While coaching some of my athletes the other night, I was watching them perform a conditioning drill and realized as I looked around the room that some of my athletes understood the purpose for hard work and some did not.
I was imprinted with a hard work disposition at an early age. Growing up in Texas, the son of a law enforcement officer, I was often sent to Texarkana to my grandparents to get me out of the city of Dallas. While spending my time with my grandparents in a town that straddles the state lines of Texas and Arkansas, I developed a routine that started at 6am. I woke up every morning before the sun came up. My goal was to get up before my grandfather. Until this day, he is still up before me-something about military service does that to you. I would climb out of bed to the smell of coffee brewing, he was already moving. He would ask me if I wanted some coffee which was actually 1 part coffee and three parts milk and sugar. Then the next question was what are we having for breakfast? His famous scrambled eggs and ham, or pancakes, or maybe corn beef hash. I didn’t care. I was just hanging out with my grandfather. Then it was off to work.
My grandfather was retired military and when he returned from Vietnam by way of Germany, he purchased his land and house from a Sears Roebuck catalogue. His land was well plowed every season with rows of watermelons, corn, snap peas, tomatoes, collard greens, and cantaloupes; nowhere near forty acres, but enough to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for the family. A border of fruit trees, apples and plums separated the fields from the barn and the house. He did the hard work of planting; it was my job to help weed and pick. We would spend hours under the Northeast Texas sun managing the crops and then helping Mr. Merritt, the neighbor, manage his garden. The reward for this hard work was that we had our own fresh produce; we never had to worry if we were going to eat. We always had great relationships with our neighbors, and Grandma had no qualms about making homemade ice cream for us.
Those summer months spent in Texarkana, were hot, dirty, and a lot of work. They taught me valuable lessons. If you want something of your own, you need to be willing to sacrifice, get up early, and do the less glamorous work. Once you have taken care of your own responsibilities, go check on your neighbor and see if they could use a hand. Lastly, when you work hard for the people that matter the most to you, they will appreciate and celebrate the success with you. Many of us have these types of memories about learning the lessons of hard work and its rewards. The question I have is, are we teaching these lessons to the next generation? By not allowing our kids to experience hard work and success, we are culling their sense of autonomy, self-efficacy, and achievement. Make it a priority to teach these lessons early and often to build your kids up and instill a sense of work ethic.