Paul Butler: Five reasons we work

Paul Butler

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, and it was the epoch of incredulity…” ~ Charles Dickens

This quote accurately summarizes the stage we’re at with our son. Henry is in his last year of university. We cannot believe how quickly the time has gone — it only seems a short while ago we watched him swing a bat and catch a ball at the Hart baseball fields. We watched him start and finish cross-country at Valencia High and then, in a flash, he became a freshman at Chapman University in Orange.

It is indeed the best of times but the worst of times for us — on one hand we’re nearly empty nesters and on the other hand, we’re nearly empty nesters. Henry is no longer a boy and he’s no longer a teenager — he became an adult male a few weeks ago when he turned 21.

To help Henry the very best I can at this stage of transition as he heads toward graduation, I’ve been meeting with him monthly to help him focus on his first full-time job or entrepreneurial endeavor.

During my most recent breakfast meeting with Henry, we discussed the five reasons we work. Some people see work as a simple means to an end — an exchange of time for money. Such people like to earn as much as they can for doing the least they can. I call such people: the Exchangers because they see the world of work as an exchange market, nothing more and nothing less — they clock in and check out.

Some people work for power — they get a kick out of kicking others, metaphorically speaking. I call these the Egotists. You can tell these people by how they speak, as they use independent language (such as “Me,” “Myself” or “I”) even in interdependent circumstances. Egotists at work will manipulate, cajole and carouse who they can, to get where they can. I’ve found Egotists not be very nice people to work for or work with.

For others it’s all about the money — I call these the Money Gods as they literally worship the green stuff. They’d do almost anything for money. My observation in the working world is the Money Gods always want more — they’re never satisfied. As the great philosophers, Lennon and McCartney once sang: “Money can’t buy me love.” Unfortunately, the Money Gods often have a trail of broken relationships in both their personal and professional lives, due to their allegiance to the illusion that money brings happiness. They chase a mirage that never materializes.

The fourth reason people work is just for the fun of it — I call these people the Junkies — such folks get their highs from work just being fun, fun and more fun. The cream on the birthday cake every day for Junkies is, if they can have all this fun with people they regard as their “best friends” at work. The big problem with being a Junkie is the sad fact they constantly need to get high on something else or with someone else. Junkies will change jobs often. They’ll jump ship to where the next job cruise looks even cooler and much more fun. Junkies have little allegiance to anyone other than their own adrenalin and pursuit of fun, fun and more fun.

It’s the fifth reason some people work that is our prayer and hope for Henry’s career trajectory and that is — simply to be of service to others. It is the Servants who make work noble and honorable. It is the Servants who lead with the heart and the head. It is the Servants who work on a purpose. Sometimes these people are richly rewarded for who they are (character), and what they do (competence), but sometimes, sadly, they’re not. Either way, Servants sleep well because they know they’re giving their all to someone and something greater than self. Their reward may be in this life or it may not. As John Wooden once said: “A life not lived for others is not a life well-lived.”

We first make our choices and then our choices make us. I hope that Henry chooses not to be an Exchanger, an Egotist, a Money God or a Junkie but rather he chooses to be a Servant, in not only his career but also in all the roles he will have in this one wonderful life. I hope we’ve served him well as his parents.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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