How My Daughter Saved Me From Laziness

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Dear Michael and Caroline,

For most of my life I was hardly famous for working hard.

As a kid in school, I gave the least effort needed for me to get by, whether in class or in sports. In my first jobs, I never put in any extra energy unless I absolutely had to – neither came in early nor stayed late. When I freelanced at home, I would take breaks to shoot hoops or take a nap.

But then something happened that changed my work ethic for good, something momentous and marvelous.

You, Caroline. You were born.

It was 1988 and we had money problems. My income had shrunk because I’d decided, quite irresponsibly, to focus on writing my first novel. My family, especially my grandmother, until then usually ready to help support me, was growing disappointed with my professional pursuits.

And then you came along.You had such dark eyes and such animated features, always making faces, and we loved you so much, all three of us. And you made me want to do better.

Oh, make no mistake: I already had other incentives. But none inspired me as much as you. I would look at you in the crib, so small and needy and perfect, and I would think to myself, I really better get off my ass and start to make a decent living now.

Luckily, I landed a lucrative part-time job in New Jersey. I was doing the sort of work I never expected or wanted to do – editing and revising reports from management consultants to clients. Three days a week I drove an hour, put in about 10 hours, then drove more than an hour back, pulling down $50 an hour, for about $1,500 a week, much more than I’d ever earned. And my boss was picky to the point of psychotic.

But guess what? I never minded any of it. And you know why? Because I was finally doing what I needed to do. And that money in really handy just then, really pulled us out of a hole, and even though the gig lasted only about eight weeks, it was just the quick fix needed.

And within the next year, I took another part-time job, also in New Jersey, this one for two days a week. And from then on – from then until now really, the whole length of your life – I’ve finally worked hard, worked close to an average of six days a week. I discovered, at age 35, that you could go beyond the fatigue and make the extra effort and be rewarded.

And unless I’d run into financial trouble – and unless, most of all, you had come along – I question whether I would have made this leap. And this appetite for hard work has served me well over the years, especially the job at Ogilvy, and also with all the stuff I do on the side.

And I can trace that change directly back to you. It was you, little girl, who, more than anyone else – more than Mom or my parents or my grandparents – made me finally get serious about my responsibilities to my family and myself.

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