When I was a kid I worked. My parents were both Minnesota farm kids with annoyingly untiring work ethics. My Grandparents were active farmers throughout my youth. So were my Uncles Allan, Jerry, Randy, Rod, Kendall, Jim, Gerald, Tom, Paul, Chuck and Tim. Which meant I had a lot of opportunity to work. (It also means my grandparents liked to get busy.)
At an early age I began breaking child labor laws. I baled hay, picked rock, mowed lawns, painted houses and barns, and hauled firewood. I worked in construction during high school for my neighbor Tom Kearney, whose daughter Hannah Kearney would go on to win the Olympic Gold Medal in mogul skiing in Vancouver, and the Bronze medal in Sochi. My college summers were spent swinging a sledge hammer driving tent spikes into the granite of Northern New England. If you’ve never seen someone ring the bell in the strongman game at the fair, I’ll show you how it’s done.
I know the hard, physical labor I performed at an early age has benefited me ever since. The work ethic my parents, Robert and Jill Albrecht, natured and nurtured into me has been an important driver throughout my career. It mentally prepared me to step fearlessly into the entrepreneurship arena when I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. But apparently I am not the only one who understood how important a strong work ethic is to your success.
Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant spent his career studying predictors of success. He found that childhood work ethic was perhaps the best and most accurate predictor of adult success and mental health.
The Work Ethic Study
Vaillant conducted a longitudinal study of 456 men from the inner city of Boston. The study began when the men were just 14 years old. As barely-teenagers they were rated for their ability to work. Their lives were then tracked regularly into middle age. The results showed that the men who had the highest work ethic rating at 14 years old earned 5 times more than their lower ranked counterparts. They were also happier and had far more successful marriages and other social relationships. I assume they liked the 80s band Men At Work more too. #WhoCanItBeNow
Vaillant’s finding means that your willingness to work relates not only to your financial success, but to your ability to work on your relationships. Even more importantly, it indicates your ability to pursuit your own happiness. Which means that your capacity for work is actually the greatest predictor of how much you will enjoy your life.
Your work ethic drives your actions. Which drive your financial success. The ability to put work into your relationships means you get more out of your relationships. So develop your work ethic. Lean in. Build your endurance, your grit, and your tolerance for pain and discomfort. Grow your ability to delay gratification. Don’t just eat the first marshmallow you are given. Teach your kids to work too. And to enjoy the rewards of their labor, like my parents did for me. It is a lesson that will last a very happy lifetime.
*If you have kids, consider sharing this with them.