How To Succeed In 2023

America has, for two hundred years, been the world’s leading example of the power of the work ethic.

After all, we were settled by work-obsessed Puritans fleeing persecution in England. Founding fathers, like Benjamin Franklin, coined phrases about time being money and early to bed, early to rise being the secret of wealth as well as wisdom. Immigrants came to the United States by the millions in the hope that they would see a better life through hard work and self-reliance.

This culture still survives in many respects. Americans work longer hours than other western countries and take fewer and shorter vacations. Many professionals work more than 50 hours a week and some of them work more than 100.

Things are changing, though. The US labor force participation rate — the proportion of working-age citizens either working or actively looking for work — has declined from a high of 67 percent at the turn of the century to 62 percent.

Most worrisome to people who track such information is the changing attitude among the young. According to a January Washington Post article, a 2010 Pew Research Center Report sounded the alarm with its discovery that “three-fourths of respondents claimed that older people had a better work ethic than younger people do — a belief that was held just as strongly by the young as by their seniors.”

Since then, according to the research, the bad news has multiplied. Employers report that millennials are more likely to regard work as a means of self-fulfillment rather than just an income stream. The Internet is filled with stories of a younger generation that considers free time and self-care just as important as work. Throw in the opioid epidemic, obesity and ill health, and Houston, we have an ever bigger problem. Some respondents to the Pew poll advocated the virtues of a universal basic income, which does away with the need to work at all.

So, imagine how wonderful it was to meet Jimmy Campbell of Jamestown, who is barely 23 and owns his own house, has his own business and works another full time job to boot. I’d hired Jimmy to do some excavation work for us and was impressed with his resume and his drive.

Jimmy owns Jimmy’s Handyman Services in Jamestown, in addition to working as a service tech for a trailer sales company. He racks up 60 to 80 hour work weeks, including weekends. He’s up at 6:00 every morning and tries to fall into bed by 10:00 at night.

What makes the guy tick? That’s one of those questions that’s hard to answer. Where does drive come from? And the desire to be responsible? Who do we borrow our work ethic from?

Jimmy credits his parents, who are, he says, hard workers themselves. And sure, that explains some of it, but not all. There are kids in their 30s still figuring out how to get into the housing market during a time when the housing market is overpriced.

“I saved everything I could,” he told me. “I’ve been working since I was 12 or 13 years old and I had a good down payment to put down on the house. It took a lot of hard work and dedication.”

He said he also pays his bills before they are due. I don’t know, maybe he should be teaching a class on self-sufficiency to his peers.

One thing I like about his story is Jimmy’s decision not to go to college, and not because I don’t believe in higher eduction, but because it was a calculated decision on his part. He looked at colleges, he considered a four-year degree, but in the end, he believed his skills were geared more towards working with his hands and one day managing his own business. He’s proof that hard work is a determinant in our success and that education takes place in far greater places than just a classroom.

I have a nephew who has done the same thing. He’s working as an appreciative in carpentry in Michigan, earning a good paycheck and off on his own. What he and Jimmy have in common is the ability to decide for themselves which road to take to adulthood. There is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach to life when leaving high school.

I like people who think outside of the box; it’s really a great skill to have in these times. And it’s a bit like myth-busting, proving that college isn’t the only way to succeed. Sometimes you just have to have the right stuff and find a way to forge ahead on your own. My motto in these times is “think for yourself.” Jimmy is a good example of someone who is doing just that.


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