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The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 21: Keeping Fit

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 24, 2011

For background and links to chapters in this series, see here

LESSON XXI

KEEPING FIT

The foundation of ability to do good work is physical fitness. There have been not a few persons who have been so intensely interested in the necessity of finishing college and preparing for some profession, that they have been blind to everything else, even the preservation of their health. They have overworked; they have gone without sufficient rest; and they have neglected to eat nourishing food. As a result, just as they have finished their period of preparation, their health has broken and they have not been able to enjoy the fruits of their years of struggle.

An employer of a large number of men had the following to say: “Every sound man is worth building up in business, but a sick man with a contagious or fatal disease is not. You must have something to build on. A man who is ill or weak cannot be cheerful, and a good clerk must be cheerful. People do not want to buy goods from clerks who look ill or cross. Hence, the employer must not take chances in hiring sick people.”

One business man said to his employees: “It is none of my business what you do at night, but if dissipation affects what you do the next day, and you do half as much as I demand, you’ll last half as long as you hoped.”

Good Health

The tremendous advantage of good health in those who must do the vocational duties of the world can hardly be overestimated. Of course, all people are not blessed equally when it comes to physical fitness; some are naturally robust and strong while others have great difficulty keeping in good condition. People cannot change their heredity tendencies; all they can do is to make the best use of the body as it has been given to them.

Being born with a weak body does not mean that one must always remain sickly. Some of the greatest men of the world have started with a poor physical constitution but have gradually built it up through careful living until they have almost completely overcome their natural handicap. Theodore Roosevelt came in this class. As a young man he was weak and sickly, but he realized that in order to succeed he must strive to secure a strong body. Consequently he set himself to work to build up a good physical machine; this was his major activity during a number of years. As a result of this and very careful living later, he developed a capacity for work such as is possessed by very few men.

On the other hand there have been men who in their youth seemed to have a perfect body, but through dissipation, the lack of care, or overwork – all of which have the same result – they were physical wrecks by the time they reached middle age. The years of mature life when they should have been able to accomplish great tasks were practically lost.

Every young man is naturally anxious to succeed in life, and to be a real force in the vocation of his choice. This will be impossible if in his youth he dissipates his energies, or if he neglects his health. He must be a well functioning animal before he can develop the energy necessary for real achievement.

Employer’s Responsibility

Up to a very few years ago the employer felt little or not responsibility for the health or welfare of his employees. The attitude taken was that they did not have to work for him unless they wanted to. They could come and go as they chose; hence he could not be blamed for anything that happened to them. If a workman was injured in a piece of machinery so much the worse for the workman; he should keep out of the machines or suffer the consequences.

A great change has taken place in the public mind on this question during recent years. It is now impossible for the employer to wash his hands of responsibility as he did formerly. The Delamar Mill spoken of in an earlier lesson, would not be tolerated now. He employer is compelled to protect his workmen by every reasonable means from anything that will be deleterious to health, or that will induce accidents. If an accident does occur, the employer is financially liable.

In order that both the workers and the industries may be protected as far as possible, workmen compensation acts have been made law in many of the states. Through the provisions of these acts the employer insures his workers against accident. The entire industry must bear the burden of a misfortune that might come to an individual, instead of the individual having to carry the load himself just at the time when he is least able to do so.

Avocations

With the efficiency that has been developed in the modern world men are able to earn a living by working a much smaller proportion of the time than was formerly necessary. This is very fortunate since it gives time for test, for diversion, and for recreation. Of course this extra time could be spent in harmful dissipation which would leave the worker in far worse condition than if he continued at his regular work. To guard against this it is desirable that people should plan something to fill the time not spent in their usual work. The occupation which requires the major part of the time and at which a person earns the great part of his income, is called his vocation; the side lines are called avocation. Everyone should probably have an avocation to lend diversity to one’s interest and also to help fill in the leisure time. One man’s vocation may be another’s avocation. A gardener would raise vegetables as a vocation; a physician might do it as an avocation.

A person should plan for his avocation something that will help to keep him fit for his regular work rather than something that will detract for it. It should differ form the vocation sufficiently to give some of the physical and mental rest which comes from a change in work.

Need of Play and Rest

We all tire. The farmer plods the plow furrow, tramps hay, or pulls weeds until to drag one foot after another, tires his very soul. The office hand sits and writes or computes figure after figure under high nervous tension, until he feels as if he could fly all to pieces. The school boy digs out lesson and problems; a few hours finds him, also, ready for rest. Even musicians and lecturers may use up nature’s ready supply of energy so that quietness seems a blessing.

A considerable part of one’s rest is taken in sleep. Another large part is obtained at play, which is simply a pastime engaged in for the sake of the activity. After delving all day into knotty problems with one’s power concentrated upon the outcome, how free one feels when one may jump and frolic as a child. Sometimes in the middle of a task, a person becomes so fatigued that he weakens; then he needs to be re-created, which is another way of saying he needs play. Why not? Ten minutes in a good brisk walk, a game on the lawn, a good laugh, ap phone call home, a visit to a cheerful friend, or a ripe apple and a cup of water in the shade, really makes one over again. Rests pay; they clear for action; they let us wipe the mist from the spectacles of our souls; they do re-create.

Proper Combining of Work and Play

Play must not impede our work, but accelerate it – not add to the burden, but drive away all useless cares and let the mind and body recuperate. Playing is required by everyone. Rest, also essential, need not come in idleness, but in some pleasure-giving and profit-bearing activity. Sleep following play and recreation is likely to be undisturbed.

During the Civil War, in the midst of the most trying periods of planning and anxiety, relief came to President Lincoln in a funny story. His cabinet officers thought him frivolous to laugh at such times. A bow that is always strung, loses its spring.

Again play and work usually do not mix. Let one cease before the other begins. Only absolute concentration will enable a person to do his best work. When at play no worry of the days’ work should linger. Play to be play must be untrammeled. Regular play strengthens as does regular work, regular meals, and regular sleep. “People may play between time, but not during them.”

Work while you work, and play while you play;
that is the way to be cheerful and gay.

SUGGESTED QUESTIONS

1. What is meant by “keeping fit”?
2. Why do employers hesitate about engaging a person with poor health?
3. Give examples of persons who were sickly in youth but who through proper care have become strong.
4. What are some of the conditions that promote bodily health and vigor?
5. What is “the workman’s compensation” act?”
6. Give some qualities of a good avocation.
7. What are some of the benefits of play?



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