Developing a Strong Work Ethic
A True Story
on Aug 8, 2021
A couple of years ago, it dawned on me that we all want quality goods and services. We want sleek cars, high-speed internet, nice-looking shoes, long-lasting laptops and well-functioning phones. At the barbershop, we want our hair nicely done. And at our homes, we want uninterrupted power and water supply. Oh, how we sulk when electricity goes out and when taps run dry!
After it dawned on me so, I asked myself: Do we also offer goods and services of the same quality that we demand from others? Unfortunately, most of us don't. Dr. Geoffrey W. Griffin, the founder of Starehe Boys' Centre where I had my high school as well as college education, observed that this world is full of people who do their duty half-heartedly, grudgingly and poorly.
As for me, I have always endeavoured to offer the best possible service in all that I do. I have often taken to heart the advice in the Bible that "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
The first job I was ever employed to do was working as an office boy at a small firm in downtown Nairobi in December 2006. I was 18 at the time and on a school holiday. My work entailed cleaning the firm's office, keeping an account of how money was being spent and delivering goods and messages to various places in Nairobi. Even though the job was deadly-dull and low-paying, I gave it my all. I dutifully reported to work as early as 6.00am and left at around 5.00pm in the evening, a strong work ethic that impressed my boss.
Then in April 2007 as I was preparing to matriculate at the university in JKUAT, I landed a piano-teaching job at a small music school in Nairobi called Wynton House of Music. It being the second job I was employed to do, I lacked the necessary work experience to do it well. I taught small kids advanced knowledge beyond the scope of their understanding, was a bit afraid of asking for payment and found myself feeling shy when interacting with my fellow workmates. But I gave the job my best anyway for the few months I was at Wynton.
Due to the circumstances that befell on me at JKUAT, I was out of work for a number of years. But in January 2015, due to pressure from a few friends to find work as well as due to a personal need to have money in my wallet, I decided to scout for a job. As luck would have it, I was again employed at Wynton House of Music to teach piano and music theory. As always, I gave the job my best. I ensured my lessons lasted for the duration they were meant to be. And this time round, I interacted well with my fellow workmates and was confident enough to ask for payment.
While at Wynton in 2015, I noted some of my fellow teachers didn't have a strong work ethic. There were two teachers who would skip teaching pupils on some lessons and still demand payment for the lessons. And one of them would photocopy music textbooks and sell them to clients at Wynton - misdeeds that aggrieved me since I have come to find it unethical to photocopy copyrighted materials.
In January 2016, I left Wynton House of Music to venture into writing - one of my passions. As a writer, I have applied the same strong work ethic I had at Wynton into my writing hobby by consistently penning stories that are entertaining, enlightening and inspiring. And I think my efforts have bore fruits given the positive feedback I have received from some of my readers. But I am still upping my writing skills to reach the standards of my literary heroes.
Come to think of it, I owe the strong work ethic I have always possessed to what I had a Starehe teacher say of me in a recommendation letter when I unsuccessfully applied to MIT and three other top American colleges in 2006. This is what I had the teacher say of me:
I have known Thuita for four years as his Physics and class teacher at Starehe Boys' Centre. Given those years of experience with him, I feel well qualified to address his candidacy to your prestigious institution. He excels in everything he does - academics, music, sports, personal relationships - but more importantly, he brings a real spirit and vitality to his endeavours which comes from having a true passion for all that he does. I think this is what distinguishes Thuita from other "all-rounders" who are successful at many things. Thuita does not just go through the motions; he invests his soul into his studies and work.Those words spoken of me have always been my guiding light in all that I do. I have striven to invest my soul into my work and studies, what one author calls the habit of excellence. My role model in excellence these days is God who, as it is written in the book of Genesis, paused every time He created something to see whether it was good.
My dear reader, I beseech you to also develop a strong work ethic. Aspire to offer the same quality services that you demand from others. If your work is to repair an aircraft engine, do it so well that the aircraft can't malfunction when air-borne. And always remember, as the book of Proverbs says, one who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on a strong work ethic, you might also enjoy another one I wrote a few years ago on "The Careers I Will Pursue". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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The Dignity of Labour
A True Story
on Aug 3, 2021
"The children now love luxury, they have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize over their teachers."
It seems like the words in the quote above were spoken by a disgruntled parent or teacher complaining about the children of these days who have grown up with some knowledge of how to surf the internet. But would you believe me if I told you that those words were actually uttered by the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates in 500 B.C.? Yes, it's Socrates who uttered them those many many years ago. So it's true that human nature and human challenges don't really change.
Just as Socrates accused the children of his time of being hedonists, so are we - the youths of today - often derided as preferring pleasure over work. We are accused of spending too much time on the internet chatting on social media instead of engaging in meaningful labour. I have actually been at the receiving end of such accusations. Okay, let me tell you more.
About a decade ago when I took up writing as a hobby, I began sharing my writings with my friends via email. I found it fun to email my writings to my circle of friends, believing that I was entertaining or enlightening them. But alas! One day in 2014, a friend of mine named Christopher who had once complimented me for having a natural flair for words, suddenly turned against me. Christopher accused me of spending all my days glued before a computer instead of working. He bluntly told me that I would never achieve my dreams if I kept spending my days that way.
To tell you the truth, I was disheartened by Christopher's caustic remarks. The remarks depressed me for a day or two but I brushed them aside and soldered on with my writing hobby. With time, I have come to treat writing as my full time job. And if there is anything I have learnt about writing, it is that it takes a great deal of hard work and discipline to be a good writer - something my friend Christopher didn't understand when he accused me of spending my days glued before a computer screen.
Writers have to read a lot to expand their knowledge base; they have to set aside time for exercise to keep their minds in tip-top form; and they have to listen to music regularly to loosen up their mental gears and think creatively. I once read that Dan Brown, the best-selling novelist, wakes up as early as 4.00am to do some writing because he finds the atmosphere serene in those early hours of the morning.
As an upcoming writer, I usually spend my days doing lots of reading while taking breaks to meditate, exercise and listen to my favorite music. Sometimes when I feel like I am reading a lot, I remind myself of the manual labourers who wake up early in the morning to go build houses, till land or repair roads and then tell myself, "Thuita, you have to work hard too!" That encourages me to keep reading diligently. I have taken to heart the proverb in the Bible that says diligent hands will rule but laziness ends in slave labour.
Because of the hard work and discipline that writing requires, I am of the opinion that writing is a noble profession - as honourable as aeronautics engineering. I believe there is as much dignity in penning an uplifting story as there is in designing an aircraft engine. And like all honourable professions, writing can save us from boredom, vice and need. I have therefore vowed to continue working hard as a writer.
My dear reader, I urge you to also work hard in your chosen profession since there is dignity in labour. I challenge you to remind yourself often in your thinking that both your inner and outer lives are based on the labours of other men, living and dead, and let such kind of thinking inspire you to give in the same measure as you have received and still receiving. It's a challenge that I will take up as well. So help me God.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on the dignity of labour, you might also enjoy another one I wrote about three years ago on "Sustainable Creative Thinking". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.