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Model work ethic, courtesy of Big Russ

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When the late Tim Russert was a teenager, his father— known in his Buffalo, N.Y., neighborhood as Big Russ—got him a summer job as a garbage collector.

Here’s what Russert learned from his old man:

“That everybody has a job to do and a contribution to make, and that no matter how small that job may seem in the larger scheme of things, if it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing well.”

Here’s what leaders can take from Big Russ:
  • Self-esteem isn’t something you start with; it’s something you earn.

  • There’s no such thing as unskilled labor. One of Russert’s first lessons was the right way to remove a lid from a metal can. You pulled it toward your chin to protect your throat in case a rat jumped out.

  • Reward those who show up, day in and day out, even when they don’t feel like it. That’s why Russert took his 10-year-old son to see Cal Ripken Jr. honored for playing in his 2,131st consecutive major league baseball game. It was a tribute to those who go to work every day.
— Adapted from Big Russ & Me, Tim Russert, Miramax Books.

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