This morning, as part of a Labor Day message at church (“The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,” Matthew 20), our pastor recapped the jobs he had in his lifetime. It spurred a conversation with my 17-year-old, Hayden, as he starts his senior year of high school. I told him I’d learned something from every job I’d ever had, including umpiring and professional dishwashing at his same age.

Today’s sermon took me back to a conversation I’d had with my dad in my late 20s. Since Lessiter Media and the ag economic outlook in 1991 was not the same as today’s, I’d accepted a job in Chicago covering metals manufacturing (working for a guy by the name of Dave Kanicki whom many of you know).

I was advancing at the company, but growing a little restless. There was a fast-growing publishing company in Texas who’d I’d been “doing the dance with” almost since graduation 5 years earlier. And it was in a field that I, as a new journalism school grad, even considered close to “dream job.” Their leadership flew my wife and me down to Texas for a third time to talk turkey about coming aboard.

Upon returning, I told my dad, Frank, that the position would bring more dollars and be significantly easier than the work I was doing. His direct reply: “Changing jobs for easier work is the worst reason I can ever think of for taking a new job.”

I let his words percolate, and decided he was right.

I was gaining so much experience (including the highs/lows of personnel, profit pressures and problem-solving in a demanding field) and on-the-job training that I realized it would be foolish to test greener pastures. That is in large part thanks to Kanicki, who I’d eventually lure him back into journalism in 2005 by relocating him to Wisconsin to be managing editor of our newly acquired Farm Equipment. 

Kanicki was mentoring me, and he looked out for me, gave me room to make mistakes but also, because of our open communication, saved me from what might’ve been a career-ending mistake. Our largest advertiser went over my head in an attempt to “buy” coverage, and I’d written a letter expressing my sentiments. I was wise enough to show it to Kanicki, who told me to consider the exercise as therapeutic, and to toss it in the garbage. As I learned, there was a much better way of handling the matter.

So after 12 years in Chicago, I answered the call to return to the family business 20 years ago this month. And while in those early years I didn’t have two nickels to rub together (solved by taking in a roommate and doing freelance writing), no higher-paying or easier gig could’ve matched what I was “getting” from the experience. My employer was investing in me in much more meaningful ways than what I’d see on my W-2.

Patrick Sharpe, Lessiter Media vice president, maintains that work is a privilege. If you doubt it, ask someone who is unable to work due to mental or physical disabilities. Since I’ve been on injured reserve and “grounded” in a wheelchair since an accident in July, I understand this more so than ever.

Some of us with my color of hair might be viewed as relics on this subject today, but work is way more than the paycheck. It offers a sense of purpose, confidence, teamwork, serving others (whether your internal or external customers) and more. Hitting the pillow after an honest day’s work, and knowing you gave your best, is a reward by itself.

If you don’t personally feel these things in your job,  move on to another position or employer where you can find it. I know most of us here at Lessiter Media find that purpose in helping our customers and teammates – both of whom we know on a personal level – improve their personal and professional lives. 

That’s what gets us out of bed and raring to go each morning.

Wishing you and family a relaxed holiday before the rush of harvest!