I recently saw this ad in a building magazine. After this very manly and confident looking contractor makes this proclamation, the company, at the bottom of the ad, promises to help deliver on the contractor’s wishes. I suppose and hope that the point of the ad is to encourage us to work smarter, however I fear that there is a character value being promoted that is not a value we want to encourage.
Everybody desires to work smarter. This is a mantra of our age. We’ve been told over and over that one key to “making it“ is not just working harder but working smarter. The goal, we’re told, is to efficiently use the hours of a given day to their fullest and wisest potential. Ideally, when we work smarter we are rewarded for it. But if the goal is to actually work less and also make more, I would argue that this goes against a long-standing American value of a hard day’s work for an honest wage.
Somehow in the last couple of decades we have come to believe we deserve to work less and make more. It’s part of the something for nothing, win the lottery, thinking. Yet even while I toy with this idea of smart work, I would not go so far to pay my employees more or higher wages for less hours. I would not tell a client I was going to work less, but I needed them to pay me more, it’s absurd. Why do we think we have the right to work less and make more?
There is great value in hard work. There is joy in crafting and working hard to build something beautiful. Historically, a credo in architecture was that to have honest citizens then the architecture should be honest as well. Build buildings with integrity and you create a community that will demonstrate integrity. There was a direct correlation between what we build and our character. It starts with hard work and honest pay.
The Timeless House, my upcoming book is in the final stages of editing and design. The goal of the book is to help people build houses that are timeless and beautiful and that will last for generations. If the contractors of our houses today only want to work less and earn more, we may have a difficult time building timeless houses. The reason a timeless house lasts longer and is more sustainable is because of hard work and great design. Not less work for more money.
We need our houses to communicate ideals and values that will enliven and enrich our communities. We need citizens who exhibit character and integrity. It many ways these values start with our houses.