Opportunity and hard work

Mac McPhail Contributing columnist

September 8, 2013

Who said this? “I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. … I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job.”

I know many of you think it sounds like something your parents told you when you were a teenager, or something you’ve told your own kids. But who said it? The answer may surprise you. It was actor Ashton Kutcher speaking, while receiving an award at the recent Teen Choice Awards.

Ashton Kutcher has starred in several movies and television series. Currently, he is starring in the movie, “Jobs,” about the computer pioneer, Steve Jobs. Kutcher, who was once married to actress Demi Moore, also appears on the long running TV series, “Two and a Half Men.”

Kutcher was receiving an award at the teen oriented program. And it took awhile for him to quiet the squeals of the teenie bopper crowd. It is interesting that Kutcher decided that it was important to point out the value of hard work to the primarily young teenage audience, and to those watching on television. The thirty-five year old actor knows that to get anywhere in life, those opportunities only come through hard work. Most kids today, and many adults, don’t want to hear that. That’s because hard work is, well, hard. Whether it involves physical strain, mental strain, or emotional strain, work is work, and it can be difficult. We all like it easy; and sometimes easy ain’t bad.

Growing up one of my favorite foods was chicken pastry. (It still is.) We didn’t have it that often because it was such a chore to make. I can remember walking into the kitchen and seeing my mother or Granny rolling out the pastry dough on the kitchen counter top. It was a messy, time consuming, process for them. But the finished product was good. Then Mama heard about already rolled out pastry dough you could buy at the grocery store. She tried it and it was good. (It was how they cooked it that made the chicken pastry so good anyway.) I don’t believe they ever rolled out chicken pastry dough again. Yes, the easy way is sometimes the smart way.

Mama’s chicken pastry was good, no matter how it was made. But she knew that while making chicken pastry had gotten easier, life hadn’t. Like Ashton Kutcher, she knew that the opportunities that life gives you come from hard work. I’m writing this column around eight o’clock PM in early September. At this time of day in the fall, when I was growing up, Mama would probably be at the packhouse taking off tobacco and getting it ready to take to market. This would be after already working all day at Autry Brothers Milling Co. Trust me, I know, because I’d be there working, too. It was hard work, and it eventually provided opportunities to my sister and me that we probably would not have had otherwise.

Speaking of opportunities, Ashton Kutcher continued to try to get through to his teenage fans. During his Teen Choice Award acceptance speech, Kutcher tried to encourage his audience by saying, “Everything around us that we call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own things. You can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life. Don’t live one, build one.”

You probably haven’t heard about Kutcher and his Teen Choice Awards speech. But I bet you’ve heard about another recent TV awards show that was also directed primarily to the teen audience. The actions of a young lady during the MTV Awards made headlines for a week. Sadly, many more teens, and adults, will know about and remember the perverted actions of a former Disney star than the words of Ashton Kutcher, who may just be beginning to see the effects of a culture that he is so much a part of.