Show Up


Show up on time ready to work.

It’s graduation season. In the coming weeks kindergartners will be ready to move into the big time of elementary school. Eighth graders are excited about the prospect of going to high school. Seniors anticipate college life. Graduates of universities are hoping to join the work force. Emotions are running high as each of these milestones are met and transitions take place. It is the way we do things here in the United States of America and our national health is riding on how well our youngsters ultimately perform.

A hundred years ago few women made it past the eighth grade. My own grandmothers were both illiterate, unable to read or even write their own names. I’m not certain how far they went in school but it could not have been more than a few grades, if that much. My grandfathers attended school a bit longer, enabling them to become prolific readers who treasured books as something akin to gold. Still their educations were scant enough to keep them doing labor intensive jobs for all of their lives. Nonetheless, both men understood the concept of showing up on time ready to work and were valued for their attention to even the smallest details of their jobs.

Today more and more of our population gets to high school, but there are still too many who do not make it all the way through. There are now a higher number of women graduating from college than men, but they often still lag in terms of pay and position. Ours is not a perfect system but it is considerably better than the realities of the world in which my my grandparents lived. There has been progress but we continue to have plenty of room for improvement.

Some of what needs to happen to move closer and closer to a more perfect world lies not so much with government programs but within each individual. We still have far too many people who do not take advantage of the opportunities that exist. Every teacher knows of students who approach schooling as though it is a bitter pill rather than a grand experience that will open the doors of the world to them. They too often do not show up at all or they are late when they come, arriving unprepared to put in a full days work. They either have not learned or choose to ignore the most basic key to success which is encapsulated in the statement, “Show up on time ready to work.”

There is a man who has taken care of my yard for twelve years now. I know that he is as dependable as the rising sun. He has never failed to arrive with his crew weekend after weekend to turn my lawn into a landscaped showpiece. He does superb work each time that he comes, demonstrating great pride in a job well done. I am confident that he will not let me down. The money I pay him is well spent and I often find myself applauding his can do spirit. If every person along the continuum of life were to put as much effort into the tasks that they need to perform as he does, our society would be productive beyond imagination.

School is hard. Work is hard. Even the most joyful aspects of life have their mundane and stressful moments. Those who are successful at the things that they do have usually expended a great deal of effort. They are focused on the tasks at hand and have the patience to take one step at a time in pursuit of a goal. Sometimes there is an element of luck involved in achievement, but mostly it is individual sweat and determination that results in the fulfillment of dreams. The process of doing well begins by showing up on time. It builds momentum by being ready to work.

I saw a post from a former student a few days ago. He stood smiling in front of his place of employment looking quite professional. He said that he has “a dollar and a dream.” What I know of him is that he has built his budding career on a foundation of thousands of hours of studying and learning and working to do whatever is needed to create a niche for himself. I have little doubt that he will be a resounding success because he understands the power of determination and effort.

When I was still in the classroom I often had students who were known as high achievers. Some teachers would sniff that such kids did not really possess innate intellectual abilities but rather a willingness to work harder than their peers. They noted this as though there was something wrong with having such a personality. I on the other hand always defended such pupils, noting that in the long run it would be those willing to put forth the effort who would be most valued in society. Most of my students known as the worker bees have gone on to outstanding careers in medicine, engineering, law, business and education. They developed the habits of highly successful individuals early in life and they took those skills to work.

At the same time I also had a number of students who were capable of doing extremely well who gave up anytime they had even the smallest challenge. They complained that they did not like math or reading or whatever. They whined that school was just too hard. They played around rather than focusing and their grades became a dismal record of their unwillingness to even try. Such individuals always filled me with sadness, and my only hope was that one day they would realize that it was time to grow up. Luckily many of them did, but it has been more difficult for them than it had to be.

Those of us who have children or work with them have a responsibility to do our best to inculcate them with the attitudes and values that will serve them well in the everyday struggles of living. The sooner we teach them the importance of the simple act of showing up on time ready to work, the more likely will be their ultimate success. It may appear to be just a platitude but it is far deeper than just a one size fits all way of living. There will be times when the going gets very tough, but the persons with the willingness to work hard, be nice and take no shortcuts will be far ahead in the race. There is nothing worth striving for that does not take a great deal of sweat equity, so when giving advice to those young people who are moving to the next phase of their lives don’t forget to provide them with the one piece of advice that has never failed to produce results. Every day in every way they need to show up on time ready to work.

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