Why it is important that a man work for a living

Last month we celebrated Father’s Day. On that special day, I wrote part 1 of a tribute to my dad. Next came part 2. Last week I added part 3.

In the short series of posts, I explained why my dad is the greatest in the world. I described three admirable characteristics he exhibited on a regular basis — determination, affirmation, and diplomacy.

As your dad, I hope to demonstrate the same traits. My dad also believed in a few standards that we non-negotiable. In this post, I will share three of those standards, and describe one in detail.

My dad stood his ground when it mattered

In many ways, my dad was patient with me as a young man. I don’t want you to think that Opa was a pushover. He wasn’t. In fact, he was the exact opposite. Opa was tough. He stood his ground when it mattered.

In particular, my dad expected a lot. It was expected that Uncle Perry and I would bring home good grades on our report cards. We would play sports to stay in shape. Lastly, and most importantly, we would respect our mother.

Additionally, I learned that my father had three specific standards that he enforced over time. They are simple to understand. I am passing them along to you because I plan to enforce them as well.

  1. Get a job during the summer.
  2. Finish college…in four years.
  3. Live on your own after college.

Every man should work for a living

My dad believes that every man should work for a living. You don’t get a free ride. He worked hard and made sure his sons did also. I was taught this standard during my high school years.

The number one priority for both Uncle Perry and I in high school was academics. My parents expected us to go to college. It was important that we achieve the grades necessary for acceptance to a good school.

The second priority was athletics. Uncle Perry was a great swimmer. He focused his efforts on that sport in order to earn a sports scholarship — which he did.

I did not have the same athletic ability as Perry so I focused more on academics. I was not great at either sport, but I also played soccer and swam in high school.

The third priority was work. Basically, it was expected that we would work if we were not studying or playing sports. Priority number three was revealed to me during my sophomore summer. I thought that the summers were for fun with friends. Little did I know that summers were also for work.

I swam for the Lee High school team, but not for the Saratoga summer team.

I learned this lesson after my sophomore year

I was an exchange student to West Germany after my sophomore year in high school. That summer I spent several weeks living with a German family, learning the language, and traveling around the country. I had a great time.

It was the middle of the summer when I returned. Summer swimming season was almost over, so I decided to skip it. I started hanging out with my friends doing a whole lot of nothing. My dad noticed and had a little talk with me.

I remember clearly him explaining that if I was not studying, or playing sports that he expected me to get a job. No laying around the house, or running the neighborhood with my buds.

A job. Really. I moaned and groaned about it, but could tell the subject was not open for discussion.

So I went and got my first job delivering pizza for a local restaurant. I worked the rest of the summer until school started. Academics became the priority in the fall, and I quit that job.

Picture of me in Germany as an exchange student. Lots of fun that summer.

I worked every summer after my sixteenth birthday

The next summer was similar. I had the returned to West Germany as an exchange student. My propensity for travel started at a young age.

I did a lot of the same things but in a different part of Germany. I lived with a Germany family, learned more of the language, and traveled to interesting parts of the country like West Berlin while the wall was still in place.

When I returned my dad said it was time for another job so I worked at the movie theater in Springfield Mall the rest of the summer.

The next year was my senior summer which meant beach week and then another job. I was a cashier at a local grocery store.

Every summer I worked and this pattern continued into college. One summer I worked in a sheet metal factory. The work was boring, but the people were fascinating.

The only summer I did not have a job was after my sophomore year in college. That summer I had to attend summer school to earn credits so that I could graduate in four years. I will talk more about that summer in next week’s post.

I worked at the AMC movie theater in Springfield Mall. My friends saw many movies that summer.

I plan to enforce the same standard

I agree with my dad on this topic. You should work during the summers. No excuses. There are plenty of jobs out there. You just need to look for them well enough in advance.

The top priority, while you are in school, is academics. I want both of you to attend college to get your degrees.

Number two priority is sports. It is okay for you to spend some of your time staying in shape.

Number three is work. Friends and fun come after those three. I plan to enforce this standard, although I have not done a great job so far.

Riley wearing a soccer medal from one of the many tournaments.

Work takes priority over summer fun

Riley — you are trying to win a soccer scholarship so I am okay with you focusing your efforts there the past few summers.

Gavin — I was particularly pleased when you were able to get a job last summer despite some challenges. You skipped a summer vacation to France in order to work which is admirable.

Riley did the same thing this year. I planned a vacation to Benelux for this summer but ended up canceling it. Both times it cost me money due to flight cancellation fees.

But, I am willing to pay that price if it means you get the chance to work.

Gavin — this summer your focus is academics, so I am okay with you not working. I do not expect the same thing next summer. Both of you will get jobs and earn some money. It is the Keating way.

We scrapped the Benelux summer vacation plan so that Riley could focus on soccer and work.

Work will teach you many life lessons

You may be asking why is it important that you work during the summer.

Hopefully, you know that it is not about the money. You do not have to work to support yourself at this point in time. You will in the future. For now, I earn enough wages to provide for you.

Rather it is about developing some new skills and learning a few fundamental life lessons that are needed for success. Small things like getting to work on time every day, doing a good job, and giving your best effort.

And bigger lessons like how to save money, what it is like to pay taxes, and that showing up is half the battle. I believe you will be more successful later in life if you learn them as a young man.

Idle time can be dangerous for a young man

Also, working keeps you out of trouble. During the summer you have a lot more spare time than usual. How you spend that extra time is important. You can invest it working and getting better. Or you can waste it.

I believe that idle time can be dangerous for a young man.

Think about it — when do young men get in trouble?

It is usually when they have too much time on their hands and are hanging out with friends. They are up to no good.

I know. I was a young man. I never got in trouble when I was working. I only got in trouble when doing a whole lot of nothing much with my buds. We would manage to find trouble. You will too if you are not careful.

Oh, the devil will find work for idle hands to do I stole, and then I lied

Just because you asked me to

What Difference Does it Make by the Smiths

Working hard is a biblical principle

Not convinced yet. I will end by pointing out that working hard is God’s plan for us. Don’t believe me. Read Genesis chapter two.

God creates the universe in chapter one. In the next chapter, God creates Adam and places him in the garden. What does he have Adam do? Lay around the garden enjoying its spoils. No, he puts Adam to work right away.

In case you are still wavering. I will remind you that even Jesus had a job. He did not spend his early years hanging out with his buds thinking deep thoughts and causing trouble.

No — he was a carpenter and worked until he started his ministry.

Simply put — if Jesus had to work, then so do you.

Your hard work will pay off with new skills, life lessons, and a little bit of spending money for you.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15


I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it.

Originally published at www.lettertosons.com on July 22, 2018.




Leader and learner. husband and father. Novice blogger, www.lettertosons.com, Founder of All The Way Leadership! http://www.allthewayleadership.com/

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Doug Keating

Doug Keating

Leader and learner. husband and father. Novice blogger, www.lettertosons.com, Founder of All The Way Leadership! http://www.allthewayleadership.com/

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