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Diligence and Industry 

© Mark Liston, 2015




Will you devote the next few minutes to think about how Diligence and Industry relate to your life? 


Movie Clip #1: “The Pursuit of Happyness”





Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” - King Solomon [Proverbs 10:4]


Sir Winston Churchill – “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”


Dr. Samuel Johnson - “What we hope to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.”


Menander (342 BC-291 BC) Greek Dramatic Poet - “He who labors diligently need never despair; for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor.”


Richard Whately - “A man who gives his children habits of industry [hard work] provides for them better than by giving them a fortune.”


Sir Joshua Reynolds - “If you have great talents, industry [hard work] will improve them: if you have but moderate abilities, industry will supply their deficiency.”


Benjamin Franklin - “Industry [hard work] pays debts, despair increases them.”


Presentation:  Developing Your Industry and Diligence


            Chris in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” must work very hard under difficult circumstances to succeed.  His diligence on the road to success made his arrival sweet, enabling him to experience the joy of fulfillment.    

Diligence is the consistent application of effort to a worthwhile task.  Webster defines industry as “diligence in a pursuit; steady or habitual effort.”  Diligence is the essential character strength for many aspects of life, but especially for work. 

Bennett says, “Work is effort applied toward some end.  The most satisfying work involves directing our efforts toward achieving [goals] that we ourselves endorse as worthy expressions of our talents and character.” 

If we want to be happy in this life, we must be happy in our working life.  We spend about 25-30% of our adult life at work, preparing for work, or getting to or from work.  To be happy at work, two tasks must be accomplished:  First, we must find a vocation we like and are really good at.  Second, we must diligently apply ourselves both to be trained in and to work at this vocation.

The opposite of industry and diligence is laziness, sloth, and idleness.  Industry and diligence are two of the keys to being a good worker as well as accomplishing any task one might undertake.  Ben Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack stole a quote from Algernon Sidney [1622-1683], “God helps those who help themselves.”  Both were perhaps referencing Aesop’s fable of Hercules and the Wagoner:

“A wagoner was driving his team along a muddy lane with a full load behind them, when the wheels of his wagon sank so deep in the mire that no effort of his horses could move them.  As he stood there, looking helplessly on, and calling loudly at intervals upon Hercules, the god of strength, for assistance, the god himself appeared, and said to him, ‘Put your shoulder to the wheel, man, and goad on your horses, and then you may call on Hercules to assist you.  If you won’t lift a finger to help yourself, you can’t expect Hercules or anyone else to come to your aid.’  Heaven helps those who help themselves.”

Seligman and Peterson say, “Finishing what one has started, keeping on despite obstacles, taking care of business, …staying on task… – all refer to the strength of character we identify as …industriousness.  Not as flashy a strength as bravery, [diligence] nonetheless shares with it the mustering of will to perform in the face of contrary impulses.  Here it is not fear that threatens action but boredom, tedium, frustration, and difficulty, on the one hand, and the temptation to do something easier and perhaps more pleasurable, on the other.”

Where do teens have to be diligent and industrious five days a week, 180 days per year?  Where do we have to work very hard to apply this character strength?  At school.  How many times per day, while you are supposed to be working, do you think about the TV show you want to watch, the video game you want to beat, the sport you want to play, or the food you want to eat?

Your school is your job.  How you apply yourself and show diligence in your schoolwork is how you will work when you get a job.  So how are you doing?

Mark Liston, the creator of C2, says, “When writing this curriculum, it was so difficult to stay on task!  I’m hyperactive and easily distracted anyway.  Thus I really struggled to stop doing the interesting things I like to do and sit down at the computer and write these sessions.  I wanted to quit so many times or just to goof off rather than write, but I kept coming back to it and staying with it. 

“It took me over 2500 hours to develop this curriculum, more than a year of full-time work, but I believe it will be used to transform lives.  That’s why I did all that hard work:  To help you.  To do this job required a high level of diligence.  I never would have done this if I had not been steadily building diligence into my life for many years.”

Since nearly half our waking hours will be spent at work [and for some of us, a few of our sleeping hours, also!], we will be much happier if we enjoy what we do.  Enjoying our work is a big part of enjoying our life.  Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were expelled from the Garden of Eden, humankind has had to work for a living.  The fact that we have to work doesn’t have to ruin it for us.

Many adults enjoy their work, yet this requires effort.  We don’t naturally enjoy it because work takes effort, diligence, and always involves a degree of frustration.  Yet it is the challenge of work that keeps us interested in it and gives us a sense of accomplishment when we complete a task.

            How do we learn to enjoy our work?  First, we must make the choice to learn how to enjoy it.  For some, this comes naturally, while for others, it is a great struggle.  Once the choice is made, though, enjoying work comes fairly easily and quickly for most.

A second way to enjoy work is to work with someone who enjoys it.  If a teen is just starting a new job or career, he would be smart to find a mentor or coach to help him learn the essentials of that job.  The best mentor is someone who really enjoys his work, has the talents that help him be successful at it, is industrious and diligent, and works hard.

A third way we learn to enjoy our work is through choosing our occupation and career.  We must choose a form of employment that uses both our skills and our interests and that provides adequately for our financial needs, both present and future. 

A fourth way is to prepare adequately for our vocation through education.  School through the twelfth grade is a challenge for many of us because the subjects bore us.  Yet when we go to college or vocational training, we get to choose our field of study, our major and minor, and many of our subjects.  Also we know we will be using what we study in our upcoming job, so we apply ourselves and are more diligent. 

Choosing our own classes helps make school more interesting.  Having the proper education for our work helps us be successful and to be better paid for our efforts.


            Where we first learn that work can be fun, though, is in the home.  One of the best gifts a parent can give their child in addition to faith is an enjoyment of hard work.  William Bennett says,

“Parents show their kids how to enjoy doing the things that have to be done by working with them, by encouraging and appreciating their efforts, and by the witness of their own cheerful and conscientious example.”


The deepest joy of industry and diligence comes from the satisfaction of a job well done and the fruit of one’s labors.  True self-worth doesn’t come through parents and teachers telling us how great we are.  Rather, we know we have worth when we see what we have accomplished through hard work and perseverance.  Taking on a challenging task and doing it well gives birth to confidence.  Ability applied to a challenge strengthens and refines that ability, qualifying its bearer for an even greater task.


These truths are implied in the story of “The Choice of Hercules.”  As a teenager, Hercules was bitter because others no better than himself lived a life of ease and pleasure while he endured labor and pain.  On an errand one day, he came to a fork in the road.   The road on his right was hilly and rough but it led straight to the blue mountains he desired to reach.  The road on his left was broad and smooth, lined with shade and fruit trees and flowers.  But it ended with fog and one couldn’t tell if it ever arrived at the blue mountains.


While he pondered his choice, two fair women came toward him, one from each road.  The one from the pleasant way reached him first and Hercules saw that she was beautiful as a summer day.  “Hercules, strong and handsome, be no longer bowed with hard work and trials.  Come with me on the Path of Pleasure where no storms disturb and no troubles annoy.  You shall live in ease with unending music and laughter.  You will have all that makes life fun: sparkling wine, soft couches, rich clothing, and the loving eyes of beautiful maidens.  Come with me, and life shall be to you a daydream of gladness.”

            By this time, the other woman had drawn near and Hercules saw that she was equally beautiful, but with a strength and determined intensity that captured his attention.  “I have nothing to promise you except what you will win with your own strength.  The road upon which I lead you is uneven and hard, steep and dangerous.  The views that you will sometimes see will be grand, but the valleys are dark and the ascent toilsome.  Yet the road leads to the blue mountains of endless fame that you see on the horizon.  They cannot be reached without labor.  In fact, only by great toil can you win all that is worth having.  If you want fruits and flowers, you must plant and care for them.  If you want the love of your friends, you must love them and suffer for them.  If you want the favor of heaven, you must serve well on the earth.  If you desire eternal rewards, you must persevere through temporal trials to obtain them.”

As she spoke, Hercules saw that this maiden’s beauty was of a deeper quality, pure and gentle as wool yet strong as wine. “What is your name, Fairest of Maidens?” he asked. 

“Some call me Labor,” she replied, “but those who know me best call me Virtue.”

Hercules turned to the first lady and asked the same.  “Some call me Pleasure,” she said with a bewitching smile, “but I choose to be known as the Joyous and Happy One.”

“Virtue,” said the strongest man on earth, the son of a god, “I will take you as my guide.  The road of labor and honest effort shall be mine, and my heart shall no longer cherish bitterness or discontent.”  Taking her by the hand, he stepped boldly upon that rugged path leading to the true object of his desire. 


You may think that’s a pretty good story.  You may really want to be diligent and industrious.  Yet you may also know yourself well enough to think, “When I’m faced with the choice to be diligent and hardworking or kick back and take it easy, I will probably take it easy again.  I just can’t see myself changing.”

But do you want to change?

The keys to any change in your life are:


1.     Want It:  How bad do you want to change?  Are you willing to sacrifice?

2.     Get Help:  What help will you find?  This could be people, tools, or God.

3.     Don’t Quit:  Will you choose never to give up? 


Apply this to diligence and industriousness.  Do you really want to excel?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes to find the help you need to learn and make something happen?  Will you stay after a task long after most others would have quit?  You may have to re-evaluate your goal, approach, or methodology. 

You may have to start over or take a break from it for a while.  But will you decide to be a diligent man or woman?


Movie Clip #2: “The Pursuit of Happyness”




Journal Questions:

  1. In the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Chris must work very hard under difficult circumstances to succeed.  His diligence on the road to success made his arrival sweet, enabling him to experience the joy of fulfillment. Diligence is the consistent application of effort to a worthwhile task.  On a diligence scale of 1-10 with 1 being a lack of any diligence, how would your best friend rate you?  Why?

  3. In the movie, Chris had to be diligent under hard circumstances.  What is the hardest work you have ever done?  What did it teach you?

  5. In the movie, Chris was good at the two things needed to be a stockbroker.  The presentation said, “If we want to be happy in this life, we must be happy in our working life.  To be happy at work, two tasks must be accomplished:  First, we must find a vocation we like and are really good at.  Second, we must diligently apply ourselves both to be trained in and to work at this vocation.” 
    1. What do you want to do for a career?  If you don’t know, do you have any ideas or possibilities?
    2. Do you know what it takes to be good at it?  What?
    3. Is it a vocation through which you can make enough money to live?
    4. What are you planning to do for training in this field?
    5. Do you have the diligence it takes to get the training you need and to do this job every day?  If not, how will you learn to be diligent?

    1. In the movie, Chris said he had many ideas of what he wanted to become but he never completed any of them. What do you want to become or to change about yourself or your life?
    2. What are you willing to sacrifice to make this happen?  [Be specific]
    3. Where can you get the help you need to make it happen?
    4. Will you choose before you begin never to give up?  [Of course, you can change your mind if you find a better career]


Group Discussion:


Movie Clip #3: “The Pursuit of Happyness”





Having thought hard today about your level of diligence, how do you want to change your mindset to better express this strength?  If you choose to be a more diligent and industrious person, you will have a happier life.


Commitment:  I commit to be a Diligent and Industrious person. 


            ____________________________________________                                                                                            [signature]


C2: Character Challenge
Free Sample Lesson
Character Growth Index
About the Author
Who Uses C2?
Why Teens
Changing Lives
Order C2
Contact Us
Free Character Videos