Thursday, May 31, 2018

"Mop Your Way to Success"

It’s graduation season,  a time when newly minted college grads are forced to listen to a commencement speaker offer up a platter of platitudinous bromides… purportedly the kind of advice that will send you soaring into the work world. In truth, it will make you feel like Icarus... and we know how that worked out.

Colleges have assiduously avoided preparing students for anything resembling the world of real work. They have a congenital allergy to anything that smacks of reality. As you know, they now dedicate themselves to the task of indoctrinating students with the dogmas of the Church of the Liberal Pieties. And to force them to take up residence in an alternative reality where Hillary Clinton is president, where equality reigns and where Barack Obama was a rousing success.

As might have been expected, college commencement speakers top off this indoctrination by spewing forth useless advice. But, their job is to affirm the value of whatever these students have been taught in school. Lest we forget, the value offered in return for the astronomically high tuition fees they now charge. You don't want the proud parents to leave the ceremony thinking that they have been scammed.

Thus, rarely do today's graduates hear anyone who might offer a different point of view, a different perspective, even, and especially a conservative approach to the world’s problems. I venture that each member of the class of 2018 is carrying a gadget created by a company whose motto used to be the grammatically infelicitous: “Think Different.” Of course, if ever they were really to think differently in their Humanities or Social Science classes they would not be sitting on the college green in their antiquated robes and bizarre headpieces listening to yet another affirmation of the truth of leftist ideology.

Fair enough, the speeches were not all bad. And yet, many of the speakers were celebrities-- not great thinkers or great minds-- chosen not for their advanced wisdom but for their entertainment value. One wonders whether colleges are now justifying their high fees by offering up entertainment. If not offering it up, making it an object of serious academic study. Many of them have replaced the great books written by the great thinkers with lessons in popular culture. Apparently, it was the only way to relate to students who do not know enough to read the greats. And when students are assigned great books one suspects that lectures are sprinkled with lessons from celebrity culture. They have learned to bow down at the altar of celebrity and have also likely learned that the great and not-so-great books validate the beliefs that their professors hold most dear.

I am exaggerating for effect, but today’s commencement speakers do not encourage us to think otherwise. In such a verbal miasma the sage advice purportedly offered by Kurt Vonnegut rings out: Wear sunscreen. As you know, Vonnegut did not give the speech. It was a hoax. Still, compared to what America’s biggest loser, Hillary Clinton, had to say, "Wear sunscreen" sounds like pretty good advice, after all.

I suspect that the following real piece of advice, offered in the pages of the Wall Street Journal communicates a message that college students never heard. And yet, Tyler Bonin has it right. The one thing that an entitled self-absorbed, self-indulgent snowflake generation needs to hear is: Mop the floors.

Yes, indeed. Get over the feeling that you are too good to do manual labor. Get down and dirty. Work hard, not because you are being forced to do so by a pitiless overseer, but because it is good for you. But especially because it is good for the company.

Bonin recounts his experience, and shows how to get ahead in the business world.

When I was a student at Duke, I worked in a retail store. Many of my co-workers were also college students, some in graduate school, and one was on her way to dental school. Many of my colleagues hated mopping, which required going into the haven of filth that was the public bathroom. I had plenty of practice in this area as a former Marine Corps private, so I always volunteered for the job.

My managers noticed. They named me employee of the month and promoted me to management for the holiday rush—a small success at a small store. I learned that a sense of entitlement is a burden. People who believe themselves above something, or entitled to something more because of past achievements, will find that new opportunities slip away.

I volunteered for the necessary task, signaling my work ethic and dedication to the organization. I simply wanted to do my job as best as possible. Perhaps I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was emulating senior Marines who would roll up their sleeves and get dirty when the job required it.

Mopping the floors manifests humility. It shows an understanding that all jobs have value. It shows a commitment to the team:

Certainly there is a time to be bold, but there is also a time for humility. A task once considered beneath you could actually be the key to your success. Do the job nobody wants, because, believe it or not, somebody appreciates it. Volunteer to learn and to provide value to others. Find a dream job by first doing the rote tasks in that field, without complaint. Pick up a mop.

When I was reading this I recalled a televised interview that Colin Powell gave one day. I cannot recall the date or the time or the station. Powell explained that he got his first job when he was nineteen. He was hired to sweep out a warehouse or a factory floor or something.

He told himself that he wanted to be the best at sweeping the floors, so he applied himself industriously and assiduously to the task at hand. One day the manager saw him sweeping the floors with uncommon intensity and remarked: Why are you sweeping floors? You do more for us.

If you want to get ahead do not pretend that your job, whatever it is, is beneath you. No job is beneath you. Work hard at whatever your job is. Don’t just do you best, but do it better than other people have done it. And don’t just do it, but look like you value it, like you think that you are doing something important.

Good luck to the class of 2018.


Ares Olympus said...

I recall Gandhi had similar advice, while his wife took a lot of convincing before she would do it with gratitude. Integrity in successful leaders: Gandhi cleaned toilets

Sam L. said...

I worked 3 summers on the U's poultry farm. Was the head honcho of the shoveling crew the last summer (shoveling out the dropping pits). Janitor's assistant when in HS.