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How to Have a Strong Work Ethic



Recently I read a few articles about a certain generation that is viewed as entitled and in need of developing a stronger work ethic to succeed.

These silly articles were making me laugh.  They’re laughable because Millennials are not the only generation in need of a strong work ethic to succeed.

No, everyone who wants to succeed, needs a strong work ethic.


Every headline and article I read, tried to give some mumbo jumbo steps to help out all us poor hapless millennials.

Many said to develop a strong work ethic you must do this, or you must do that.

Here is one of those silly lists of ‘must-haves’ to show a strong work ethic:

  • Reliability- employees must be available or deliver products/services when or where customers need them.
  • Quality- employees must do everything in their power to produce high-quality products or service.
  • Honesty- employees must display integrity in their actions and in every interaction.
  • Professionalism- employees must dress, act, and prepare like professionals.
  • Positivity- employees must commit to serving the customer with positivity, friendliness, and enthusiasm.
  • Delighting- employees must find ways to go the extra mile.
  • Promptness- employees must be timely in their responses, attendance, and deliverables.
  • Expertise- employees must demonstrate authority or a willingness to learn.
  • Respect – employees must be poised, diplomatic, and display grace under pressure.
  • Determination- employees must embrace challenges and focus on solving a customer’s problem.

And here is another, including the “5  Factors” you must have to demonstrate that you have a strong work ethic:

  • Integrity
  • Sense of Responsibility
  • Emphasis on Quality
  • Discipline
  • Sense of Teamwork

It’s like they’re making a how-to list for little babies.

Cute little babies!

If you’re a millennial, you should be insulted.

Millennial Work Ethic

Yes, all the qualities mentioned above are important.   But they are not how a strong work ethic is developed.


Because a strong work ethic can’t be developed.  A strong work ethic is binary.  It is something you either have or don’t have.

The qualities listed above are merely byproducts of having a strong work ethic.

Related: Work Ethic and Success

Problematic Work Ethics

Which brings me to my next point.

Millennials don’t have a problem with work ethic.

Yes, many have yet to learn why they should have a strong work ethic.  They are still learning the ropes of success in work and in life.  But so are countless others within the ranks of other generations.

So, a lack of work ethic is not just a millennial thing.

No, a lack of work ethic is an expectation thing.

True, many millennial’s have expectations that still need some fine tuning.  Without a doubt even you have some misconceptions about millenials, but they are still the younger generation are they not?  So, let’s cut them some slack.

They’ll learn soon enough.

If they want to succeed, they’ll learn.

They’ll learn when they realize what’s at stake if they neglect to obtain one.

No, a lack of work ethic is not a Millennial epidemic, it is a cross-generational epidemic of unrealistic expectations.

If anything, it is a growing cultural epidemic, spurned by changes in technology:  The Microwave, Television, Smart Phones, Insta-This, and Insta-That.

Everything is consistently being made easier for everyone.

And so predictably, everyone is “Taking it Easy”.

I have met, worked with, and know of many Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers alike who don’t have any work-ethic at all. I’ve met both old people and young who expect something for nothing. People who expect advancement in an organization just because of their tenure.  People who expect raises, promotions, or profits simply because of who they know or what they know.

Expectations.  It’s all about expectations.

And a great many people, not just millennials, have delusional expectations.

No More Excuses

So, let’s stop making excuses for an entire generation.

That’s not what they need.

The last thing they need is a spoon-fed excuse for why the world is going to be hard for them.

REALITY doesn’t care when you were born.  Success, advancement, money, riches, growth come from one thing and one thing only…


Some of those articles mentioned earlier say, if you “demonstrate” these qualities, then you’ll be “showing” your strong work ethic.  They say “Do these X things to show your strong work ethic”, or “fake it till you make it”.  Don’t make me laugh.

You can’t show or fake a strong work ethic. Like I said earlier, you either have one or you don’t.

The good news is, it’s easy to have one.

If you want a strong worth ethic, all you have to do is decide.  Decide to have one, and you shall.

Once you’ve made your decision, then you get your ass to work!

It’s as simple as that, and then you patiently let that work shower you with its gifts.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Work Ethic Defined

Here is the Merriam Webster’s definition of work ethic:

“a belief in work as a moral gooda set of values centered on the importance of doing work and reflected especially in a desire or determination to work hard”

I like how the definition uses the word ‘belief in work as a moral good’.

I like it because it’s true.  You should have a belief in work as a moral good.  Not just for the fun of it, no.  But rather for what it will do for you.

Typically, you can come to acquire this belief in one of two ways.

The first is to just have faith.  You have faith that hard work will bring good to your life, and then you act upon that faith.

The second way is to wait till reality slaps you across the face after 5, 10, or 20 years of coasting.  When you realize you’ve haven’t accomplished jack sh…anything with your life, you’ll come to understand.

When you finally realize hard work was that missing ingredient in all your endeavors, your belief in work will become more likely.  This is the unfortunate way to find out, but when it happens, you’ll become a believer.  You’ll finally obtain the belief that work was, is, and will be a moral good for your life.

And for those that never come to believe, well…. I suppose the world has a place for them, it’s called poor.

For the believers, here is a simple way to turn your strong work ethic on.  It is a simple two-step process.

1.) FIND OUT what it is you truly want in your life, for yourself, for your legacy (it could be money, pet tigers, freedom, early-retirement, a movie made after you, it doesn’t matter, so long as it is something).

2.) Then decide to GO GET IT!

Related: Badass Work Ethic Quotes

Orient Toward Results

If you don’t want more of anything, well, then that’s a problem.

If more money, more success, more options, or more freedom for you and your life doesn’t interest you, then you won’t take action on anything. And if you are not taking action and chasing after something, well, we call that unmotivated.

And unmotivated people can’t have a strong work-ethic.

It is a simple as that.

Motivation and work ethic are buds, best buds.

If you are just showing up to work to pay the bills, of course you won’t have a strong work ethic.

Paying the bills is a necessity.  It is not something that inspires maximum effort.

A strong work ethic stems from a decision to strive for something above and beyond what you now have.  It arrives when you’ve made up your mind to achieve something more, to become something more, to get something you truly want.

When you decide on what that something is, when you discover something worthy of your full pursuit, then you’ll put forth the effort.

Tie your efforts to a result.  The bigger results you go after, the bigger your efforts will be.

Weak Effort Weak Results

But know this, if you put forth weak efforts, you’ll get weak results.  And If you get weak results, you must be honest enough with yourself to see that maybe, just maybe, you really don’t want what you want.

But if after a little introspection, you realize your aim is true, well then, you’ll know what to do…


When you KNOW what you want, you will do whatever it takes to GET IT.

The knowing creates the doing, and the doing creates the work ethic.

Others will see you grinding and say things like, “Dang, he’s driven” or “Wow, she sure has a killer work ethic”, and then think to themselves… “Yeah, they’re going places!”

And they’ll be right!  You will be going places alright, you’ll be going up, up, and up!

So, remember my friend, work ethic is a decision thing.  It’s a decision to be, and the decision to do.  So never forget what little Yoda said… “There is no try, there is only do.”

The Strong Work Ethic

A strong work ethic looks a little something like this:

You out DO your competition.

You out DO the expectations of others.

You out DO your own expectations.


You do whatever it takes in terms of time, effort, flexibility, and any other demands that are placed upon you to win your prize.

You do, do, do, and then you do some more!


Clearly, having a strong work ethic is not the end-all-be-all in life.

Some people can find happiness living with bare minimums.

So long as these people don’t complain about not having much, all is good.

The problem arises when people want much but aren’t willing to do what it takes to earn it.

We have a little name for people like that, it’s called LAZY.

But that’s not your camp friend, you know what you need to do.

So, let’s show the world we’re not babies, let’s get off our asses and go do.


High effort, self-discipline, and fearless action are “my things”.  If you could use a bit more of these life-enhancing attributes, or if you want to be nudged from time to time to start taking action on your goals and dreams, follow me on Twitter.