The Growth of Privacy; Day 10 –
You Must Do the Work

FEBRUARY 10, 2020

If there was a standing order in our house growing up, that was it: you must do the work.

When I think of it, work was revered in our family.

And not just our generation.

In fact, I think that I am blessed by an inheritance far more bountiful than any material wealth and that is a capacity and desire for work, we were born and raised to it.

Of course, as kids growing up we tried to dodge out of it at every possible opportunity. But asking to be allowed off to watch TV or if we were finished yet was just asking for a clip round the ear.

As a kid I was a townie, I grew up in the town. And there was a very clear dichotomy in our little primary school between townies and countries. For example, football teams would be divided on this basis. While I had no aptitude or interest in football and would always have been last pick, I used to claim entitled to be counted as an honourary country boy as my father was from a farm and we had to go and do farm work there every weekend.

The only time I remember my father really getting angry with us as children was around work when we would either shirk it or do a slipshod job. Other lads who lived in the town never had to do these boring jobs every Saturday. Why couldn’t we stay at home and watch TV like they did? That was asking for trouble.

The greatest accolade that could be given to anyone in our house that he or she was a “hard worker”. That was the finest of all attributes.

While my granddad McCarthy was always the picture of benevolent indulgence with me growing up, as I got older I saw that this strict discipline around work had come from him down.

As a young teenager, I got a job with him one summer doing odd jobs. I thought working for grandad would be a nice cushy number doing a few errands for a sweet old guy.

The first day, he gave me a shovel and told me to weed the bank outside his house. It was huge! And all I’d been given was an old shovel! It was heavy and blunt, not a tool of speed and ease.

Surely there must have been some mistake.

There was no mistake…

Grandad returned mid-way through the day when I was blistered, red-faced and exhausted; and only a fraction of the way through! I would have been glad of a condescending pat on the head and to be told that what I had done was fine. Instead, I was given some brisk instruction and told to hurry up.

A year or so later I got my first “proper” summer job working for my father’s eldest sister who had a hotel in Dublin. Margot was the kindest and most fun person I knew, but when it came to working she was a demon. Her abiding instruction given to those who came to her with excuses was “get back in there and learn how to work boy!”

They were valuable lessons

Later when it came to studying law at college I realised quickly that I was no natural lawyer. A small handful were naturally brilliant ones who displayed real insight and intelligence from the start. As a young student and apprentice, I was intimidated by these characters at the start of my career and it seemed to me that my understanding of subjects that they were seemingly effortlessly and demonstrably in command of and holding forth upon was on a completely different, and inferior level. I quickly adopted the reliable default approach that it is better to keep your mouth shut in these situations and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. (Of course, there were and remain many who were no great natural lawyers nor even hard workers but who possess unlimited neck and who have no such compunctions about expressing their views.)

In any event, I was never one of those brilliant or natural ones. In fact, until I came to find a practical application of law and how by doing my best at it I could help people in meaningful ways, I was not much of an honest hard worker at it either.

For me, it was discovering the latter and how by doing the work one did not need to be naturally brilliant, indeed who on earth could be a natural at something as unnatural as law.

But by doing the work you could make sure that what you did was effective, and then helped people and therefore mattered.

Often times creativity or knowledge-work is put down to a requirement for inspiration, or natural brilliance or some kind of muse, a source of ideas.

But the muse usually only finds us when we have the seat of the pants affixed to a chair in front of a desk.

First, we must show up there and do the work; once we do this and the rest can generally be relied upon to take care of itself.


flor mccarthy

Flor McCarthy is one of Ireland’s leading lawyers and a recognised expert in marketing. He has particular expertise and hands-on practical experience in privacy, data protection and GDPR issues for marketers. He is certified by the Law Society of Ireland in Data Protection Practice and lectures lawyers on data protection practice and compliance. He is managing partner of a multi award-winning niche legal practice. He has been in private practice for over 20 years and has been elected by his peers to sit on the exclusive Council of the Law Society of Ireland, the governing body for Irish lawyers.

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