My grandfather worked as an engineer for General Electric (GE) Aerospace his entire adult life. He would always tell me, “I never woke up and dreaded going to work.” He genuinely loved his job, and they loved him.
Most of his work was confidential. However, what we do know is that he and a small team of engineers invented the “thrust reverser,” which takes forward-moving thrust and reverses it so that a jet can slow down enough to land. Without this key component, which exists in every jet engine, modern flight would be impossible. Needless to say, my grandfather was a very loyal and valued member of the GE team.
Loyalty is a very sought-after trait in today’s society, especially in corporate America. Those who are considered loyal have the respect of their peers and superiors because of their unquestioning dedication to their work. Loyalty is normally rewarded in the workplace. Promotions, watches, pay raises and many other tools are used to incentivize loyalty and make the daily monotony worthwhile.
Day after day, the loyal worker receives task after task in hopes of one day being recognized for following instructions from those who are more ambitious.
After they invented one of the most revolutionary components of modern aviation, GE graciously bestowed my grandfather and his team with a few shares of stock while the company made billions of dollars. Instead of the glory that one would assume comes with such an invention, GE ensured that this elite team would remain loyal by financially tying them to the company. The ambitious few at the top use the minds of the loyal to progress their own careers and promote their own ideologies.
This dichotomy between ambition and loyalty shows up in many places. Humans love dogs because they are loyal. They come when we call, they do tricks when we train them and they love us unconditionally because they have been bred to be loyal. All humans have to do is be the hand that feeds them and give them special treats for special tricks. Evolution has chosen them to be a subordinate species because their survival became dependent on our willingness to feed them.
The mountain lion, on the other hand, has chosen a different path. It has killed, fought, tricked and worked its way to the top of the food chain, and no other animal dares confront this mighty beast without help. The mountain lion preys on the weak, and it needs those lesser species to become stronger and sustain his dominance. Yet the mountain lion is alone.
In today’s world, the ambitious profit from the work of the loyal, and, in return, the loyal receive the relative equivalent of a pat on the back. Those who choose the path of loyalty are asked to subdue their own hopes, dreams and aspirations in order to promote those of larger, better-funded conglomerates.
Some of my grandfather’s dreams may not have been realized, but that does not diminish his achievements. He loved what he did regardless of pay or rewards. He made the world a better place because he was willing to be loyal and work hard.
My grandfather loved his job, loved GE and had a very long, fulfilling life. He was happy, and he wasn’t bitter that GE only gave him a few shares of stock in return for his efforts. He had a team with which he was able to share in the excitement of innovation and intellectualism. He had a family that was always there to support him and love him, and, most importantly, he was true to himself and what he loved.
If you are unhappy following orders from some higher authority, ambition is your key to success. However, loyalty can bring much fulfillment when you’re loyal for the right reasons. Flashy tokens and promises of more money should not be able to lead the truly loyal person astray. True loyalty is being loyal to the self.
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