“Come Labor On”

September 2 , 2017 /

“Come Labor On”

There’s an old Scottish hymn and the last verse is:

“Come, labor on.
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
and a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
‘Well done, well done!'”

I sang that hymn numerous times but had not remembered it until I thought about Labor Day and why we have a holiday to honor workers by taking a day off and, for many people, creating a long weekend.  What I did not know, or remember, is that it’s also Labor Day in Canada, which happens to be where we are currently on an extended road trip.  Today we are in Osoyoos, B.C. and if you look at a map it becomes fairly clear how the lake got its name. Osoyoos is an Okanagan word meaning “narrowing of the waters.”   The lake also disregards the boundary between the U.S. and Canada and provides a lakeshore for Oroville, Washington.

For those of you still active members of the working class, I hope you hear frequently the closing words of the hymn, “well done, well done.”  It’s part of the reward of not only doing a good job but also about liking your work and liking the people with whom you’re working.  As you think about your work and the work that lies ahead, do you ever think about your future beyond work?  This past April, I posted a blog entitled “A Future Beyond Work” and to celebrate this Labor Day, 2017, here’s a revised copy for your consideration.

Most people cannot project with much clarity or certainty what their future is going to be like without work, without a job, although many dream of that day. One exception is people who, through no fault of theirs, lose their job. However, that is not what this is about. Nor is this about retirement planning, or taking up new hobbies, or making a transition from where you are to where you want to be. So what is it about?

These thoughts were occasioned by a newsletter with the theme, “The Future of Work.” The three brief articles in that newsletter, available here  (www.tinyurl.com/kjlxpus) are brilliant in their insight and understanding about some of the critical issues in education and what we are or are not doing to prepare kids for the world outside of schools. I think the authors go beyond the confines of education and touch nicely on the world of work in much larger terms.

I have an advantaged perspective that follows 50 years of a long and satisfying career, work that I loved, work that was challenging, fulfilling and rewarding.  I want to assure you that there is a future beyond work that can be whatever you want it to be, wherever you want it to be and with those who are important to you in these so-called later years. Do you believe that? If you do, then you’re halfway there. If you don’t, you may want to shift gears.  That’s a different issue and one worth taking up if you’re interested.

When I was working, I often asked the question of seminar participants what they would do if they did not have to work to earn a living. Actually there were already a few in that category. This exercise is revealing in many ways. The first response I gave to that question, some years ago, was that I would do exactly what I was doing except for one thing. I would travel more often and always first-class. I guess that’s two things! The point was if you wanted to do something other than what you were doing, were you doing anything to either change or prepare for that?

My response to one of the articles in the newsletter, and you can figure out which one if you read them, was that when I look at my calendar and my schedule for the week and month ahead, it is, by design, mostly blank.   That is partly because I don’t write everything down and mostly because I have the freedom to choose how I will spend whatever time is given to me whether today, tomorrow, next week or next month. Or, even next year.  It’s why we decided to spend this month on a wonderful adventurous road trip.  That’s not for everyone but it’s wonderful to have the freedom of choice.

I can usually tell you what I am doing, what we are planning, and what a luxury not working is because of this gift of time. I don’t know anyone who comes to the end and says, “Gee, I wish I had worked longer.” The future beyond work is full of wonder, choices, freedom, and it’s an amazing experience. It is a blessing and a gift and I am enormously grateful for both and having this time to enjoy pursuing numerous interests.  I encouraged a friend earlier today to quit working sooner than he had planned so he could get to more of those things he has been postponing for the future.  I hope you take time this weekend, and beyond, to reflect on your work, its meaning and what lies ahead.  Come labor on!


Comments (6)

  1. Thank you Gary for your wise words. And yes I’m so grateful about the road that ” Merci la vie ” is offering to me and it also shape my new job that I so love!

    1. Congratulations on a new job! I hope it’s work that you love, following your deepest interests and instincts. As you know, I separate, somewhat arbitrarily, work from job. Work is what we care about the most, a job is sometimes what we have to do to get to our work, like keeping records, accounting and bookkeeping, the paper work, etc and while some may like those details and are very good at it, it’s not where I want to spend very much time.
      We are in British Columbia for several days, having crossed over at Glacier International Peace Park into Alberta, a month long road trip sans RV. Will be in LDM for 2 weeks in Feb, see you there. G & S

  2. If your work is meaningful and of high value–in your mind and outlook– it does not seem work at all but an application of your training and experience. Long hours associated with life as a physician simply goes with the job

    1. “Meaningful and of high value” work is what seems to escape many people although the chances are greater among those who serve the needs of others, as you, sir, have done and continue to do with deep discernment. Thank you!

  3. I’ve been asking myself lately what I would do if I wasn’t working. Travel is high on my list too and a lot of other things that I tell myself I don’t have time for now. In truth, I have time for the things that matter and put aside the rest for “later.” It’s amazing when we can create a life and work that we love. Lots in here to dig into. Grateful!

    PS. Enjoy that road trip!


    1. Thanks, Alli. You have such good insights and understanding about how these things work, no pun intended. I love your phrase, “in truth” for when we are really honest with ourselves we find out what really matters and, in fact, other things can either wait or even be deleted as not terribly important and not worth our time, effort and energy. So, in the spirit of these thoughts and your current blog, let’s make sure that what we’re doing is what we want to be about. If not, then shift gears, and if someone needs help doing that, that’s just fine.

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