After enjoying Boyhood and Beyond: Practical Wisdom for Becoming a Man by Bob Schultz with my youngest son, we tried another of his books, Created for Work: Practical Insights for Young Men. The title attracted me because I think developing a strong work ethic in young people is becoming a lost art and because people generally have a negative view of work. It was a revelation to me years ago to realize that God created and ordained work before the fall of man into sin: it’s not part of the Curse, though it is harder because of the Curse.
I don’t recall that Schultz brought out that aspect of work, but he brought out many others, using his own work and experience as an independent contractor as a backdrop for many of his insights. He discusses things you’d expect concerning work, like diligence, initiative, working within the rules, finishing well, etc. But he brought out other things I would not have thought of: looking at things from a boss’s perspective, dealing with a loss of confidence, irritations between coworkers, admitting when you’re wrong and learning from it, the dangers of diligence (becoming self-satisfied and indulgent after success), and even the way the Lord brings you into contact with other people through your work to whom you can minister. Another valuable insight was that of balancing initiative: his example was a young man who saw a neighbor’s fallen tree and decided to cut it up into firewood for them, only to discover afterward they had planned to take it to the mill to be turned into lumber.
There were just a couple of places where I disagreed with the author a bit. In one chapter titled “Great Grandpa Cornelius,” Schultz is encouraging boys to be diligent workers even before they’re of age to work at an outside job, and I agree with that. But he makes the statement, “If someone provides your food, shelter, and education, you’re a liability” (p. 42). I wouldn’t say that to a boy in the home. He goes on to say that you had no choice as a baby to have others work for you, but as soon as you can you want to work to become an asset. And I agree with that as well. From the time our boys were little, though they had jobs in the home and allowances that were loosely tied to each other, the main reason for their jobs wasn’t to earn an allowance or even to “help” their parents, but to pull together as a family and contribute to the family and to get in the habit or working. So I agree with all of that in principle, I agree with teaching boys (and girls) to work for a variety of reasons, but I still wouldn’t call being provided for as a boy at home being a liability. When he gets to be 30 or so, well, that’s different. 🙂
In another chapter titled “My Instructor,” he describes a time when his boss wanted him to install trim with costly wood in a beauitful, expensive home. He was worried because he hadn’t had much experience with the particular type of work his boss wanted him to do, worried enough to lose sleep the night before the job. He felt God was telling him that since He created the world and told Solomon how to build the temple and Noah how to build the ark, He could tell him how to do this job. And He did, through a painter who came through and gave him an off-the-cuff tip. I can’t argue with his experience, and I’ve had the experience as well of being stuck in the middle of some task, praying for wisdom, and feeling that God gave me the idea of what to do about it. But I wouldn’t want someone to take this particular experience as a substitute for owning up that you don’t know how to do a particular job or seeking out instruction on how to do it beforehand.
And finally, in a chapter on unemployment compensation he writes that he feels that such is government aid and that instead of filing for unemployment, he should find other work he can do as unto the Lord and for His kingdom, such as yard work for a widowed neighbor, etc. My husband and I feel that unemployment compensation is a form of insurance rather than a “handout” and is a legitimate and responsible way to care for one’s family between jobs. I do agree with the other principles in the chapter, however, that ultimately we work for God, not for money, though He usually provides through a job, and that there are many useful things one can do during a jobless time, like work for others and get ones’ tools ready and prepared for the next opportunity.
The space and time to explain those few caveats makes it looks I disagree with more than I agree with, and that’s not the case: I think this is a valuable resource for boys and young men. If I’d had this when my boys were younger, I think I would have gone over it with them then as well as again as older teenagers about to leave home.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)