Labor Day

What is a “work ethic?” At its simplest, it’s essentially being able to summon the urge to do something you’re not inclined to do.

Have you ever felt too tired to garden? Sweep the crumb-strewn kitchen floor? Mow the lawn? Stay up teasing out the answers to math homework? Read with the kids before bedtime?

Or just leave it all aside?

A big motivator is purpose. I can muster up the energy for these kinds of efforts, especially when there’s a deadline or some sort of reckoning ahead. The City likes to ticket you for overgrown grass, for example. Guests don’t like to tip toe, hands in their pockets, around a dirty kitchen. And the kid’s not gonna pass that math test or learn that Shakespearean monologue on her own. There’s always a reason that serves as a prod for little bouts of hard work.

But a work “ethic” is all in the name—an ethic, a way of thinking, living and acting that’s a principle for how you make decisions about what you do.

Labor Day prep for the Black Belt Summit.

The work ethic pervades, it’s the medium through which you gauge effort and the glory of its result. It gets the saliva going, the urge. Red meat for a hungry wolf. You want to seize it.

Ask yourself: Why would I want to hold a sidekick for five minutes? Why would I want to do pushups on command? Why would I want to hold horse stance or stand still at attention until instructed to respond?

Mr. Robinson plays Quake (just kidding!)—goes over Black Belt student files on a Labor Day office visit.

From a martial arts micro-level, your ethic delivers one more push up, one more sidekick, one more rendition of Tan Gun at the end of a long day. It’s a willingness to go one, or many, steps further. And feel good about why you did it.

It’s amazing to see the results. Students who started four years ago (four years!) will test for Black Belt in September. Were they brilliant when they walked out as white belts? Not exactly (no offense—I remember and I can relate). But that work ethic across the weeks and months and now years has carried them to a point where, they’ll show you, they’re proud to be.

Black Belt is the ultimate leveler. It proves. You don’t get there without constantly putting in that effort. And you bring that Black Belt effort to everything you do. Thank you, karate.

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