Forget your lust, for the rich man’s gold,
All that you need, is in your soul,
And you can do this, if you try.
All that I want for you, my son,
Is to be satisfied.
And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Be a simple kind of man.
Won’t you do this for me, son,
If you can?
The band Lynard Skynard recorded “Simple Man” in 1973, but the song peaked in popularity in the mid- to late-1970s, and by the time I left for college in 1979, it was basically the anthem of young men searching for their identities.
I was one of those guys.
I went to college for one simple reason—to be a better man. Not just a man with an education but an educated man.
I wasn’t driven to be an architect or engineer. I didn’t attend college with the hope of continuing on to medical school. I was like many others: just trying to find my way with no real clear path.
But there was an expectation from my family that I was to return in four years and exemplify that the cost and time put forth was not in vain. I was supposed to have skills.
As I progressed through my first jobs, I recalled thinking the one thing I must establish was credibility. Maybe my early jobs weren’t as challenging as I had hoped, but in order to be considered for the next job or the possibility of moving up, I needed to establish that I was dedicated and ready when the opportunity arose. I could be trusted.
I thought about the men I respected. What traits did they share? What made me want to emulate them?
I kept coming back to one answer. The men who stirred me, the ones I found myself almost imitating at times, were the ones who appeared to be under control, who maintained composure, and who didn’t follow fads or trends.
They were a “man’s man” and simple in their ways. They ate meat and potatoes, drank scotch or whiskey on ice if they drank at all, and wore grey suits, white shirts, and black ties.
They often gave one-word answers, but those words were never “maybe” or “kind of.” They said “yes” and “no,” and they meant it.
They smiled when something was funny and didn’t when it wasn’t. They were diffident in a way that drew other people to them because there was some mystery about them.
And, oh yeah, they were honest. It oozed from their pores.
In the 30 years since I finished my undergrad degree, I have watched young guys start their careers and evolve into who they think they are expected to be. The colorful attire, hidden tattoos, prison-reformatory haircuts, and holes where earrings once sat were like a new-world order.
Having been a “Reagan-era yuppie,” I had a certain appreciation for dressing in a suit and tie for work, so when the “newbies” took the term “simple man” to an all-new informal low, and made “dressing up” consist of a polo shirt and khakis, I could only shake my head as they pushed the fashions of Falcon Crest and Dynasty out the window in exchange for Roseanne and other shows that embraced a lifestyle that seemed to ask, “Why make my bed, I’m just getting back in it in 12 hours?”
A Terrible Trend
I discovered that much of the last decade-and-a-half almost encouraged the notion of getting away with as much as one could by putting in as little as possible. I thought this mindset and trend would never end.
But alas, my friends, God does, indeed, have a sense of humor. Since the economy has turned upside down and jobs are increasingly scarce, employers can be “picky” again.
To be considered the cream of the crop, workers have to play their “A” game every day. These new employees are now indispensable to their supervisors.
They come in early and go home late. They take work home and integrate their job with events happening around them. And when they see opportunities, they apply them to their job to make things better.
In a word, they are “connected.” They plug in to all the nuances in technology to make notes, keep their staff members and supervisors informed, and become living representations of the contracts and deals and rules for which they are responsible.
There is no “lazy way out” for the young upstarts today because they know if they wander too far off task, there is a replacement waiting in the wings who may take less money, but perhaps is willing to work that extra Saturday or do more homework than the last guy.
I didn’t like it when the simple man became the lazy man, and I am glad to see that market-driven factors are raising the bar again. I hope they acquire wisdom going forward and become the example their children and grandchildren need to see by having standards and living the life they set out to live back when the trail first began.
The new competition has brought a complexity to the notion of being a simple man, but if we’re careful, it doesn’t have to take the integrity out of it.
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at email@example.com.