Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Working for Peanuts

   I'm sure you've heard the old expression "working for peanuts."   It is often heard when someone is complaining about their rate of pay, or demanding their fair wage, as in "I ain't working for peanuts."

  As far as I can tell, the expression has its roots in the animal kingdom, either coming from the feeding of elephants in a zoo, or from an organ grinder who sent his monkey out into a crowd to collect donations of money, and also received peanuts from the gallery for his efforts.  Either way, it is not thought of as a decent kind of retribution for a human's working.

   In the same vein, I have a friend who once told me, when speaking of his job, that he worked for celery (a "salary").   These cute word puns leave us with the thought that each person has a desire and an idea of working for what he or she is worth, and is not really fulfilled, happy, or satisfied with anything less.   A person's time and talents should definitely be rewarded by their employer, or by their customer /client. 

   The Beatles song "Drive My Car" drives the point home in a sarcastic lyric, "Working for peanuts is all very fine- but I can show you a better time," suggesting that being their chauffeur would be a better proposition than whatever meager-paying job that the listener may already have.

   Fact of the matter is, most people today aren't rather picky whenever it comes to jobs or occupations.  We have many in the midst of unemployment, just wishing for any job to come along.   Others have spent years in study, preparing for a certain type of job or career, only to find that their services are not readily needed, and having to settle for something that they never intended to do or be.  And still others, secure in their job, putting in 30 or 40 years of their life, seemingly content, but often really unhappy but unwilling to take a risk or challenge to do anything else of any consequence.

   What's the point of it all ?   Most people plan their budget around their pay, instead of the other way around.   Can anyone REALLY hope to ever make what they REALLY feel or know that they are worth ?   The better question might be, "Should anyone REALLY settle for anything LESS than what they REALLY think that they are worth?"   

   I'm not proposing that we all quit a job or career (if we have one), and proceed to live penniless until we are able to latch onto that dream of a job or career.   I'd just like to plant a seed in our minds that it's not pointless or meaningless to pursue a dream until it eventually happens.  You may say about a minimum-wage or other unfulfilling job, "Well, somebody has to do it."  That may be so.   And if you are happy in that position, then there is nothing wrong with it at all.  But most of those types of jobs are either filled by part-time workers who are waiting or pursuing other careers, or by those who cannot or will not ever have anything better for themselves.

   I think that Henry David Thoreau said it best when he wrote, 

  If you are unemployed, and have to take a modest-paying job to help meet your expenses, then by all means, take it, and work at it as hard as you can ; and if you are already working such a job, do not necessarily quit without having any other means of supporting yourself.  But, at the same time, why must you settle for less, if your mind and heart are dreaming and yearning for more ?   It's not so much of a selfish quest, but ultimately a spiritual one of seeking to fulfill the destiny that has already been planted in your heart.

 And if you are one of the fortunate ones out there who have their own business or enterprise, consider your worth.  You possess talents, skills and knowledge that you are willing to share with the rest of us in your world.  Do not short-change and over-extend yourself by "working for peanuts."  Assess your market value, and do not be afraid to set a price for your services that is commensurate with your abilities and that will allow you to be fulfilled rather than frustrated with your efforts.

  Don't "work for peanuts."  Leave that for the monkeys and elephants in the world. Instead, go out and fulfill your heart's and life's dreams.   Go for it !