It is easy to believe the lie that work stops. That, sometime soon, you will get the break you deserve. The time off. The retirement. You have had your eye on it for a long time, and now it feels close. It all sounds great, but if you want to be great, breaks never come. At least they shouldn’t. Being great is about the work you are doing and the work you have left to do, not what you have done.
School trains you to look forward to breaks. It is rare to go through a full week (Monday through Friday) when you are in school. So, you have gotten used to breaks. And although those breaks are nice during the school year, they do not come when you graduate. Graduation day is fun, exciting, and rewarding. You have been through a lot, and now you are finally done. Except the reward is not the break you expect. The reward for all your hard work is more work, and that is a good thing. You get to do the work you were (or should have been) trained to do. Go and do it well.
In sports, people tell you to “keep your eye on the prize.” The prize usually has something to do with winning. It might be the NCAA championship, the Super Bowl, or the World Series. If you are fortunate to win and achieve your goal, your work is not finished. If you want to be great, you must get back to work. Next year starts right when you walk off the court or field. When the final buzzer sounds, the off-season starts. Winning a championship means you have less of an off-season. So, you have work to do. And you better get to it because you have less time than the people you beat. The reward is the work you get to do, not the work you did.
Some people work their entire lives to retire. They tolerate jobs they hate so they can reach the reward of retirement. But, if you are working for the right reasons, retirement never comes. Even when you do not have to go to your job anymore, you still have work to do. Learning is a lifelong journey, so you are never finished. If you are living, you have learning to do. Retirement might give you more free time, but that does not mean you should waste it. You have a responsibility to continue working, to continue learning.
If you want to be great, you have work to do. The work never ends because it should never end. Your life is too important to let yourself believe that at some point you get to relax and do nothing. Continue to work. Continue to learn. Not because you have to, but because you get to.