Last weekend, Kris and I hired a friend’s 12-year-old to help with yardwork. We leave for Africa on Monday, and we don’t want to burden our housesitter with unnecessary chores. When we heard that our young friend Ian was raising money for a school trip to Washington D.C., we figured that instead of buying candy bars from him, we’d offer $10 an hour to help us around the house.

Ian and I spent six hours on Saturday pruning blackberry banes, trimming the arborvitae hedge, taking down Christmas lights, and more. He was a willing and competent worker. I think this experiment was a win-win for everyone involved.

You and Your Work
Ian’s excellent work ethic reminded me of a short film I watched recently. It’s been a while since I highlighted any of these old movies about personal finance; it’s tough to find new ones I haven’t featured before. In fact, new readers may not even be aware that I love old instructional films of all sorts, but particularly if they’re about finance and related topics. I’ve shared many of these movies in the past, and I hope to find more to share in the future.

Today’s film was put out by Coronet Films in 1948. In You and Your Work, a young man learns the value of a positive attitude. Why loathe your life as a shoe salesman when you can love it?

High-school student Frank Taylor wants to earn some spending cash, so he takes a job as a shoe salesman. (Kind of like this, but in a store.) The job is okay at first, but gradually Frank grows tired of it. Plus, the pay sucks: “That wouldn’t buy many of the things I wanted. The shoe business was no good!” After Frank is fired at the shoe store, he goes to his high-school guidance counselor for help.

You and Your Work argues that there’s no such thing as a dull job. What’s important is the worker’s attitude. Frank wants a glamorous, interesting job — like an architect — but his counselor points out that even architects get bored with their work. And even teachers, chemists, and fishermen can be proud of what they do. So, too, can a shoe salesman.

“Any job is as important as you make it,” says the guidance counselor. “If you think it’s not important, whatever it is, you’ll soon become bored with it and do it poorly.”

To enjoy your work, you don’t need just a good income. You also need personal satisfaction, pride of accomplishment, and a sense of importance to others. This is true whether you’re talking about a part-time job or a life-time career. “And as for money,” says the counselor, “well, we all want money. But if you don’t perform any service, or if you don’t do your work well, you can’t expect much in return.”

The Worst Job I Ever Had
I can relate to poor Frank Taylor’s position. His shoe-selling experience reminds me of the worst job I ever had, selling insurance door-to-door when I was fresh out of college. In my case, I was able to get things turned around — eventually. And Frank, too, comes out ahead. He changes his attitude, and, in fact, becomes manager of the shoe store.

As I say, I love these old films. Sure, they simplify things. And sometimes their notions are sexist and/or racist, or otherwise outdated. But generally they have sound messages, even for the kids of today. They’re just dressed in the trappings of a world that no longer exists.

Someday I’ll find the time to do a round-up of all these old educational money movies. I’d love to have them all in one place.

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