knuckle down

"In the same way that some people are born with extra-bendy thumbs, there are people who are born with the will to work. As Amoruso explains in #GIRLBOSS, one theme of her wobbly adolescence was an urgent desire to be an employee somewhere, working at something, for some amount of money. Topics like friends, boys, and family get a few sentences each in the book, while a string of menial adolescent jobs gets a whole chapter. That section, “Shitty Jobs Saved My Life,” is where Amoruso itemizes her industriousness: There were stints at a hydroponic-plant store, a dry cleaner, an orthopedic-shoe store, a restaurant, a Borders, a factory-outlet mall, a landscaping outfit, and, before that, babysitting gigs and a paper route."

- The Cut profile of Nasty Gal Founder Sophia Amoruso

One thing I love about the fashion is that it is full of great stories about hardworking women with good ideas. You can read the rest of the profile here. Reading it, I was also reminded of this Business of Fashion profile of Kate Lanphear, where she said:

“I ended up living in a hostel, sharing a room with seven guys in bunk beds,” she said. “I was the only girl in the room. I would clean the disgusting hostel through the night. My roommates taught me how to hustle pool. You would drink beer for free and buy a loaf of bread and peanut butter and eat that for a whole week.

“I’m glad I did it. I don’t think I could go through it again. But it was an amazing time. I would go to work for a magazine during the day and then work through the night so they would let me live in the hostel.”

I work with a lot of young staff at the moment, and it can be pretty frustrating when people believe some tasks are beneath them and they don't pull their weight to deliver something up to mark. And they believe that just by vocalising their disagreement with something, they're entitled to reject the task. It astonishes them that they have to do something they dislike. This is bullshit (unless of course we are talking about fighting sexual harassment and other forms of exploitation, committing a crime, etc). Very often, when you're working for someone else, you accept some of the shit that comes with doing something you love. You have your days of fist-pumping awesomeness, but you also have days where you're doing what you're told, earning your keep. Is it out of fashion, to believe that every now and then you have to pay your dues in life?

As someone who logged years of humbling work while studying - waitressing, tutoring, working as a retail sales assistant, giving out flyers, even assembling furniture for a showroom - I often think lots of people can benefit from such experiences, provided they're willing to learn from them. You learn to knuckle down and take instruction, fight back your ego and be a team player. Working for a living makes you appreciate opportunities. Some people never have to go through this to become a better person. But most people, I think, need a jolt every now and then to remember that the world doesn't owe them anything.

Comments

miss sophie said…
hear, hear!
miss sophie said…
i think it also teaches a basic decency in how one treats people. i will never understand how some people can be horribly rude to service workers. working for years in high school in a customer service booth in the local shopping center taught me a ton.
Natalie said…
Agree with your post and Sophie's comment.
Shutterbug K said…
Young AND old staff too, IMO. In certain company cultures there develops a trend of "non-responsibility," "It's not my job/job description to handle that," and that's really frustrating when you're just trying to get the job done. I personally don't care if it's not in my duties; if I can do it or fix it and it's OK for me to do so, I'll do it. Instead I end up waiting for the "authorized" person and myself and the client are just left hanging.

Too bad those doses of reality don't hit us often enough, and some people can get through life not ever learning this.
Pret a Porter P said…
As someone that's breaking into a completely different field, it's a good reminder to have a dose of humility.

the Nasty Gal article was an interesting read, thanks for the link. I remember when it was an ebay store.

Ammu said…
I agree - I also think a lot of it has to do with upbringing - people growing up in families where they are pampered and never expected to do a thing thanks to their parents' prosperity. I have seen it in the UK on occasion and I see it all the time in South Asia, where the absence of dignity of labour reflects deeply-held class and caste prejudices.
Maja H said…
Preach! I've worked in retail, home care for the elderly, and spent two years at a call center before I finally landed a design job. My job as a designer came as a direct consequence of me working my ass of answering phones and angry emails - they knew my work ethic. People who feel like they are too good for those kinds of jobs make me want to tear my hair out, because they often bring that sense of entitlement with them into their "better" positions. Plus, with the job market being what it is, it pays off to be able to work outside of your job description.
Kali said…
I was precisely wondering about this lately - in my company we have trainees who work for us as assistants. It's a deal we have with schools, they come work for 6 months with a lower pay than a regular employee, and they get to learn things and forge a first hands-on experience.

Every 6 months we have to recruit a new one though, and I have indeed been shocked at how some of them consider their work. As you say - they are in a business school and they consider some tasks to be beneath them, and then they demand to be put in charge of more important tasks. As if they didn't understand that they need to prove themselves with the "lower" tasks first. I wouldn't trust someone who refuses to make activity reports to be in charge of a whole project.

Anyway that's interesting to see that it's not only in France (I somehow thought that it was linked to our culture, we have that image to try and work as little as possible, although it isn't generalized at all). I think it has something to do with how people consider their job. If you only see your job as a way to get money and nothing more, maybe it does foster that kind of attitude. How can you find meaning in your work when you don't do your best?
Joy said…
wonderful words! i cant agree more
May Munro said…
People have to control their behavior. They don't have to be so rude with service workers.
Jade said…
thank you for THIS! i am an internal medicine resident, and we more than have our fair share of tough work, demanding patients, and everyone else in between, but i like to think that most of us CHOSE it willingly, and that nothing good comes easy. i am sick of people bitching and moaning about how hard work is--hard work builds character, makes you appreciate your free time, and your loved ones. it also helps you forge a sense of self. i am all for lending a hand and collective collaboration, but the expectation that things should always be easy is as mythological as a unicorn. hustle harder for opportunities, and quit with the whining--it's wasting time!
lin said…
miss sophie, may munro: Agree! I know what service staff go through so I know not to be unreasonable. But I also know when they bullshit me...

Natalie, Joy: Thanks!

Shutterbug K: I HATE that too. Sometimes on my bad days I get that "not my problem, please take it somewhere else" feeling but I refuse to act on it because ultimately, I'm goal-oriented and I just want something to be done.

Pret a Porter P: Sounds exciting and a little intimidating, I wish you all the best :)

Ammu: You're right about the respect for the dignity of labour - it explains so much of the bad attitude we see!

Maja H: I actually had to tell a co-worker, "I don't think your next employer will complain about your multi-tasking skills" because I was getting so much grief about how he prefers to "specialise"...

Kali: I respect the willingness to ask questions and speak up but when it crosses that fine line into "I believe it's dumb and therefore I won't do it", I want to show them the door. If our goals don't align, why stay?

Jade: You're welcome :)

It's such a pleasure to work with people who work hard and enjoy it. I always remind myself to never take people like that for granted.

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