The Way I Live, Part 1: Never Quit A Job Until You Finish It
I live by four simple rules:
1. Never quit a job until you finish it.
2. The world doesn’t care about your problems, so don’t inflict them on it.
3. If there are relationships or circumstances in your life that are not working, get rid of them. Have the courage to be happy.
4. Never stop reaching for your goals. Once you’ve accomplished something, you’re above it. Move on to the next one, further on and higher up.
These are the foundations upon which I build my way of life. They may not work for everybody; after all, we’re each individuals, human beings with our own strengths and weaknesses. The trick, I’ve learned, is to discover what makes you content with yourself and then use these tenants as the building blocks for your life. If you take the time to find out what gives you that superb sense of inner peace you can tailor the rest of the details in your daily life around this gem of common sense.
Never Quit a Job Until You Finish It
My first rule is something I learned at a young age from some of the most important people in my life during my formative years. It took me quite a while to understand the importance of this ideal because when you’re young you don’t put a lot of thought into what you’re doing most of the time. It’s when you get older, when you’re faced with life’s daily challenges – not just the big ones – that you begin to reflect on what you learned through both observation and deliberate instruction from the people you came up around.
My maternal grandmother was one of the strongest people I have ever known. This was a woman who was born to parents who had a home but not much else. They made their living mostly through farming. Every day there were things that had to be done to keep their way of life going. Work was the foundation of that life. My grandmother learned the importance of a hard day’s work at an early age and this was a lesson that served her well throughout her life.
She got married very young and raised a family during the depression. She and my grandfather also farmed during those lean years, and Granny made chenille bedspreads for extra money. Here in northern Georgia, back in those years, Highway 41 was the only route to Florida. There wasn’t an interstate then. So many women made spreads, pillows, cushions, doilies, etcetera, and they put them out along Highway 41 where travelers going south from up north could see them. And these travelers bought them too. Even during the depression. It certainly didn’t make any of them rich but it added to the coffers their families needed to survive.
These were some very hearty people. They had to scrape out a living during a time in our nation’s history when multitudes were starving, without homes, without hope. My grandparents dug in and did what they had to do to provide for their children. The jobs they chose for themselves were all practical and they had to devote themselves to the completion of these tasks. Whether they were farming or raising livestock or taking care of the kids, each job was equally important toward sustaining their lives. So they didn’t quit anything until the job was done.
These were the kind of people my mother came from and they taught her how to get along in life. Through their examples, and through the assignation of chores, my mother and her siblings also learned to work, and more importantly they learned the importance of a job well done, a job completed to the best of their abilities, and the satisfaction of knowing that what they saw at the end was their achievement.
My dad grew up in different circumstances. When he was just a baby, my paternal grandfather went off to fight the Nazis in World War 2. When the war was over, Grandpa came home to find his wife living with another man, and his children, my dad and his sister Shirley, farmed out to Grandma’s sister Nell. I never really got to find out my paternal grandmother’s side of the story. I’m sure she had one and now I wish I’d talked to her about it, but topics such as these simply weren’t discussed when I was growing up. In fact, I remember my mother telling me not to mention Grandma Tanner around Grandpa Parrish, and vice versa. So I didn’t. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I talked it over with Grandpa and he told me his side of it. It made me understand better why he made the choices he made. I’ll never know that about Grandma Tanner because we weren’t close and didn’t visit often. We never had the chance to build a relationship where I would have felt comfortable asking her questions like that, or where she would have felt alright in explaining it to me. It’s sad, I know, but it is what it is.
My dad bounced back and forth between his parents. Everyone had to struggle in those years, even with the economic boom that followed the war, and Daddy grew up doing things for himself. He learned about survival when he was a child. His work ethic came as much from sustaining himself as from what he learned from his parents. He lived more with Grandpa than he did with his mother. Grandpa believed in hard work and he kept a roof over their heads and food on the table. Daddy got a part time job when he was only ten or twelve to have lunch money for school and to buy extra clothes he wanted. He learned work and its importance from a position of having to do it, and the completion of whatever the job was had to be the outcome of it.
I came along in later years, when people weren’t farming or raising livestock for a living that much anymore. If we needed something to eat we got it from the refrigerator, which was filled from regular trips to the grocery store. Both of my parents worked and so I didn’t have to worry about a home or clothes or eating. Times had changed but the importance of working had not. I had chores to do around the house. From the time I was old enough I was expected to keep my room clean and to make my bed when I got up in the mornings. I kept the grass cut too. I got an allowance for doing these things (which I usually spent on records) and through this experience I also learned about working and what it brings you.
Finishing a job you’ve started is tantamount to receiving any reward from the task as a whole. If you leave something undone, it isn’t much use to you or anybody else. It also becomes a source of irritation to you as time passes. A healthy work ethic must include seeing things through to the end. If you give up, you’re a quitter.
Whatever it is you decide to do you must have the knowledge and the skills to do it. So don’t take off on a lark for which you’re unprepared. You wouldn’t expect to jump into the cockpit of an airplane and take off into the wild blue yonder without first learning how to fly, would you? This same principle applies to anything in life. I see so many people fail at things they’re trying to accomplish because they just don’t have the skills they need to finish the job. Worse, most of them just abandon whatever it is they were doing when they see they can’t do it.
People seem to have a big problem with going back over their failures and seeing where they went wrong. They have an even bigger problem with admitting that they couldn’t do it because they didn’t know how. Don’t fall into these traps. They’re just psychological in the first place. Approach anything you want to do like a child who is learning something for the first time. Remember when you learned to tell time? You first had to know your numbers, didn’t you? And then you had to know in which direction they went. Then you had the basics for understanding how to tell time. The mechanics are the same for anything you want to do.
Don’t try to undertake a task that you don’t care for or which doesn’t interest you, and this is especially important in your choice of career, because if you do what you’ll get out of that is a lot of frustration; the feeling that you’re wasting your time. If you’ve been doing the same thing for twenty years and you begin to stagnate in your role, then don’t be afraid to find something new that challenges you again, that makes you feel excited about doing it, that makes want to learn it. The job(s) you pick for yourself should be things that will give you a feeling of self confidence, a sense of pride in your work, and they should add something meaningful to your life. I’m not saying to just quit what you’re currently doing either; we all have to have a means to live. Take the time to learn whatever new thing you choose before you embark on it. In doing this, you will appreciate it more and enjoy it more when at last you have the opportunity to hang up the old and take up the new.
Above all else, finish what you start. Don’t be a quitter. Don’t be a failure. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes. You should learn from them! You should add these experiences to your base of knowledge so that you won’t do the same thing wrong twice. Get it right. Finish it. Admire what you’ve achieved. Admire yourself for achieving it. Then you’re ready to try something new.