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The Concept of Work Ethic vs. Life Ethic

Listen to Best in Wealth Podcast Episode 222

I read an article titled, “The Sinister Side of Work Ethic,” and it got me thinking. I love work ethic. I believe God made us to work. But what is work ethic? Work ethic is defined as “The principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward.” Is that the way you see work ethic? What is your definition of work ethic? How does the concept of “life ethic” fit into the mix? Learn more about how to balance life and work ethic in this episode of Best in Wealth. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:04] My dad’s work ethic was unrivaled
  • [2:02] What is your definition of a good work ethic?
  • [6:12] When there is a cost to work ethic
  • [8:29] How is your life ethic?
  • [10:42] How much life ethic do you need?
  • [12:16] Is it time to pay more attention to life ethic?

What is your definition of good work ethic?

Is it the person who works the most hours? Is it the person who is first to get to the office and last to leave? My old boss required us to be in the office from 8:30–5:30. I would leave at 5:32 and my boss would often say, “Are you taking a half day today?” 

Is working 80 hours a week a good work ethic? What is your definition of good work ethic? I think it is hard, constructive, work. We all learned from our family of origin. We carry some of that with us. 

When I drove to Alaska to work the salmon run, my friends and I were tasked to shovel mountains of ice into huge 4x4x4 totes. We got it done in record time. Because of that, we were known as the people that had the best work ethic.

I believe we need work ethic. But is there such a thing as too much work ethic?

When there is a cost to work ethic

Do you believe that if you work harder and longer it will get you what you want? Will it get you a promotion or a raise? You are working 80 hours a week to get the next promotion to make more money, but what are you leaving behind in the process?

Those with a strong work ethic can vilify leisure. We feel like we need to be productive. When is it enough? There can be a cost to work ethic:

  • The burnout of constantly and relentlessly pushing yourself to do more and never being satisfied. Burnout is not good for your family. 
  • The toll on your physical health (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, no time for sleep or exercise, stress, binge drinking, etc.)

Is your work ethic taking over your life? 

How is your life ethic?

Life ethic is focusing on leisure, slowing down, not always chasing the next title or raise, and enjoying life. A lot of Europeans have mastered life ethic. It takes the deferred life plan—i.e. working hard now to retire and travel later—and flips it on its head. 

  • Instead of eating on the go, enjoy a leisurely meal with loved ones. 
  • Instead of staying in the office for 80 hours a week, we are going to have deep emotional conversations with people we love.
  • It might even look like prioritizing your health and taking a nap. 

Work ethic is about getting things done. There is nothing wrong with that. But life ethic is about "being"

How much life ethic do you need? 

Work ethic has made America the richest country in the world. But the culture of work ethic has made Americans worse off than many countries. We lag behind the world in paid vacation and parental leave. We have more people working beyond 65. We force people to prioritize work over family and friends. 

Some people need to work 50 hours a week to pay the bills and stay out of debt. I have been there. But once you move out of that, can you make a conscious effort to introduce life ethic into your every day? It might look like taking more time to travel. Maybe it is committing more time to meals with your family. Or maybe even take a nap when you feel tired. 

Is it time to pay more attention to life ethic? How does life ethic coexist with your retirement plans? It is time to look deep inside and make sure you can balance work ethic and life ethic to be the best family steward you can be.

Resources Mentioned

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Podcast Disclaimer:

The Best In Wealth Podcast is hosted by Scott Wellens. Scott Wellens is the principal at Fortress Planning Group. Fortress Planning Group is a registered investment advisory firm regulated by the Securities Act of Wisconsin in accordance and compliance with securities laws and regulations. Fortress Planning Group does not render or offer to render personalized investment or tax advice through the Best In Wealth Podcast. The information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, tax, investment or legal advice.