Work ethic isn’t something you’re born with. It’s not a characteristic given to you at birth. Laziness is a mindset. If you’re willing to overcome that hurdle, absolutely anything is possible. Sounds like a stupid ass cliché, but it’s true. I don’t want you to think that being lazy is a bad thing either. There’s a time and place for it. Self-care is essential to avoid burnout, exhaustion, mental health issues, and many more. For me, self-care means posting up on the couch with comfort food watching The Forty Year Old Virgin. But it’s work ethic that’ll keep you from ending up a forty-year-old virgin.
What does that look like? It varies from person to person. Working in the film industry, it may be twelve-hour days. Little sleep. Operating at an extremely high physical and mental state. Sound familiar? It kind of sounds like the military to me, and if I’m being honest. I do see a lot of similarities in both jobs. They aren’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Lots of yelling, lots of criticism, long hours, high stakes, and if everything goes perfect, no one gets hurt.
I’m often complimented on my work ethic. I always try to have at least one project on the go, often it’s three or four things I’m juggling. It wasn’t always like this. When I was in the military, every morning we had a two-hour block for Physical Training (PT). Great way to start the day, right? Helps you wake up, gets the blood flowing, keeps you in excellent shape. Sounds like a great idea. Except I hated it. Being physically fit is a part of the job in the infantry and could mean life or death. I never had a problem humping gear or running or staying in relatively modest shape. But I didn’t do any extra work. If I could come up with an excuse to duck out and grab a coffee, I would. Now these trips to Tim’s wouldn’t ever compromise my ability to do the job. I could still soldier at a high standard. But I was happy being average. I also had several injuries in the military that led to a more complacent attitude towards my work ethic.
So, what changed? Honestly, I just started doing something I loved. Films are my life. Do I still get sore? Tired? Grumpy? Hell yeah. But it’s worth it when I’m inspired and following my passion. I’m willing to push through my physical limitations because I’m having so much fun. Now I don’t want any young man or woman out there thinking a career in the Armed Forces is a bad thing. I’m not throwing shade. I look back on my time, the good and bad, incredibly fondly. I couldn’t do what I’m doing in film now without that experience.
What is work ethic? It’s a principle of hard work that is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward. In my opinion punctuality, accountability, integrity, and professionalism are the pillars of work ethic. Trust, communication, and respect go a long way as well. Being an asshole will only get you noticed for the wrong reasons. Contrary to my previous statement, you don’t have to love your job to be a good worker. I’ve always been driven to excel at everything I did, even when I hated it. I only noticed a second gear I had after I started chasing my life’s dream. Even writing this now for the ten people that will read it (thanks), I’d rather be watching a show or working on a film. But I said that I would make a post every week and for me, that’s where the integrity and accountability come in.
Be the hardest worker in the room. Not physically, just mentally. A film director shouldn’t be above carrying a sandbag. Not saying he should either. There’s gaffers, electricians, and production assistants who get paid good money for that job. But he should be willing to. Being helpful and considerate isn’t just a cornerstone for having good work ethic, it’s a characteristic of a decent human being.
You can work hard and still be a kind, empathetic, considerate, and caring person. It’s important that we don’t lose that while our successes grow.