I used to think that I didn't have a good work ethic. On the drive home today, I imagined a conversation with someone I had never met. (Six hours in the car does this to me.) I was talking with her about kids and motivation. I said, "I didn't have a very good work ethic when I was younger," but then realized that wasn't totally accurate. At the time, I was describing why I had never gotten Eagle Scout... and that's what made me think of this.
I was a Boy Scout until I enlisted in the military. (I think my father paid dues for me to be an Assistant Scoutmaster for a year or two after that as well, but there wasn't much point.) At about 15 or 16, I achieved the rank of Star Scout, which is two below Eagle (the highest rank) and I sat there more-or-less contentedly until I turned 18 (at which point you're not specifically a Scout any more but a Scoutmaster, and can no longer gain rank).
What held me back? Most of the merit badges I needed to achieve Life Scout and then Eagle Scout were badges that required writing reports. Also, to get Eagle Scout you need to organize a service project to help the community. Also a lot of planning and paperwork. I decided that I didn't want to do "Paperwork In The Community" Merit Badges, so I stayed a Star (or "Superstar" as the kids at camp called me).
But, speaking of camp, I was really pretty active in Scouting. I worked at a summer camp in my council for four summers, winding up as the Waterfront Assistant Director my final year (and if I had worked after I was 21, I would have likely been the director). When service projects in my troop came up, I pitched in. I joined and attained rank in a service organization within the Scouts, the Order of the Arrow. But I never took the initiative to lead any of these things.
Once I got into college, I found that I didn't really have the drive or ambition to attain great grades. Heck, in some cases I didn't even want to go to class. But give me an assignment to teach other Cadets about something and it's done.
Even in the military service, I was never good about taking care of myself. I ran into delays on promotions because I was overweight. Hell, I couldn't receive awards because I was overweight... but I worked hard on projects that I was given to the extent that my supervisors wished like crazy that they could give me those awards. If I was given a job, it was done and done right. And, slowly, I learned to take initiative and get things started myself.
But never in a way that was to be for my own glory. I'm in the military service and I'm fairly certain that's why I like it. I always thought that I was a good second-in-command (and I am), but the only thing that was holding me back from leadership was that initiative-taking, which I'm certainly better at now.
It's not that I don't work hard, that's never been my problem. It's that I don't take care of myself. I didn't do well in school because I saw it as being for me. Yes, I'm a pretty lazy guy. "Work smarter not harder." But I'll throw myself into work when it's for someone else. I'm finally better about taking care of myself, and I'm seeing the benefits now, but even that is partially driven by the greater good I can do if I'm perceived well in my work community.
Anyway, lazy? Yeah, some. Selfish? Occasionally. But a poor worker who shirks his duty? Nope. I'm just not great at doing the hard right for myself.