Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Some (mostly) good advice

I don’t know if I’d describe this as beautiful. Practical, maybe. Advice for function more than fulfillment.

Most of what Mike Rowe says here is inarguable, and I certainly live by it. I’ve approached every job I’ve ever had like I was it was my dream job. I work long and hard and hate to do it wrong. That’s true when I was writing/editing articles and working on movies, and it was true when I swept floors. I know as well as anyone that there are no guarantees in life, but one thing you can control is your work ethic.

I also admire Rowe’s campaign to get more Americans to don the blue collar. Vocational work is very important, and more people should consider it as a viable employment option. In America’s most prosperous decades, the “dirty work” occupations were stable and proud ways to make a living.

And it goes without saying how heartily I endorse expanding your horizons if what you’re looking for isn’t right in front of you.

My only complaint about Rowe’s letter is this statement, coupled with another that he makes:

“Most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that's consistent with those beliefs.”

I agree that happiness does not, and should not, hinge upon one’s job. But still, you should generally gravitate toward jobs that, if they aren't want you want most, should at least not compromise your beliefs. That might sound overly lofty, but you’re not going to do particularly well, or stay at a job very long, if doing it causes you a crisis of conscience. It won’t do much for your health or interpersonal relationships either.

Rowe is right to say that jobs are but one aspect of your complete life. But it’s curious that he would say that and also this:

“You should learn to weld and move to North Dakota. ... Those guys are writing their own ticket.”

North Dakota is in the midst of an oil boom — and like with most boom areas, housing is scarce and rents are insane. Crime is rapidly proliferating. And once the area runs dry, there won’t be much to keep most of that workforce there. For whatever else the state offers, virtually all of the boom workers coming in are motivated solely by the paycheck. I’d imagine most of those flocking in aren’t pining for the quality of life that comes with being a transient worker living six apiece in an apartment commanding north of $2,000 a month, in a relatively isolated region where the crime rate is surging as a direct result of said boom.

That might appeal to those who decide that the money is worth working in such conditions (and if so, more power to them). But many people who take Rowe’s advice to behave in a way that’s consistent with their priorities might find that option less than ideal. Better to take from what he said that there are hot opportunities in many places ripe for the taking if you open your mind and do your research.

Now that's beautiful advice.

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