Hard work, money, and American values

March 28, 2012 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog

A friend once put American values in perspective for me. He grew up in Romania. I met him in graduate school. He came to get a PhD in physics, became one of Columbia’s top students during our time, and ended up working on Wall Street.

I asked him if he originally came to the U.S. to study physics or if he always knew he would go to Wall Street.

He said something interesting in his response about American values:

America values hard work and money.

He was saying that once here, he was doing what fit in with the local values. He was going to work hard and make money. He also implied what America doesn’t value by leaving out the complements to those values.

What complements hard work? Getting things done.

What complements money? The things we use money for, like security, relationships, and rewarding emotions.

In other words, he implied he wasn’t going to be productive, get things done, and find ways to be happy.

I hadn’t heard someone say something like that before — pointing out what a nation values to highlight what it doesn’t. Personally, I find the dominant messages in this country do value working hard (and long hours) and having money at the expense of getting things done (or relaxing) and enjoying oneself.

You may feel otherwise. I find plenty in this country that values getting things done and emotions, though not so much in mainstream media.

I’m not writing this to criticize, just to give another perspective that’s stuck with me for a long time. To get you to think about your values and what you sacrifice.

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