The Fruits of One’s Labor

“The song is called ‘Victory Dance’ by My Morning Jacket and whose lyrics directly address the earned happiness and contentedness after a day of struggle through a hard day’s work.”

One of my favorite song lyrics deals with the satisfaction of another day worked and to see the fruits of one’s labor enjoyed at the end of the day. The song is called ‘Victory Dance’ by My Morning Jacket and whose lyrics directly address the earned happiness and contentedness after a day of struggle through a hard day’s work.

“Hope to watch the victory dance after the days’ work is done
Hope to watch the victory dance in the evenings setting sun…
Hope to watch the victory dance over many lives to come…
Hope to watch the victory dance in the evenings setting sun.”

The ‘victory dance’ could be interpreted as a metaphor for a celebration or a relaxation or a general happiness that comes over you at the end of the working day. Regardless of the work involved, at the end of the day or the week or even the year, you can be able to look back with pride and satisfaction in your ability to ‘dance’ or enjoy the fruits of your labor in the evening or night or whenever your work is done.

The key lyric I can relate to is that the work may be done for the day, but it will continue for many ‘lives’ or ‘years’ to come. While the work you did today was hopefully meaningful or valuable, your progress will need to continue in the future so you can keep enjoying the ‘victory dance’ in whatever form you celebrate or take stock of what you were able to do.

Fruit takes time to grow and to be at its most ripe for eating and the same goes for our labor. While labor or work can be evaluated on a day-to-day basis, real progress in our labor whether it’s a business, a corporation, or a conglomerate, that kind of work can take years, decades, or even generations to build. You can enjoy a ‘victory dance’ for any kind of daily labor you can put in because of the progress made, but a key point as highlighted in this song by My Morning Jacket is that you really should try to enjoy the ‘victory dance’ for “many lives to come”, which I interpret as years to come or even over the generations from one family member to another.

Long-term progress requires ‘lives’ or ‘workers’ to build over the years or decades so it’s important to not celebrate too early or to ‘dance’ too early because the fruits of your labor should not be enjoyed too prematurely but rather when the moment is right or when the fruit is all ripe. Fruit, like one’s labor, takes time to enjoy so it’s best to be patient and work hard over time rather than to try to rush the process to enjoy ‘the fruits’ prematurely rather than when things have progressed to a finished point and even then, there is always room for further progress and improving in one’s work.

Another few of the lyrics from ‘Victory Dance’ that I really enjoy is the emphasis on trying out whatever labor may be best for you to thrive, or for which is done out of necessity to survive. It is key to adapt to the labor required of you or which is most available at the time since the ‘fruits’ will be just as enjoyable at the end of it. If you are committing yourself to ‘labor’, which inevitably involves struggle, either mentally or physically, the rewards or ‘fruits’ will likely be worth it because of that same ‘struggle’ involved.

“But you should work, for the self and the family
Should I hit the water or stay on dry land, even though I never swam?
Take machete into the brush, though at first there is no path
Taste the warpaint on my tongue as it’s drippin’ with my sweat
Place my gaze in the futures path, seein’ things that aint come yet.”

Your labor or work is not just for your own fruits as the lyrics state above. It’s also for your family or for the people who depend on your labor. They must share in the ‘fruits’ as well beyond your own needs and desires. Needing labor to survive and enjoy the fruits of life’s necessities such as food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. will sometimes force us to get out of our comfort zone as well. As the lyric above suggests, we often must test our limits to secure labor to have the ‘fruits’ in life. We may have to swim even when we have never swum before, but labor will require learning both new abilities and skills to be good at what we do.

You may have to learn those new skills to secure labor to do or to have work for the future. You should leave your comfort zone such as learning to swim, or to hike, or to hunt, or to lift heavy things or to use your mind to solve problems.

Whether it is a machete or a screwdriver or a keyboard, you are going to have to ‘clear a path’ with your labor even as the song says, nothing was there before. Creating something or making something out of nothing is a key part of being able to enjoy those fruits later by the work of sound mind or a good body.

Lastly, you may be physically challenged in your labor especially if there happens to be conflict as the song alleges. You may not know it, but you may be asked for labor of national importance or survival such as in times of peace but also in warfare, and you may have to provide service as part of your labor not for yourself but for community or for country as well. The final lyric in particular sums up why we labor for our fruits to begin with to plan for an uncertain or unknown future.

We may not have planned to do certain types of labor or work but regardless of if you’re an engineer, a blacksmith, or a doctor, you may be asked to do other types of work that you will have to both learn and then be proficient at. One must always be prepared to do other kinds of work to stay agile, be flexible, and plan for the unexpected such as a war or conflict that you did not see coming but you may be forced into fighting as the reluctant warrior in the song lyrics.

To secure the fruits now and for later as well will help to make sure that our collective labor will not have been for nothing. When your secure labor for yourself to do, you cannot work forever so it is important to think of the future and how to plan to have those ‘fruits’ not just for today, next year, but for the rest of your life too.

Expectations vs. Reality

An important part of maturing and becoming a fully functional adult is to keep your expectations in check and to manage them as to not conflict with what the reality of the situation is. Keeping your expectations in check is difficult to do but it is necessary in order to not let an oversized ego, or arrogance, or selfishness keep you from becoming the person you should be. One has to always be prepared for reality to not line up with our initial expectations. You can never really be fully certain of how things in life are going to shape up to be. A true sign of maturity is wishing for the best but understanding that you could be in for disappointment and setbacks even when you think that everything can turn out fine.

The word ‘expectations’ can be synonymous with being ‘unrealistic’ because you are hoping for things to be better than average and to be better than you hoped they could be. Often times, things are about the same as you would expect or can even be worse if you set your expectations too high. Keeping your expectations in check will also to help keep both your emotions and feelings in check as well. There are a number of things one can do in order to measure expectations enough to keep them in line with reality. They include focusing on the present, cultivating patience, and taking the good with the bad. These three keys alone will help anybody’s reality win out over their expectations. While having expectations is not necessarily a bad thing, having too many expectations that are unrealistic or impede your ongoing hard work and efforts will make the reality of that situation worse. Keeping your expectations realistic is something we all must do as adults.

Focusing on the Present: Controlling what we can and not worrying about the things outside of our control goes a long way towards keeping our reality in line with what our expectations should be. Doting too much on the future without having a plan for today is a recipe for disaster in terms of not being able to meet your expectations. It is good to set goals and to set your sights high, but the efforts and the work must be there as well. If you are not working on your goals in the present, you can expect your reality to look differently in the future if you were not actively working towards achieving them in the here and now.

Day-to-day expectations that are measurable and quantifiable are more easily met rather than those that are months or even years away. You cannot be worried or distracted about what could happen three months from now, but you should rather focus on what you are doing now to increase your happiness and satisfaction. You can only control your actions and your behaviors, which will save you a lot of angst and anxiety when you focus on what can be controlled and to focus less on what is out of your control especially for what is still away on the horizon of your life for which you are totally unsure of what is to come. The older I get, the more I realize it is good to plan for the long-term, but to expect things to change the further away from your current present reality are. Focusing on things on a day-to-day basis is part of a recipe for fulfilled expectations and kept promises.

Cultivating Patience and Perspective: Being able to understand that life has both its good and bad events, and you never know how things are really going to shake out is a true sign of keeping your expectations in check. We tend to think a new city, a new job, a new house, more money will fulfill us but sometimes, our expectations can fall short because we set them so high. We sometimes do the opposite in terms of cooking a meal for family members, volunteering at a homeless shelter, cleaning the house, or buying a gym membership in that we think it will not be as fun or fulfilling in reality but those kind of activities end up fulfilling us more than the former. Obviously, we set our expectations high or low based on our personal histories, personal biases, and our own desires and goals.

However, regardless of what we think will be awesome or what we think will be crummy can balance out more if we are able to cultivate patience regarding how any of our life events will shape out. You may not be satisfied with something on day one but then really love it by day 100. When it comes to expectations vs. reality, you have to show patience regarding both because what you expect to be good can end up being bad and what you expect to be bad can really end up being good.

Having perspective on what is going on with our lives can help us as well because our reality may not be what we expect but we can express gratitude for what good things we have to balance out what disappointments or ills that have befallen us previously. If you can count your personal blessings each day, you will be happier with your reality and you can better measure your expectations. Knowing that your perspective on life is totally unique compared to everyone else’s is comforting because your reality is going to be different in many ways from your fellow family members, friends, or work colleagues.

What you are going through cannot be adequately compared to other people because their reality and their expectations are never going to be the same. You can only be patient, be grateful, and realize that you should put your life in perspective as much as you can to remember that life has its ups and downs, and you should never get too low or too high because of it. Everyone has their good days and their bad days, and you never really know what people are going through because everyone has a different reality and different expectations of who they are, what they expect, and who they hope to be.

Taking the Good with the Bad: As I mentioned earlier, reality can bite sometimes especially when your expectations were sky high so anything in life is not going to be as rosy as you first imagined it. Even if something awesome happens in your life and you feel like you’re walking on cloud nine, you can be sure that there will be some small annoyances that come with it. Nothing is ever 100% good, and nothing is ever 100% bad. Similar to walking on ‘Cloud Nine’, you could be ‘down in the dumps’, but realize that your pain is temporary, and nothing lasts forever. The highest high and lowest low will pass and most of life is somewhere in the middle for which you make the best of and strive to meet expectations that only you can hold yourself accountable to. You can’t hold others accountable for standards that they can’t reach as much as you want them to for your own peace of mind. The world does not work that way. You have to hold yourself accountable and be that positive example for others.

You are always in a constant battle of Reality vs. Expectations but in this case, there is not going to be a clear winner. Sometimes, life will exceed expectations, other times, life will fall short of your expectations. The key thing to keep in mind is how do you react to both successes and setbacks in a mature and clearheaded way. You can get discouraged or be ecstatic, but you have to remember that life is about having patience, keeping it all in perspective, taking the good with the bad, and always focusing on the present and the here and now over the past and the future. If you can do these things, regardless of when reality wins or when expectations win out, you will be the winner as well because you will have cultivated the emotions, habits, and overall maturity needed to make it through both life’s ups and its downs.

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