In considering the topic of Industry, I recall a conversation I had with a young man a few years back. Our small talk had migrated to the topic of marriage and responsibility. I asked if he was married or was in a relationship. We had become quite good friends as he serviced my car over the years. Jose stated that he had a girlfriend, but wasn’t ready to marry her. Although the desire to have kids was exciting, it was currently out of his financial grasp. This discussion led to him telling me his story.
“I was in the 6th grade and after a particularly boring day at school I came home and announced to Mama that I didn’t want to go to school any more. ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘but you will have to get a job and help out with the bills.’ My dad had left years before and Mama struggled to keep me and my younger brother and sister clothed and fed. The next morning I went out and began asking neighbors if I could mow their lawns. Most agreed and I was in heaven: lots of money, freedom, and no school bells. After a couple of weeks I had covered the neighborhood and was in need of a new way to earn money. Following some friendly leads, I decided to go to the local swap meet and see if anyone there could use some help putting-up or taking-down their booths. Before long I was helping everyone from sun-up to sun-down. Soon I had accumulated $150 cash, which was a lot for a 13 year old boy living in Rubidoux, California back then.
“I was feeling pretty good about myself so one morning I said, ‘Mama, I need to go to the mall to buy some cool shoes.’ She said, ‘No, you don’t have enough money.’ I protested loudly and proudly showed her my newly earned cash. Turning away, she proceeded to write down a list of all the bills required to keep me safe, warm, and full: rent, utilities, food, clothing, medicine. I was amazed at how much it cost. She then took half of my hard earned money and put it in her purse, and I walked away feeling I had gotten a bargain.
“A few months later I decided that I needed to return to school. I also found a permanent job for minimum wage at a local tire store. I couldn’t wait to tell Mama the good news. Exhausted after running the entire way home, I arrived and blurted out my good news. Calmly she said that I could now pay the cable TV bill. A few months later, I received a raise and upon telling Mama was informed that I could now pay the water bill. After a while I caught on and quit informing Mama of my financial successes.
“As I neared my 16 birthday, I began looking for cars. I had saved over $800 and so when I found a 1968 Chevelle SS for only $700 I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe my luck; I would have the greatest car at school. I ran home to Mama asking her if I could buy it. She said that we could go look at it the following day. When we arrived she didn’t say much, so I concluded that she had okayed the deal. The next day was Saturday and my excitement made it difficult to work. At quitting time I ran home as fast as I could. Bursting in the front door I asked Mama when we could go and buy the car. She looked directly at me and said that there were six reasons why I wasn’t going to own the car: Math, English, History, Biology, PE and Science. Of all the disappointments of my life, this was the greatest I had experienced to date. Over the next week I went by daily to look at my car. It took days before I was willing to accept reality. All that was left to do was study, for I knew that Mama wasn’t budging. Within the next quarter my grades began to improve. Within another six months they were quite respectable. Unfortunately by now the car was gone. It was then that I realized that I had in fact survived without the ‘68 Chevelle that I had desired so intently.”
As my young friend’s story came to a close, he stated, “So here I am today. I own my truck, I have a nice apartment, and plenty of food. I wish I would have gone to college but I got comfortable with my life and time just got away from me. As I think about the costs of buying a home, raising kids, and still enjoying life I don’t think it is time yet. I’m not sexually active because I don’t want to risk having a kid I can’t afford.” On that note my service was complete, and so we shook hands and said good bye.
Well Jose, I have thought about our conversation quite a lot over the last few days. Even though you have regrets for not taking advantage of additional schooling, I believe you learned a lesson far superior, and one that is in great need by the youth of today. You had the courage to delay gratification in an age of self-absorption. You learned that planning, setting goals, and maintaining order leads to success. You learned how to control your impulses in an age of egocentric outbursts. You learned how to obey the rules and accept responsibility for choices in an age of entitlement. You learned how to control your emotions in an age of self-absorption. You learned that firmness and denial builds character if offered in love. You learned how to apply yourself and work hard to achieve in an age of laziness. Yes, Jose, you possess attributes rare in today’s world. And yes, Jose, when you do arrive at that point in life that you feel ready to accept the obligations of a wife and family you will be a wonderful husband and father. You will be a father strong enough to pass on those wonderful values taught to you by your Mama and humble enough to do it with love and compassion. Success at anything requires sacrifice of both the effort required and the immediate pleasure of the moment.
Industry is the capacity of being actively engaged in a cause. Efficient and effective people always possess the ability to manage their time in order to accomplish more. By living the preceding virtues of humility, courage, cleanliness, and obedience, one’s mind, body and moral fiber are strong enough to ensure that valuable and available effort and time are filled with positive adventures and projects. Industrious people lose no time in making and achieving worthwhile goals. Time management joined by consistent and persistent effort is essential. Self-respect is developed from receiving an honest grade for an honest effort, or honest pay for an honest day’s labor. Time is a gift that needs to be filled with positive acts and deeds. Making every hour of one’s existence count is the goal of being industrious. Industry suggests that temporarily living with discomfort is acceptable because you are engaged in something worthwhile, something important, and something that will yield desired fruits in time.
The opposite of Industry is sloth. They are both about our perspective towards work. As with Jose, a decision must be made to take charge of your life, or to accept no ownership for your future and follow the course of least resistance. The industrious person differs from the slothful one solely based upon the vision they hold, and their experience with work. Slothful lazy behaviors are self-absorbing and self-reinforcing, and ultimately lead to apathy. Sloth follows a path marked by listlessness, melancholy, lack of joy, depression, indifference, despair, hopelessness, and despondency. We slip into sloth by following the easy path, or by neglecting to take proper care of something in a timely manner.
Industry is work and the effort required to achieve anything of worth as opposed to sloth which is apathy and indifference. Sloth begins as recreation and is about relaxation. Sloth is apathy towards work. It is physical and spiritual laziness leading to indifference. It is apathy and an unwillingness to perform obligations. More importantly, it is failing to develop spiritually and to grow and use your gifts and talents
Idleness is depression’s playground. It robs us of proper pride and the joy of success. It invites self-absorption and discouragement. Depression is real and has the capability of consuming positive thoughts and energy. To avoid feelings of sadness, melancholy, and despair become industrious. Plan the day, focus on worthy goals, find a passion that is beyond self, eliminate distractions and noise, and look for opportunities to engage with others. Service to others is a conscious choice that elevates the provider and the receiver. Work provides a sense of accomplishment. As with the lessons taught by Jose’s mother, it enables us to leave a legacy that will outlive us.
Can leisure activities have any meaning in the absence of work? Often we feel overworked and can’t wait for a holiday. When it finally arrives, a peculiar thing happens: the first days of relaxation are fantastic, the next couple of days are enjoyable, but after that it gets boring and meaningless. Too much time empty of purpose dulls our senses. We start to feel anxious and once more want to be engaged in doing something useful.
Work encourages individual responsibility. Personally choosing to do things rather than delegating tasks to others results in ownership of the task at hand. A sense of accomplishment is earned, and self-respect is gained. We all have gifts and talents that should be shared with others; we all have something to contribute in making our family, community, and world a better place. What we choose to do with our gift of time demonstrates where our hearts are. John Witherspoon, a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence, reinforced this sentiment, “Do not live useless and die contemptible.”
Time is the great equalizer in life. All of us regardless of age, gender, nationality, or creed have been given exactly the same hours in a day, exactly the same minutes in an hour, and exactly the same seconds in a minute. Most of us allow this precious commodity to dwindle away a few moments at a time because we just never take the time to control it. Shouldn’t we pursue activities that will make us better people? The goal is to keep our lives focused, effective, and efficient while also keeping in mind the need for productive leisure and recreation. We are defined by where we spend our time.
We must teach children to accomplish worthy goals. We must help them commit to admirable projects, either through verbal pledge or in writing. They will come to understand that we become what we spend our time at. With every moment of our lives a time investment decision is made. Stop and ask yourself, “Will this action bring me closer to my goal?” If not, don’t do it. To become industrious we must plan to be industrious. Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States said, “It’s amazing how much you can get done if you’re always doing.” The key to industry lies in the protection of your time. Discovering and overcoming destructive time-consuming habits is critical. Before going to bed, prepare for the next day by prioritizing tasks to establish order. One reason people flounder around and waste time during the day is because they don’t know what they should be doing. This can be avoided by scheduling the day out. Find a system that works for your unique and individual needs.