Times Free Press
Free Press Archives
ONLINE: Listen to Dalton Roberts’ podcast on what he learned from Al
OUR WORK CAN MAKE OR BREAK US
In choosing our work we need to be aware that it will not only provide
us a living, it will have a lot to do with the kind of person we become.
For eight hours a day, it is our training ground for personal
In 1991 I was county executive and wrote in my personal journal, “Being
county executive has been an humbling experience. It has required more
skill than I possess and much more patience. It has forced me to work up
to my capacity and to reach beyond it. It has forced me to become a
better person in some ways but has also provided the temptations to use
power wrongly and become a worse person.”
All of this thinking reminds me of Ruskin’s words “The highest reward
for a man’s toil is not what he gets from it but what he becomes by it.”
If a person just entering the work force asked me what kind of work they
should pursue I would say, “Do the work that will make you the person
you want to be.”
We can be certain that our work will change us, for better or worse. I
remember Jimmy Harris telling me that Lum Thomas’ years of playing a
fiddle actually made his neck and shoulder freeze in the fiddler’s
posture. It crooked his neck and shoulder.
About 20 years ago I continued to have a lot of pain in my right
shoulder. My chiropractor said it was fibrotic tissue from years of
playing a heavy electric guitar in a band. She explained that tissue
becomes hard and fibrotic when it is stressed continuously and my only
solution was hard massage. It took a year for myotherapist Bob Long to
break up that tissue and relieve my pain.
You probably noted in my 1991 journal entry that I mentioned something
more important than the physical changes our choice of work brings to
us. Just as Lum Thomas’ fiddling crooked his neck, there are temptations
in most jobs to allow your character to become crooked. It’s not just
elected officials who face this temptation. It is hard to imagine a job
where there are no temptations to do wrong.
I once wrote a column on police officers I admire. Few jobs exist where
there are greater opportunities to use excessive power. A good police
officer who genuinely respects all people and has his or her emotions
under control influences as many lives in a positive way as the minister
of the biggest church in town simply because we all understand the
pressures and temptations of the job.
Enjoyment of your work is important, too. One thing I loved about being
county executive was how the job gave me constant opportunities to meet
and learn from a wide variety of people. And that is exactly why I
choose to write columns and do my one-man show. I still have that
stimulation that contact with people provides.
As you consider the lifework you may want to do, list the jobs and talk
to some people who have been successful in those fields. Ask, “What are
your greatest pressures? What special temptations do you face in this
work? What are the opportunities for personal and professional growth?
Do you think your work has made you a better or a worse person”
Upfront mindfulness can help make you a good life.
This material should be treated as copyrighted by the
Chattanooga Times Free Press and the author. It should not be reproduced
commercially without permission.
Click here to order your own copy of
Long John Cardinal--and the
Best of Dalton Roberts
only $4.95 with no charge for shipping and handling.