A Life Of Honest Labor

What does it mean to have a “good work ethic?” It means that a person is consistently willing to reasonably self-exert in a range of different ways, in order to achieve worthwhile outcomes. So here is the question: Do people sometimes convince themselves that they have a good work ethic when, in reality, they are only willing to exert themselves in certain areas – and not in others?

Lets consider the case of someone who works at a job that requires strenuous manual labor. When this fellow comes home at night he is exhausted. So, you would think that a person who was willing to do that kind of a job would have to have a good work ethic, right? Maybe not.

The purpose of this article is to explore the case of people who are seemingly very diligent workers – but who also identify themselves as being kind of lazy. Sometimes this happens when an individual recognizes that their willingness to strongly exert in comfortable or familiar ways provides them with a type of “moral cover” that allows them to avoid doing other un-comfortable or un-familiar tasks.

What is labor?

Labor is focused self-exertion over time in order to achieve a desired outcome. The “focus” part means that, there are only certain results that employers are willing to pay for. Its not just the exertion that the boss wants – it is the narrowly focused exertion that gets a specific job done. Otherwise, the fellow who burns the most calories per hour at the gym would be the one who makes the most money.

This may seem counterintuitive, but, in fact, the boss does not really care whether you actually sweat or not. He only cares whether you get the job done. Of course, though, usually, “getting the job done” means focused self-exertion – and some sweat.

So we see that there are many different ways in which we can exert ourselves. But only a very small number of all of the possible “Exertion Pathways” will solve a problem that someone is willing to pay for.

What is honesty?

What is meant by honest labor? In this sense, honesty means two things:

  1. Making a sincere effort – in order to reach my own goals.
  2. Making a sincere effort – in order to reach my employer’s goals.

But aren’t those just two ways of saying the same thing? No, not always. The difference hinges on the question of who, exactly, is my employer?

Who am I really working for?

Ultimately, am I working for the boss – or for myself? For a self-employed person this is an easy question to answer. He is definitely working for himself. But for a boss-employed person, isn’t he still really working for himself? A boss-employed person is, indeed, actually working for himself. But the boss and the company form a “Shell” around the worker that may prevent him from clearly seeing it.

So, if I think of myself as working for the boss, then “an honest day’s labor” means that I do what the boss tells me to do. But what if I think of myself as the boss? (This gets tricky when I am employed by another person who thinks that he is the boss.) For various reasons (mainly psychological in nature) it is easy to forget who the real boss is.

The main problem comes up in those cases in which the best-interests of the boss do not match up with my own best interests. Specifically, the boss has a certain plan for me. He wants me to continue to be available to work for him at the times that he likes and for the wages that he likes. But is his plan also in my best interests?

The Shell Job versus the Real Job

What is the real job that each of us faces in life? The answer to this depends upon the answer to the question: “Who am I really working for”? If someone else is the boss, then the job is to: “Do what the boss tells me to do, so I can get my pay.” But if I am the boss (even though I may be working inside the shell of an external boss), then the job is to: “Do whatever I can (legally) in order to make the most money.”

This distinction goes to the heart of the idea of “honest labor”. To summarize:

  • Shell Job: Do what the boss tells me to do, so I can earn my pay.
  • Real Job: Do whatever I can (legally) do in order to make the most money.

If my focus is on the Shell Job, then I may end up staying in a dead-end position – since that is what the boss wants! But if my focus is on the Real Job, then I need to be regularly reviewing the big picture to see if there should be any top-level changes that I should be making – either within the Shell or outside of the Shell.

But “regularly reviewing the big picture” requires thinking and risk-taking. Both of which are management-level functions. Most people shy away from these very fruitful tasks.

Three Exertion Pathways

There are three distinct pathways by which self-exertion can be converted into money:

  1. Working – it is the act of exchanging my self-exertion via my skill sets with someone who has agreed to pay me for my work product. My exertion is converted to cash on a clear and predictable schedule. I get paid every Friday at a rate of $X an hour.
  2. Selling – means “selling myself and my skills” by making connections with people who want to buy my skills. This is also known as “looking for a job”. My Selling effort (really networking) is converted into cash in a much less predictable way than my Working effort. I don’t get paid every Friday for my personal networking efforts – but, statistically speaking, those efforts do pay off handsomely in the long run because they make it possible to find better Working connections.
  3. Learning – means developing my mind and my body to create useful career skills. This kind of effort is converted into cash in a way that is similar to the Selling effort. Statistically speaking, people who invest their energy in Learning (and other areas of personal development) get an excellent return on their efforts. But, as with Selling, the payoff only happens in the long-term.

Rational balance and long-term planning

Is it fair for me to call my labor “honest” if I decline to rationally balance my exertion efforts over all three of the exertion pathways?

When the “boss” is the boss, he will only want me to exert in the Working pathway. He might also want me to exert in the Learning pathway – but it will only be in a way that he narrowly instructs me. He will definitely not want me to exert in the Selling pathway.

But the Selling and Learning pathways are absolutely necessary for a person to maximize their earning potential. Here’s a thought experiment to prove it:

ALOHL Person AB 3 Square 2

  • Person A – has a good job. He works 40 hours a week and another 10 hours overtime. So he takes home a nice paycheck every Friday.
  • Person B – has a good job. He works 40 hours a week – but then he spends another 10 hours of his own (unpaid) time every week in Selling and Learning efforts.

Who is going to be better off in the long run – Person A or Person B? If you are unsure, then ask yourself: “How would a successful person answer this question”?

People dislike the Selling
and Learning pathways

People don’t like to admit that they dislike the Selling and Learning exertion pathways. There could be many different reasons for this “disliking to admit to disliking”. Lets take a look at two of them:

  1. Irrational Fears – It reminds us that we are driven by irrational fears. And these fears cause us to make poorer than necessary economic decisions and poorer than necessary time-management decisions.
  2. False Economic Beliefs – It challenges a belief which lies at the heart of the happy self-image. This is the belief that “I am making (fairly) reasonable and rational decisions which are in my own best interests.”

Once a person starts a job, the tendency is to stay there until things become intolerable – or until there is a clear indication that a better position is (more or less) easily available. This is commonly observed phenomenon. Of course, though, this inflexibility is often driven by a dislike of Selling and Learning.

Can a person rightly claim to have a good work ethic (i.e., living a life of “Honest Labor” in pursuit of the Real Job) if he is unwilling to strategically engage himself in the full range of Exertion Pathways?

Get help and get active

So how about you? Are you living a life of honest labor?

If your own answer (to yourself) is “Yes” – then good for you. You will, most likely become successful in your endeavors as you continue on in your lifestyle of keeping up reasonable pressure on the boundaries of your comfort zone. We sincerely wish you the best in your journey.

But what if your answer (to yourself) is “No”? Get Help Get Active is looking for people who can voluntarily say three things about themselves:

  1. Financial Struggle – I am struggling financially,
  2. Low Self-Exertion – In my own opinion, part of the problem is that I don’t make a reasonable effort in one (or more) of the three Exertion Pathways, and
  3. Desire To Change – I want to change, but it seems really difficult.

Free and confidential help is available. You will never have to pay anything. You can even make some cash just for checking out what we have to offer.

Change is possible. Get help and get active!

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24 Responses to A Life Of Honest Labor

  1. PAL says:

    I guess I am really working two jobs – one is F/T for the boss – and one is P/T for myself. I always do good work with the boss – but I do pretty poor work for myself.

  2. PAL says:

    Honor As A Sickness

    We honor people who are considered to be living a life of honest labor. But perhaps that honor is mistaken – if their labor is not really honest. In fact, the act of honoring them could even be kind of part of the overall sickness of the social group.

    I suspect that the whole business of the “act of honoring someone” is an area ripe for psychological abuse and manipulation. Beware of those who proport to honor you. And beware of those who call upon you to honor someone else.

  3. PAL says:

    Some ideas for pictures or call-outs -> [The boss benefits when his employee forgets that he (the employee) is really working for himself.] [Psychologically we get confused about who the boss is.] [Charts here to show the payoff horizon and different characteristics of WSL.] [Can a person live a life of honest labor (as far as the boss is concerned) – but dis-honest labor as far as he himself is concerned?]

  4. 20B says:

    Trading, Community & Self – these are areas of life into which i can pour my time and energy to advance my career. Instead of WSL? Transmission? Exchange? Imagine if I had created a cartoon every day since 1988 – what a wonderful portfolio I would have now – 25 years later. So create one every day!!!

  5. 20B says:

    Studio, Protocol, Trivia & Wasteland – the four kinds of learning. Many ppl keep their focus in the T & W areas so far as their careers are concerned. What did you learn in the last week? For many ppl the answer is: “Nothing.”

  6. 20B says:

    How Often Do You Need To Bathe?

    What is the “refresh-needed time frame” when it comes to the psychological problem of maintaining a positive mental attitude? This question is analogous to the question of the “refresh-needed time-frame” when it comes to the physical need to shower in order to maintain bodily cleanliness.

    This also similar to the recommended maintenance schedule for a vehicle. In the case of the vehicle, your objective is to prevent a break-down and to maintain vehicle performance. And the maintenance schedule will be more aggressive if the vehicle has been subject to heavier usage or usage in an unusually dusty environment.

    So, for a person who has been subjected to a powerfully discouraging environment, it would make sense that it would be prudent to have a shorter interval between their psychological refresh treatments.

  7. 20B says:

    Does Confession Encourage Failure?

    When a person first admits to another that they themselves are suffering from a disease-like cycle of sloth there may be a tendency for the sufferer to experience an increased susceptibility to sloth – because they suddenly see that the problem is actually bigger than they had first thought – and that realization could discourage them from continuing on at the effort level that they had heretofore been expressing. This is probably just an instantiation of one technique among the broader class of all psychological techniques which can be used to discourage an enemy.

  8. Are All Beliefs Equally Valuable?

    Are MBH-LSE or AMD caused by a disease of the belief system? An earlier question would be: In the same way that humans have a skeletal system and a lymphatic system, do we also have a belief system? If so then is it possible to have a disease in the belief system? If it is possible to have a disease in the belief system, then that would suggest that some beliefs are healthier than other beliefs. But such a notion would seem to run counter to the multi-culturalist premise that all belief systems are equally worthy of our respect.

  9. Is there an elephant in the room? Historically, we see that there have been many “elephants” throughout human history. Which suggests that we are generally well adapted (as a species) to living in a state of cognitive dissonance.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Without Insulting the Person

    The problem is: How do you bring this up without insulting the person? I think that the way is to just ask a question that gives you a toe-hold. Then step back and let the hearer decide which way he wants to go with it. In other words, point out that there is an anomaly that the hearer himself will agree with. Then tell him that it puzzles you, too. And ask him to help you to figure it out. The listener has to think that he is discovering it for himself.

    But, he will, undoubtedly, go into self-protect mode about his beliefs. But why does that involve anger you could ask? If you beliefs really are correct, then why do they need your anger to defend them?

    This is similar to the case in which a person (who is a deity believer) claims that his deity is offended by the blasphemy of an unbeliever. So the believer then threatens to physically harm the unbeliever for his blasphemy. Now, at this point, the unbeliever might rationally say (it would be brass and probably dangerous – but at least it would be rational) – the unbeliever might say: “If your deity is indeed as powerful as you claim, then why doesn’t he harm me himself – rather than relying on you (the believer) to do his dirty work?”

    This is a general model that could be helpful in formulating many of the approaches for PAL recruitment: a) Pointing out an apparent anomaly and then b) Asking the listener to help you to understand it and c) Pointing out that the listener is becoming angry in his defense. A good example of this is the line of questioning that begins with: “Is America the Land of Opportunity?”

    Fundamental Premises:

    > There exist large swaths of people who have been brainwashed into believing lies.
    > It is possible that I am one of them.
    > Holding these two thoughts in one’s mind can be transformational.

  11. Things that are difficult to measure are prone to philosophical slippage when we estimate their value. That is the Principle of _______?

    The Opportunity Machine – the Internet.

  12. PAL says:

    Either Momentum Or Force

    The two methods by which I am “able” to achieve long-term, goal-oriented RSE.

  13. PAL says:

    Is Opportunity Relative or Absolute?

    Look at a map of the world. Can you spot the Land of Opportunity? Americans are notorious for being weak at geography relative to folks from other countries. Are we unable to identify the LOO because it only exists in a relative state? In other words, perhaps, in comparison to their home countries, America is the LOO, but, in comparison to America itself, (maybe, meaning: the recent history of America) America is no longer the LOO. But that that even make any sense?

    But what is opportunity is not a relative frame of perception? In other words, we perceive that there is more opportunity in location A than in location B. So maybe Roger was right all along?

    But then why do foreigners often become very successful here in the United States? If opportunity is relative (and not absolute), then how is it that they seem to end up becoming “absolutely” more economically successful when compared with native born American? So, I think that a more accurate way of looking at opportunity is that we perceive it in a relative frame, but, in practice, it actually exists in an absolute frame.

  14. Rate-able and Non-rate-able Disabilities

    Is self-pity a handicap? Yes! It is a very real H. The diff is that it is NRD – bcz it is changeable.

    As a society, we should really do away with the idea of NRD. But, at the same time, require that a person accept NRD treatments as a condition for their disability payments.

    It makes you wonder …

  15. Dinner Party says:

    You Get What You Pay For

    There is a very common dynamic in the process of self-education in which a person decides to spend a lot of money either to purchase a book or to sign up for college courses. The thinking goes like this: “I need to spend this money in order to get a new and clean and high-class education process which this book or this college course will provide to me.”

    [graphic: shiny new textbook with a price tag sticker: $150]

    But does an expensive purchase necessarily equal a good education? Unfortunately, no, it does not.

    So when does the proverb “you get what you pay for” make sense?

    [Graphic: Shiny new car versus old, run down car]

    When a person is buying a car, then obviously a brand-new car is going to be very expensive – but it will probably run well. Alternatively an older car that only cost $50 is probably not going to last you very long. So there’s a case in which there proverb makes sense.

    [Graphic: Two stacks of coins]

    But, in the area of education the coin that we need to pay in order to get the good product of the education is not necessarily money. Rather the coin is the energy focus and determination to study and do homework and be consistent with the learning process. And that is very expensive, indeed. For many people it’s more than they’re willing to pay – so they end up without an education.

    Since the advent of the Internet education is practically free – in terms of cash. But of course, any would be learner still has to pay with the very dear coin of focus determination and consistency. And in that sense the proverb is definitely true: you get what you pay .

    • PAL says:

      About buying things and paying for things. There are two kinds of things you can buy: Transferable Products (TP) and Non-Transferable Products (NTP). We buy TP by trading other TP. So, for instance the ownership of a car can be transferred from the seller to the buyer when the ownership of money is transferred from the buyer to the seller. But NTP can only be purchased via Non-Transferable Exertion (NTE). For instance, if you want to have the NTP of “knowing the times tables” then you need to purchase it via the NTE of time + focus on the learning process.

    • PAL says:

      PITCH: Two Kinds of Payment – JTTQ

      How much does it cost you to graduate from college? First coin. Second coin. Are you willing to pay first coin? Second coin? Do you borrow to pay first coin? Are you willing to borrow to pay second coin? What would that mean to borrow for the second coin?

      To answer that question, we can ask ourselves what it would mean to borrow for the first coin. It means that you (the borrower) are agreeing to place yourself under the threat of force from the government in order to compel you (in the future) to return an exact amount of money (your student loan payment) at an exact frequency and duration (monthly until the loan is paid off.) And if you fail to make those payments (apart from deferments, etc) then you are agreeing to allow the government system to use force on you to take away your money, your property and (if you continue to resist) your freedom. Interestingly, it does not compel you to work, per se, instead it just compels you to deliver a measurable number of money. But for just about everyone, that works out to equal “work.”

      The first coin is transferable. The second is non-transferable – but, if it were, then you would be totally willing to transfer it!

      • PAL says:

        Alternatively, you could call this “Two Kinds of Force” – NTE requires present force self-to-self. Borrowing to pay the cash of the TE payment requires future force government-to-self. Tutoring throws in a 3rd kind of force.

    • PAL says:

      PITCH – JTTQ School is Suffering

      Cartoon – dominatrix symbolizes suffering, then medium suffering is mowing the lawn and sweat drops come down your forehead, then light suffering is washing a single dish.

    • Dinner Party says:

      And that explains why you don’t have an education. Simply put: you’re just not willing to pay for it!

  16. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the article’s definition on honest labor as it agrees with Ephesians 6:5-8 and Colossians 3:23. Yet I admit uncomfortably that I have had jobs where I come home from work and don’t want to do anything else. It’s not just tiredness, it’s laziness. I figured it would allow me to avoid doing other un-comfortable or un-familiar tasks. I have been asked, “Are you living or existing?” Honestly if I do the ‘harder task’ as Mother Theresa would say, I would be growing and learning. And that is what The Bible, The Big Book, the spiritual and holy books as well as The Big Book of A.A. would say. “Don’t you want to live, grow, learn? Don’t give up.” Thus, the mission of this website to ‘Get help, Get Active.’

  17. fulltime_80 says:

    Shell Job versus Real Job- good point. You can only go so far in a dead job so why not do whatever is legally possible to make the most money. An interviewer once asked me, “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” I hate that question because I always have no idea. I hate that feeling. Actually though, no one has an answer because we are not promised tomorrow.- James 4:14. But for me, it would be to live life on life’s terms one day at a time. I do agree in the meantime we should legally do whatever is necessary to achieve our goals, which we should have. I believe the Big Picture includes keeping an eye open for opportunities God grants us.

  18. fulltime_80 says:

    In response to your article entitled ‘A Life of Honest Labor’, (working, selling, learning) this is something I was taught 2 years ago, but I haven’t learned yet. I get now. And now that my mind isn’t clouded completely from drugs, I can rent a book from the library which I am now at. I believe a book on plumbing would be good to learn and see if I want to go into that field. Since I am already working and selling (I keep looking for jobs and opportunities), I only have 1 thing left: learning. I have tried to spiritually, but now I must include learning for material means as well. I understand now what a friend from PA was trying to tell me, “You can do this. You are in the homestretch.” But I got an uncomfortable feeling and I got irritated with him for pushing me to educate myself on top of my ‘busy schedule.’ I will apologize to him and move forward.

  19. fulltime_80 says:

    On Honest Labor, I do feel challenged that “I am making(fairly) reasonable decisions which are in my own best interests. So why change more? Am I not doing enough?” And I do live in fear and have so all my life. I want to change that part of me. I have settled too long for entry level jobs and not trying to advance myself even on those jobs. I wonder if I am too old for that and should I look to higher ground or is it too late? That’s negative. It’s too difficult. That’s laziness. I need to Get Help, Get Active.

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