Concept of Work
Environment and society are important factors that affect peopleís learning. The environment helps to create the basic understanding of many of the concepts related to learning. The concept of work is one of these concepts that is mostly dependent upon the background of a person. People have different work habits which are related to the goal they set. This is due to the different levels of satisfaction that they want to obtain. Although the concept of work is similar for most people, others have their own concepts of work that are directly related to their backgrounds.
When I was young, I developed my own concept of work. My understanding was that my concept was right and other peopleís concepts of work were wrong. Looking at my concept of work, I realize that the environment that I grew up in was influential in making me believe that my concept of work was right. I started learning that people had different concepts of work from my family. My father was the first person who introduced me to a different concept of work. Then I learned about my brotherís concept of work and found that he too had a different attitude towards work. My doubts about the different concepts of work became more apparent when I came to the United States. My perception was more open when I learned about other culturesí environments and religious concepts.
In order to show the differences in concept of work that I have learned, I will first explain my concept of work; then discuss the differences that my father, brother, and I have. Finally I will look at other concepts of other people who have grown up from different cultures, religions, and backgrounds.
To me, work can be very challenging. The work I perform now is dedicated towards studying. I regard my work as a best friend who will make me happy. I love to work so much that one of my friends used to ask me sarcastically, "When are you going to marry your work?" It is true that I pay much more attention to work than to other people. When I am bored, doing work can release me from feeling this way. I can relax and enjoy myself by working. Work also challenges my life and makes it more exciting. When I am upset and discouraged, work can inspire and encourage me to face the world again.
I consider honor to be important when I am doing work. Without honor, I can not be proud of myself and enjoy my work completely. Money is not a factor of work. The joy, challenge, excitement, and honor to do work are more important to me. I had an understanding through my environment that to be considered successful in working was to have knowledge and honor. I thought that people had to study and work hard; otherwise they were travelling the wrong path. The reason that made me think in this way was due to the environment that I grew up in. I was among the people who respected and appraised knowledge. People in my society praised the people who were successful in studying and work. My mother always told me to imitate intelligent people. When she knew of some people who received a prize due to their knowledge, she would say, "Jess, you see that? They are very smart. They are good people." My teachers and friends also honor the persons who are academically smart. They always refer to the smart students as good people. Moreover, they refer to the people who do not have dignified work in negative way. They often say that, "Donít imitate this person. He doesnít study nor have a job. He is a bad person." Although their conclusion about how good or bad people were was not correctly valid, it affected my understanding of the concept of work. From this environment, I was convinced that the correct way of life was to work and study hard in order to obtain an honorable job. To me, whoever did not agree that work was very important was wrong.
I started to reconsider my understanding when I learned about my fatherís concept of work. I had considered that my concept was the only one that was right. My father saw another aspect of work. He is not always eager to work for something that he does not have because he is pleased with what he already has. He is a principal in a small elementary school. He works and does his best with being a principal. He is not ambitious to look for a better job. I used to ask him, "Why donít you try out to be the president of a high school?" I thought he would have more respect and honor for higher standards, but he refused my suggestion. He instead taught me that, "Honor is abstract. It is not essential in our life. When you have eagerness, you will not be happy. You will need to struggle." His teaching showed me that he had a different concept of work.
My father places a limit on himself when he works. In contrast, I never have a limit. Everything that is interesting and challenging will draw me towards it and want to try it out. I always plan to work and do something that I love and always expect work to be the best. If I were my father, I would not stop my career life at the small school like he has. I would try to become the president of the high school. Unlike myself, my father knows his limits and is motivated to suppress these limits. He is happy about what he has. He grew up from a family in a small village. When he was young, he did not have what other people had because his family was poor. His father could not afford him to study, so he had to enter Buddhism and study in religious schools. With his patience and diligence, he graduated from a university after finishing his study at a temple school. Certainly, he was happy and satisfied with his success. Since he had been a monk in Buddhism for about ten years, he learned the doctrines of the Buddha. He knew that the way to stop suffering was not to have desire and greed. So he was pleased with what he already had.
My brother had a different concept of work from both my father and myself. This caused even more doubt in my understanding of work. He did not consider work to be very important. He did not have the inspiration to study and try to obtain honorable work. He instead performed the jobs that he loved without caring what other people were going to think if he did not study. He dropped out of school for a few years. During that time, he did labor jobs only for money and did not care about his future. When I realized his work habits, I thought that my brother was doing the wrong thing because his actions did not coincide with my point of view. Since I understood that studying was the right thing to do, I was worried about his behavior. I was wandering why he did not try to study so that he could have an honorable job. Certainly, he had different goals regarding his work.
Although we grew up in the same family, we had been in different environments. My brother liked to hang out with his friends at night in a bar or disco and play guitar. He preferred going out and having fun rather than studying. His friends were influential to his concept of work. This environment caused him to have a more relaxed aspect of work. However, I later found that his guitar skills allowed for him to obtain a good job. He had his music band and played in bars and discos. He was proud of himself and satisfied with his work. It was clear to me that he was not a bad person just because he did not study. He proved that my understanding about the concept of work needed to be reconsidered.
When I came to the USA, I was more positive that people had different concepts of work and that I could not determine which concept was right or wrong. I had chances to learn about people from different religions, cultures, and backgrounds. They all had different ideas and concepts regarding work. I now have a wider perception when I know about their understandings of work. I no longer think that I am right and that they are wrong.
At first, I was confused about my concept of work when I was in this different environment. I learned that people in the USA had different attitudes toward work. According to my concept, I loved challenges, excitement, and honor. I saw knowledge as the most important thing that came from work. However, in my new environment in America, people did not focus most of their attention towards knowledge. They paid more attention to the persons who were good at sports or had athletic talent. This differing attitude interested me when I thought about what I had learned from my environment in Thailand. I had understood that knowledge and honor were the most important part of work.
Not only did the new environment confuse me, but the concept of work that I learned from other sources such as books also intrigued me. In the Old Testament (Genesis 3: 17-19), the meaning of work of Christianity is described that, "working is clearly considered as the punishment for manís original sin" (MOW 3). This religious view regarding work reminded me that people considered work in different ways. I also learned differing concepts of work from the MOW International Research Team that has researched concepts of work of people all over the world. The report showed that, "the role of money is clearly most significant cross nationally in term of how working is definedÖ.Other frequently chosen definitional statements were: if it belongs to your task, if it adds value to something, if you do it to contribute to society, and if you have to account for it" (MOW 170). This research report reveals that people all over the world have different concepts of work. It also falsifies my understanding that my concept is the only one that is right.
Through my analysis of the concept of work, I have found that there are many factors that influence peopleís concept of work. Environment is definitely a contributor factor. People in war or hard situations think about work just as a way to provide them food and survival for themselves. In the essay Rice Farming in Vietnam by Le Ly Hayslip, Hayslip explained the risk and difficulty of life in war. As a rice farmer during war, she could not hope to get anything more than food and safety in life. She explained how hard it was to work during war, "Although the land remained fertile, farming was often interrupted and the whole village came to starvation. Sometimes we had to eat banana roots, banana skins, orange peels, or whatever else we could scavenge" (435). Her environment and situation were influential to her concept of work. In Strawberry Fields, Yoshimi Ishikawa thinks about his work as a strawberry farmer as a job that gives him money. He was in the situation where he was not able to complete his desires due to the fact that he was an immigrant and did not have the same rights as American citizens. He explained situations of immigrants in American, "We were put in camps in the last war. No matter how much we say weíre Americans, the government neba believe usÖIn my experience, all immigrant groups in America Ė Chinese, Italian, Irish, and Mexican Ė shared this belligerent conversational style" (494). This reason caused him to have a totally different concept of work which was directed towards making enough money to get by.
Due to all of the different concepts of work that I was introduced to, my perception regarding work has grown. I learned about many differing concepts of work from many types of people: my family, friends, other cultures, and other backgrounds. When I learned about successful people, I found that success is not just directed toward knowledge and honor. There are many more factors of work and they all depend on the goals of the person. For instance, Sugar Ray Leonard, professional boxer who was successful in his career says that, "My ambition is not to be just a good fighter. I want to be great, something special" (Ferguson 2-23). Leonardís goal, as he described, was directed towards his talent and career. He had a different concept of work. People in different occupations also have different attitudes toward work. Thomas Edison, an American inventor, saw that in order to be successful, one needs to work hard and sacrifice. He says, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work" (Ferguson 3-4). The thirty-eighth president of the USA, General R. Ford believes that, "There is no substitute for hard work. There will be disappointments, but the harder you work, the luckier you will get. Never be satisfied with less than your very best. If you strive for the top and miss, youíll still beat the pack" (Ferguson 3-4). He was ambitious and determined in his work. These differing concepts of different types of people in the society clarify my doubt about the understanding of the concept of work.
I now realize that people have different concepts of work. They have different goals that they want to strive for. However, that is the reality of life. People can not have the same concept of work or goals because all people would choose the same work. In the real world, we need people to help one another in different fields. Therefore, I understand the importance of people to be unique in their concept of work. I understand that these different concepts of work are influenced by their backgrounds and goals. With many different environments around the globe, the concept of work varies with each one being correct in their own way.
Le Ly Hayslip. "Rice Farming in Vietnam." Ourselves Among Others: Cross Cultural Readings for Writers. Ed. Carol J. Verburg. Boston: St. Martinís, 1994. 435.
Yoshimi Ishikawa. "Strawberry Fields." Ourselves Among Others: Cross Cultural Readings for Writers. Ed. Carol J. Verburg. Boston: St. Martinís, 1994. 435.
The MOW International Research Team. The Meaning of Working. Florida: Academic Press, 1987.
Ferguson, Howard. The Edge. Ohio: Getting the Edge Company. 1990.