My Barber taught me about the Value of Work

I was searching for a men’s barber shop – you know, those old-school barber shops with the poles; and with the old barbers who give you a proper haircut & shave.

I was bored visiting First Choice Hair-cutters again and again. It felt like a sweat-shop going there each time.

It was time for a change. I wanted to find a barber shop….

I found one close to my home. I walked in- it was fairly empty compared to the traditional salons. I was approached by this older gentleman (must be in his late 70s), and he asked if I wanted a haircut. I said “Yes”.

He invited me to sit in the Barber Chair. I was hesitant. I took one look at him – he was shaking as he moved towards the chair. I thought to myself “Should I let him cut my hair?. This man is shaking as he walks, imagine him with a shaving blade”.

I was nervous – yet I took a seat. And he started the haircut.

I was uncomfortable at first. I was scared that my haircut was going to come out awfully. Or maybe he will cut me with the blade. But I decided to stay the course.

He made me comfortable by having a conversation. I found out about my new barber. I was very impressed & inspired after meeting him.

His name was Tony. He owned that barber shop. He has been a barber for 50+ years. At one point he owned 6 barber shops in Toronto. And when he decided to retire, he sold all 6 of them.

He told me about how boring retirement was. He could not stay home, he was going crazy. He wanted to work, he loved to work, he missed it.

One of the shops was not performing well – they were about to fold. So Tony stepped in and took it over. He comes to work everyday and helps his clients.

I was dumb-founded. Here was a successful entrepreneur who once owned 6 barber shops – he sold them for a huge profit – yet he came back to work.

My haircut was complete. I was very happy with the work he did. Throughout the session Tony was extremely enthusiastic. But I was much more touched by Tony’s work ethic. That day my perception of work completely changed. I learnt the value of working.

In today’s society, we are brain-washed with the retirement nonsense everyday. Financial Brokerages & Insurance companies are always selling you the retirement dream

“Work your adult life invest your money, retire at age 65 , And then you can spend the remainder of your life on a golf course.”

But is that the reality? How many retirees are truly happy after they finish working. How many play golf everyday?

In 2013 Forbes published an article, where they studied retirees after they exited the workforce- and here is what they found ; About 40% suffered from clinical depression,and 60% reported a decline in health. Simply put, they were unhappy & miserable.

My Barber taught me about the Value of Work

Now, we know that the system propagated by Insurance companies does not work. You do not necessarily benefit from stopping to work after a certain age.

Who came up with Age 65 anyway? It was a clever scheme initiated by Chancellor Bismarck of Germany in the 19th Century. Read more about that here.

Meeting Tony has changed my perspective. I do not want to stop working.

Work gives us a sense of purpose, and a sense of identity. And I am starting to believe that working is important for both our physical and mental health.

Dr.A P J Abdul Kalam, the former President of India passed away last week. He was one of India’s most prominent Rocket Scientists & visionaries; and one of the most memorable leaders of modern India. More than his accomplishments as a scientist- he was well-known and respected for his strong work-ethic.

On July 27th 2015 he was visiting an Indian University to deliver a lecture, and 5 minutes into the speech he collapsed; he was taken to a nearby hospital and he passed away on the way. The fact that he was still working at age 83 astounds everyone. He inspired millions during his life, but also inspires millions after his death.

In today’s society, it has become a rarity to find people who will talk about how much they want to work.

What if everyone had the same work ethic as Barber Tony or Abdul Kalam? How different will the world be?

A thought worth pondering…..

I love to work. Yes you can tease me as being a workaholic or having no life. Actually I enjoy my life. Working gives me a sense of purpose, an ability to make a contribution, and yes the money is always good. The government is also happy that I am working because of my tax contribution (albeit small). It is infact a privilege to go to work.

It is in everyone’s benefit – your family, your city, your country that you work.And we have already seen the evidence it is good for your physical and mental health.

What are your thoughts on the concept of Work?

Written By
Nissar Ahamed is the Founder & CEO of He is also the host of The Career Insider Podcast and the co-host of The C.A.R.E. Podcast

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