Hard work will get you anything. Or anywhere. So the saying goes.
You can climb that ladder. Buy that plane. Build that wine cellar in your basement.
Hard work will let you live out your fantasy.
But imagine if you live on the side of the 23,600 ft massif of Nozing Kangtsang, between the Tibetan capital Lhasa and Mount Everest to the south. And your job is to watch over a flock of 60 goats and sheep.
To say you endure cold winters is a gross understatement.
You and a handful of adults and children, including a newborn hidden inside a blanket, live in a one-room house. You use juniper branches and yak dung to build fires in the open floor pit in the middle of the room.
You MIGHT have a color television. Or mobile phone. More than likely you don’t have a car. A good year is when only seven of your sheep die.
Then there’s the Chinese government who could at any time order you out of your ancestral home to make room for commercial projects. They’ll compensate you for roughly $1,000.
Refuse to move? Then they’ll bulldoze your home and pay you nothing.
So what do you think Tibetan farmers fantasize about? Surviving the winter? Growing their herd? Finding a cure for their respiratory problems caused by breathing in yak dung smoke?
Will putting in longer hours help them? Possibly. But twenty years of hard work in rural Tibetan landscape isn’t the same as twenty years hard work in America.
The Thing You Are Forgetting
The question we have to ask ourselves is this: why are they in this predicament and we aren’t? If you live in America like me, working harder usually equates to a success that allows us to fulfill our ever-expanding fantasies…
Then we usually gloat as if all control was in our hand. As if we were the singular and solitary reason for our success. If we are guilty of such thinking, then we should be ashamed of ourselves.
Where we live and when we live makes all the difference in our standard of living. And interestingly enough, both of those aspects are completely out of our control until we become adults. Even then, if you don’t have the resources, like most Tibetan herders, you will have a very difficult time changing your circumstances.
We should be humbled by this thought.
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