This piece first appeared on the Rich Investor.
I always make a point of working every Labor Day, if even just writing a few emails on my way to the pool.
I do it in an act of impotent protest.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total ideological nut job. A day off is a day off.
Far be it from me to walk away from a day of cold beer and barbecues to make a point. I’m not going to die on that hill.
But all the same, it irks me that we celebrate Labor Day and give the lumpenproletariat a collective pat on the back, yet we don’t also take a day to honor the entrepreneurs and innovators that provide employment to the ungrateful slobs.
Labor Day really is an outlier.
Virtually every other public holiday celebrates risk-takers.
Think about it.
On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the independence of our country – a risk-taking venture, if there ever was one.
On Veterans Day, we honor our soldiers who risk their lives to guarantee our freedoms. And on Memorial Day, we honor those soldiers who risked and gave their lives.
On Thanksgiving, we give thanks for the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving was done by pilgrims who risked it all to settle a new land.
And Christmas celebrates the birth of a man whose entire reason for being was to offer himself as a sacrifice for others.
In January, we dedicate a holiday to Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who risked – and ultimately gave – his life for the cause of racial equality.
And even Columbus Day celebrates a man who took enormous personal risk sailing into uncharted waters to find an alternative path to India… and managed to find the Americas instead.
Presidents’ Day is sort of iffy.
Sure, most of the men to have held the office were rent-seeking parasites who risked other people’s lives and money rather than their own. But there were at least a few risk takers in the mix worth celebrating. I’ll be generous and give it a pass.
I can even stretch it and argue that New Year’s Day celebrates risk taking because the only thing there is to do that day is watch college football… and the college football players might be risking injury in order to get a pro contract come spring. (Hey, I told you this one was a stretch. Humor me.)
But Labor Day…
Labor Day is the only federal holiday that doesn’t honor risk-taking.
It’s the proverbial participation trophy of holidays, a day that celebrates Homer Simpson for doing nothing more than showing up to collect a paycheck.
That’s ridiculous and un-American.
Now, like I said earlier, I’m not a total ideological nut job. I’m not going to tell you to forego Labor Day festivities. The beer isn’t going to drink itself, and it’s flat-out wrong not to enjoy one last day of sunshine before the days start getting shorter and temperatures start dropping.
But take a moment and raise a glass to all the entrepreneurs since the dawn of the Republic that have taken the risks that helped to create the abundance we have today.
Think of Steve Jobs slaving away in his parents’ garage with Steve Wozniak as they made the first Apple computers.
Think of Jeff Bezos, who also started Amazon.com in a garage.
Think of Ray Kroc, who nearly went bankrupt building McDonald’s into a fast food empire.
Think of the Wright Brothers, who could have gotten themselves killed building the first airplanes.
Think of the countless aspiring entrepreneurs pouring their hearts into new business plans on their kitchen tables.
Most of their plans will fail. Many of these men and women will be ruined financially.
Some may see the marriages fail or see friendships ruined as a result.
Some may quite literally drop dead of a heart attack from the stress. It happens.
But their sacrifice will not be in vain.
It’s not just the successful entrepreneurs that create jobs and opportunities. Failed entrepreneurs push us forward too by allowing others to learn from their mistakes.
Some enterprising young lad or lass may find a way to do it better the next time.
But that evolution can never happen without the first entrepreneurs that took those initial risks and ultimately failed.
From the humble taco stand owner to the founder of the next great tech startup, every person that puts their ass on the line and forgoes the safety of a regular paycheck for the uncertain risk of business ownership is a hero, whether they get a holiday or not.
That’s enough grandstanding for today. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.
Throw a steak on the grill, toss a football with your kid, and take pleasure in the fact that we live in a country wealthy enough to enjoy something as frivolous as Labor Day.