On a Southwest flight sometime earlier this summer, I read an insightful interview with Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery Channel’s show Dirty Jobs. If you haven’t seen it, host Mike Rowe sees what it’s like in the day of a unglamorous job. (Think window washer, farmer, the guy at the waste water treatment plant.)
Here are quotes from the interview, highlighted with my favorite lines and my thoughts:
s: Your mission statement declares we’ve “demonized dirt” and made “work” a dirty word. How do we make up for it?
mr: I’m no expert, but my theory is that these changes happened very, very slowly and on a lot of different fronts. How we got to the point where the idea of getting dirty and working hard felt like a sucker’s bet, that’s part Madison Avenue, part Silicon Valley, part pop culture, part American Idol —an amalgam of reward mechanisms that celebrate the exact opposite thing of actual hard work.
My Thoughts: In a blog I wrote a couple years ago called Desiring Money vs. Making Money, I explained that more is required to becoming “rich” than to desire a lot of money. Specifically, you must WORK HARD. If you do not have the fortitude and endurance to work hard, you’re just lost in your delusion of grandeur.
s: Is it as simple as putting away our hand sanitizer and getting dirty?
mr: You can follow your bliss however you want in your life, but maybe that’s not the best way to choose a job or a career. Nobody follows their passion into waste water treatment or window washing. You do it because you’re hungry and you’ve found a job nobody else wants to do, and then you do it well, with a good attitude, with an entrepreneurial spirit. People are going to need to be willing to do work for work’s sake and find their happiness in learning to enjoy a job that they might not have dreamed about their entire lives. And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with hard work or a dirty job. I can’t tell you how many millionaires I’ve met who are covered in crap.
My Thoughts: The problem with many “dream jobs” is they are often just fantasies. I know this my sound very un-American, but it’s true. Example: last week I overheard a college student explain that all he wanted to do was play his guitar and hang out at the beach. And that the most he’d be willing to work was 15 hours each week. Every young person has a fantasy lifestyle+job like this, but all the dreaming in the world won’t make these jobs come true for millions of people just because they want them.
s: So it’s only blue collar jobs that are underappreciated?
mr: I think the big lie is accepting the notion that there are blue and white collar jobs. What I’ve learned from Dirty Jobs and talking with the people I’ve worked with, all of whom seem to line up in that blue collar category, is that this is a false distinction. What’s going on is not really between blue and white collar; it’s actually between an employee mentality and an entrepreneurial mentality. Many of the people on Dirty Jobs seem, at first blush, to fit the employee model, except they just drew a really short straw so they’re on some factory line covered in somebody else’s crap.
s: And a lot of those people on the factory line aren’t exactly smiling.
mr: Yeah, I’ll grant you that there are plenty of people out there covered in crap who are miserable if you’ll give me that there are plenty of people wearing a suit and tie who are drones. Let’s take the drudgery and the drones and push them to the side and admit that these are the people who, basically, fit the employee model. The more interesting model is the entrepreneur. The blind spot that we have right now, socially, is that we don’t look at entrepreneurs and associate them with dirt. We associate them with private jets, and that’s dangerous fiction.
My Thoughts: Amen!