It’s About the Work

Over the past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the birthday celebration of an old family friend who has been part of my entire life and a big part of many lives for a lot longer than that. As Jack McGinty turns 90 this week, his children, with whom I grew up, threw him a fantastic surprise party at the venerable Cleveland Yachting Club. I had a great time catching up and reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances I hadn’t seen in decades.

During dinner, there was a video presentation of funny and touching clips with stories from well-wishers, followed by a couple of live speeches and, of course, some words from the man of the hour.

Some things to know about Jack… He is one of two sons born to Irish Catholic immigrants who clearly instilled a sense of humility and the value of hard work in their children. Jack began his professional life in 1950 as a trader at McDonald & Co., a Cleveland-based investment firm, and he’s been working there ever since. (The firm is now part of UBS.)

To describe Jack as frugal is an understatement. A conservative investor who looks for the long game and never the quick win, he’s done very well on behalf of his clients over the decades. He and his wife Alice still live in the same beautiful house they bought many decades ago where they raised their children. When I was walking to school as a kid, I would often see Mr. McGinty in his Brooks Brothers suit waiting for the bus with his Wall Street Journal tucked under his arm. Though he could easily afford to drive (a very nice car if he wanted to), he liked to take the bus for the exercise and because he didn’t want to pay for parking downtown. Jack is always understated and never flashy in the least. People often joked that he still had his first communion money, and my father used to call him “Taffy Pockets.”

Jack McGinty is one of my favorite examples. I didn’t necessarily understand it when I was young, but I get it now. Whether it was stocks, a car or his clothes, Jack has never been frivolous. (He always looks nice and chooses his clothes carefully.) I didn’t realize until the other night that when I bought my first pair of Alden shoes years ago, I went about it like Jack. I mused about it, labored over it and carefully considered the wisdom of the $700 expense before I ultimately made the purchase. This wasn’t some disposable pair of shoes I’d be throwing away in a few years. These had to be built to last. After my research, I was totally confident that I made the right investment. (And I still am.) I’ve been doing the same thing as I slowly furnish my apartment, closely examining all the best options I can afford before making my move.

My biggest takeaway from Jack’s birthday party was something he said during his speech. After sharing a few hilarious stories about his humble upbringing, his family and his career, he said something I will never forget:

“I love waking up in the morning and going to work every day.”

Jack is 90 years old, and he still puts on a suit and tie and goes to the office every day. Not because he has to. He wants to. He loves the work. It’s who he is. (He doesn’t take the bus anymore, but still.) Other than Tony Bennett, how many 90 year olds still do this?

It reminds me of what Joan Rivers always said of her ethic: “It’s about the work.” After a certain point, she didn’t need the money. She kept doing it because she loved it. Retire? To do what?

And is Jack McGinty happy? I’d hazard a guess that he has always been too busy enjoying his work, his family and his friends to really think about it.

Whenever I’ve observed Jack, I’ve noticed that his eyes and ears are always recording. His curiosity and interest still burn hot. I can’t help but think that his uncommon vim and vigor are the result of investing wisely in smart life choices, moving forward and doing the work.

As I said, it was a privilege to celebrate Jack’s 90th and to also be reminded of the indestructible value of hard work. Because sometimes I get lazy and forget.

FEATURED PHOTO: Legendary Washington Post editor Benjamin Bradlee hard at work in 1956.
Photo by Robert Delvac—Bettmann/Corbis, c/o Time Inc.


  1. I’m only commenting because I can’t find the like button (where is it??). But would like to put in a word for those who are not lucky enough to love their work and to hope that they have a long and happy retirement where they can be busy doing the things they do love…

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