Three Simple Lessons in Learning to Love Your WorkLife

From a Place of Understanding the Importance of Maintaining Good Morale

Reggie’s Story: A Case Study:

Reggie’s is a contemporary story, but it starts a long time ago, all the way back to 1936, when aged ten, to help and support his family, he began his WorkLife in the fish-and-chip industry, when he got a weekend job cutting up newspapers to wrap the takeaways in.

Fast forward several decades and Reggie is still on hand, lending a hand and regaling customers with stories from the Second World War when he was in his early teens: how he played his part in keeping morale among Londoners high by serving up their favourite British food staple. Reggie was known to quote Churchill when he called fish and chips our “good companions”. According to Reggie, Churchill, in recognising the importance of the meal to the national morale and fighting spirit of a nation at war, was the reason he made it the one food that was never rationed. (From WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch by Carmel O’ Reilly — Me)

Maintaining good morale, his own and other people’s, is one of Reggie’s core characteristics that has driven his WorkLife, and one that he can attribute to wartime and learning taken from Ralph, an American serviceman stationed in Britain, who Reggie got to know when Ralph stopped by for a regular fish and chip supper.

Ralph always carried a miniature sized paperback in his breast pocket and would sit and read awhile over his meal. As they became aquatinted, Ralph shared with Reggie the story behind the pocketbooks. How the recognition that soldiers surrounded by the horrors of war needed books to make their lives bearable brought over 70 book companies together to create a paperback designed for America’s service members: the Armed Services Edition. Sized to fit inside the hip or breast pocket of a military uniform, these miniature books were carried into battle, hospitals, and enemy lands where books had been banned and burned. 

Words of Wisdom 

On asking if he had a favourite book, Ralph’s immediate response was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. He said that the book was sent to the front line to improve morale and how on reading it, he felt alive again. He said at a time when he felt lost hope for his future, the book instilled a belief that he had a fighting chance to survive. 

Seeing how his story had piqued Reggie’s curiosity, the next time he stopped by, Ralph lent him the book. 

Reggie took three simple lessons from the book that have guided him ever since to love his WorkLife through all its ups and downs.

Book Wisdom

Lesson One: He learnt to embrace every day as it came. He did this by being present in each moment, finding happiness in his WorkLife doing the routine things, while also being open to making the most of spur of the moment happenings as they occurred, including being open to chance encounters, as he had been with Ralph and where they could take him.

Lesson Two: He found purpose in his work; he was, after all, helping to maintain the morale of a nation at war. He did this once again by simply being present in the moment with the people he served, having conversations and listening to their stories. He was, in effect, creating a great customer experience for everyone who visited the fish and chip shop and, in so doing, building lifelong relationships. 

Lesson Three: Was one of commitment, when in his early twenties, he bought the business as a going concern from his boss Charlie on his retirement. Reggie’s commitment was to treat everyone well.

For the people who worked with him, that meant a commitment, among other things to pay them a fair wage for a fair day’s work, to provide good working conditions, and opportunities for continuous learning.


For his customers, that meant a commitment to serve them the best quality food and to create a memorable experience through great hospitality. 

For his suppliers, that meant a commitment to support the British fishing and farming industry in sourcing his produce from sustainable suppliers.

Epilogue 

Reggie’s chance encounter with Ralph when he first popped into the fish and chip shop was the beginning of a lifelong friendship, one that began from a place of understanding the importance of morale in navigating through the ups and downs of everyday WorkLife. His encounter with Ralph was also the beginning of a lifelong love of learning through reading for Reggie, one that he has shared with many people over the years when he launched a WorkLife Book Club to support people who enjoy learning through reading – the people who work with him and his customers, who together have enjoyed discussing many a book over a plate of fish and chips, accompanied by a mug of tea. 

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Reggie’s story has been adapted from my book: WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch

Reggie’s back story was informed by the following articles:

https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2020/june/books-that-shaped-the-1940s.html

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/world-war-book-brooklyn_b_6257550

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so, is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life. 

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.

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