Why we do what we do

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

People are motivated by an untold number of things — family, hunger, pleasure, thirst, love, hate, a desire for wealth, beauty, health … an untold number of things. We are all motivated by something.

When Josh and Danny were about ready to enter their first year of high school, I had the talk with them.

Well, not THE talk, we already had that one. This was the talk about their future, what they wanted to do after high school and for the rest of their lives.

I emphasized to them that the career they chose had to make them happy and satisfied. I told them about people I knew who hated their job, but couldn’t quit because of their family obligations. Sure, people can change careers, but it would be a lot easier if they got it right the first time.

I told them to think about it; that we could continue the “career conversation” the following week.

Josh was easy. He already knew he wanted a career in law enforcement. We discussed it. He had decided that a tour in the Army would help prepare him for a lifetime career as a police officer. He had it all figured out.

Danny was a bit more of a problem. When we sat down to continue our “career conversation”, he said that he had really given it a lot of thought. He knew what made him happy and how he could fashion a career that would be fulfilling.

When I said, “That’s great, Danny. What is it?”

He made a serious face and said, “I really like to go on vacation …” He just left that response hanging there.

“Come on.” I said. “This is a serious talk. You need to start thinking about your future.”

He went from serious to a smile and said, “You’ve taken me to the Bahamas. We went scuba diving together. I love the ocean and everything about it. If I joined the Coast Guard and learned everything I could about the ocean, sailing and diving, I could retire in 20 years, buy a boat, move to Key West and make a living taking people fishing, diving and sailing.”

Then, he sat there and smiled.

The only thing I could think of to say was, “Don’t forget your Daddy.” We laughed and hugged.

Josh stuck with his plan and is now Chief of Detectives.

Danny was stationed in Key West on the Coast Guard cutter Mohawk. The crew rotated spending six weeks at sea, followed by six weeks in port. He loved being at sea and hated being in port.

He found out that tourists made him crazy and he couldn’t envision a lifetime of catering to their whims. He decided to come home, go to college and get a career in business. He wanted to help people, and he did. He was happy with his decision. He was very happy with his job.

Other people I have met never quite hit the mark when it came to finding the right job and being happy.

BV Parker was an old man living in Springboro many years ago. He was the paternal great-grandfather of Josh and Danny. BV never seemed to be content with what he was doing. He didn’t smile a lot.

After a lifetime of labor, BV was able to retire and stay home, but he just couldn’t do it. After a while, he bought some property and started building a home. As soon as the new house was finished, BV and Mary moved into the new house. BV then bought the lot next door and started building another house. When it was finished, they moved again. This continued from house to house on the street now known as Parker Drive.

One day, BV asked me to help him install some truss rafters. As we worked, I asked him about his passion for building houses. His answer made me laugh out loud. He said, “It’s not that I love building houses. It’s that I can only stand being in the house with Mary for so long. That woman drives me crazy.”

Like Josh, some people are blessed to get it right the first time. Like Danny, some people have to go back to school and change jobs to find career happiness. Some people spend a lifetime working at a job that is neither rewarding or satisfying, but pays the bills, or gets them out of the house.

We all need to work. It’s important for happiness and self-worth that the work we do is rewarding.

Career counselors are available at every high school to help you explore options and opportunities. Whether the job is in manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, education, transportation or any of a hundred other occupations, it is important that each person takes pride in the work they do and respect the work that everybody else does.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.


Randy Riley

Contributing columnist