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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


The Value of Work (Part Two)

Yesterday, I suggested that work is about more than money. It’s about meaning. And when we don’t equip and encourage our young people to “work” we do them a disservice. We clip their wings. They become disabled when it comes to living a healthy life. They’re unable to be productive adults.


photo credit: Eric Leslie via photopin cc

The largest unemployed demographic in the US continues to be young adults, 16-29. The reason is not merely a bad economy, although that hasn’t helped. For many, jobs are readily available. Sadly, the jobs that are available are “too low” for teens to take; they’d rather pass them off to immigrants. (In recent focus groups, adolescents told me that yard work or working in a fast food restaurant is “below” them).

Let me suggest some fundamental benefits that work offers us, as people. When we labor at something meaningful—offering goods or services to our community—we engage in an activity that benefits us far more deeply than financial. Consider this:

1. Good work helps us identify our gifts.

When we get a job, we can experiment with tasks that can confirm where our greatest gifts and talents lie. The closer we get to serving in our “sweet spot” the deeper our sense of satisfaction.

2. Good work helps us develop discipline.

When we work on a job, our motivation may only be the paycheck that’s coming on Friday, but along the way, we deepen our disciplines; we hone our ability to delay gratification and get beyond doing only what “feels good.”

3. Good work raises our self-esteem.

I believe working a job typically ends up cultivating our self-image. We gain a deeper sense of pride about ourselves; a greater sense of dignity; we want to live by a higher standard. One proverb says: He that hates discipline despises himself.

4. Good work provides big picture vision.

When we work, we tend to gain perspective. We can see passed ourselves; we are humbled by it. Activities we assumed were easy are now clearly not that easy. We appreciate money and what it buys because we know the hours it took to earn it.

5. Good works furnishes fulfillment.

Finally, when we work at something we believe in, the reward can be internal. More than a salary, we gain in inward sense of gratification. We’ve added value; we can step back and look with satisfaction what we’ve accomplished. This is a divine gift.

If you know a young person who “just isn’t into working”, may I suggest you talk over these five benefits with them?  Perhaps they’ve never seen an adult actually work at a job they love. Or, they’ve never seen a job they felt actually mattered. You and I know differently.  Let’s get our young people working again. Let’s model for them what it looks like to enjoy work while laboring at something that counts.

Let me hear from you. What are some other benefits of good work? Leave a comment below.


  1. Tim Rossow on January 22, 2013 at 7:29 am

    When I was young and complained about working in the family restaurant, my dad’s reply was, “you don’t have to work, you GET to work”. Looking back, it was a privilege to have a job at a young age. I have had one ever since!

    • Tim Rossow on January 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

      I still think that it is a privilege to have a job!

    • Tim Elmore on January 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      That’s a great outlook. I don’t know any other way to develop it other than through real-life experience like you describe.

  2. Joseph Lalonde on January 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Good work teaches us to submit to an authority.

    • Tim Elmore on January 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      Great point! That topic is worthy of a whole post! Many students view “submit” as a bad word today, too.

      • Joseph Lalonde on January 23, 2013 at 11:38 am

        That’s so true. It’s now become a four letter word. We’ve got work ahead of us in rewiring this thought process.

  3. Dr. Michael Christianson on July 21, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    This article is social and moral rubbish. Your philosophical claim that work benefits us “more deeply than financial” is a factoid. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Believe me, if daily physical labor for poverty wages (i.e., work) was all that, you can rest assured the wealthy would have kept more of it for themselves. Instead, they have chosen to financially enslave the poor and at-risk poor by providing immorally low wage jobs that amount to nothing, promise nothing, reward nothing. When ordinary people are compelled to work for low wages they are not feeling “fulfilled.” They don’t have a heightened sense of self-esteem. And they certainly don’t develop discipline – they develop anger, resentment, intolerance and a host of other angry emotions. They already possessed discipline prior to stopping to fill out an application, and it’s that discipline that is telling greedy corporate America that they refuse to work for the scraps that fall from the master’s table. And it’s that same discipline that keeps so many millions of hard-working low wage employees from storming the luxury offices and homes of their greedy employers to demand higher wages that are more in line with the rising costs of food, housing, and transportation.

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The Value of Work (Part Two)