respectable" profession, but he found happiness in working in a grocery store. He enjoyed customer service. In my book, he had made something of himself, thank you.

Years ago, when I worked as a child abuse investigator/foster car worker, people would encourage me to move up the ladder to become a supervisor or director. These positions would mean greater responsibility, far better pay and regular hours. But I didn't have any desire to be a supervisor or director. I liked being a front end grunt worker!!

When I didn't put in the effort to try to move up, people said that I lacked the necessary ambition. They were flat wrong! I had ambitions -- they were just different ones. My ambition was to be the most competent grunt worker I could be and I don't see a thing wrong with that.

As the Taoist sages point out, we should each strive for mastery of something. Our number goal should be a mastery of our own lives in tune with our own internal natures. Beyond that, we should strive to be the best at whatever we choose to do; whether that be CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation or a ditch digger.

There is honor in every profession that serves the needs of society.

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