History Stories


Author Brad Thor On Why Our Jobs Are a Labor of Love

Thriller writer Brad Thor is proud to work hard—and thinks you should be too.

The saying, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” has been attributed to everyone from Confucius to 1980s motivational speaker Harvey Mackay. And while the authorship of the quotation remains in question, there’s one thing I’m sure of—whoever wrote it didn’t know what they were talking about.

Work is often hard. Work is often challenging. Work always involves effort. That’s why it’s called work. The French and Spanish words for it, travail and trabajo, even trace their origins to the Latin word for torture, trepaliare!

Yet despite work being hard and involving effort, millions of Americans take pride in, and even love what they do for a living. I know I do and it’s because my job is hard.

Author Brad Thor.  (Credit: Desiree Navarro/WireImage/Getty Images)

Author Brad Thor. (Credit: Desiree Navarro/WireImage/Getty Images)

Every day at work I face challenges. But I see those challenges as opportunities for me to become better at what I do. And when I meet those challenges head-on, when I do everything in my power to become better at my job, I am filled with pride. The love of my work comes from that pride.

Growing up in Chicago, my mother had hung a quote from the German writer and poet Goethe on the wall of our dining room. It read, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I stared at that quote every morning over breakfast and every night over dinner. I saw it every time I passed through the room. That quote became a part of me.

I used it as the tagline for my public television travel series in the late 1990s (a job I also loved), closing every show with it. It was my challenge to viewers not to put off pursuing their dreams. It was also a reminder to never stop pursuing the things that challenge and fulfill me—the things I can be proud of.

Ronald Reagan giving a speech during his first inauguration,1981. (Credit: NBC NewsWire/Getty Images)

Ronald Reagan giving a speech during his first inauguration,1981. (Credit: NBC NewsWire/Getty Images)

The idea that we, as Americans, are not only blessed with opportunities but should be proud of the work we do, was endorsed by President Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural address:

“We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we’re in a time when there are not heroes, they just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond . . . “

In the same address, Reagan proudly proclaimed, “In this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth.”

The American system of government exists to protect and empower the greatest minority in the world—the individual. Never before in history has there been more opportunity for an individual to pursue the path that allows him or her to engage in work they can be proud of.

Labor Day parade in New York City, 1982. (Credit: Barbara Alper/Getty Images)

Labor Day parade in New York City, 1982. (Credit: Barbara Alper/Getty Images)

Optimism, courage, determination, and faith are hallmarks of the American character. They are the traits that helped to build this nation. Look closely and you will see these traits present in every person who loves what they do for a living.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers summed up what it takes to achieve what you want in life, advising, “Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”

This long weekend, as we (hopefully) push pause on work and say farewell to summer, it’s a perfect time to take stock—both of where we are job-wise and where we want to be.

As we do so, let us keep in mind one final piece of wisdom. In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, let us never forget that “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Happy Labor Day.

Brad Thor is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of international political thrillers.

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