I used to believe in the value of a hard day’s work. And then I didn’t. And then I did again. Beliefs are funny that way. They seem fixed, but I’ve realized that through practice and patience, I can change my beliefs to get the results I want.
From an early age, my mother instilled a sense of importance, prestige and honor in doing a job well. Sometime around my tenth birthday, she used her connections to get me a job picking up golf balls at a driving range. Early in the mornings, while it was still dark, I would walk the eight blocks to Richardson’s Bowling and Golf Center and spend three hours picking up range balls. I would fill a big white bucket with them, then haul them back to the ball washing machine.
Over the next four years I learned how to spot bowling pins, balance a cash register drawer and drive a tractor, all as part of a job for the wonderful Mr. Richardson. I believed my job was important, and it was a privilege to receive 50 cents an hour for my work. It made me feel needed and happy. I worked diligently beyond anyone’s expectations.
My first adult job was at a huge Reynolds Aluminum plant in McCook, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. It was a labor job on the hot-line where the ingots of glowing metal would roll down a long line to be pressed and trimmed to specification. From day one, I was told by my fellow workers to do no more than what was required. I learned to treat the foreman and the rest of the white-shirted managers who scooted around in battery-propelled carts as enemies.
I gradually changed my beliefs about work, which also changed my behavior. I began punching others’ time cards, napping under scrapped sheets of aluminum foil and committing other acts of skulduggery. I believed my job was meaningless. I felt angry. The work ethic my mother and Mr. Richardson had instilled in me was replaced by a belief that work was a hassle, a drain, and should be shortchanged in any way possible.
A few years later, I had reached a crossroads. My negative approach to work wasn’t working. I realized, however, that I had a choice and soon, I decided to return to the beliefs taught by my mother and Mr. Richardson. Joy and opportunities followed. I felt back in sync with the people I respected.
We all begin picking up beliefs from the time we are babies. These beliefs influence how we feel and how we behave. Some work better for us than others. We can choose to keep beliefs the same, or change the ones that aren’t working for us quite so well.
For example, I now believe it is better to drop golf balls in a bucket with pride than it is to hide out under a scrap of aluminum foil.