In today’s world of information overload, it’s rare that a piece captures my complete attention. Even rarer is video footage  that’s worth 20 minutes of viewing. This presentation by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs held my attention multiple times – and I think it’s worthy of yours.

He clearly outlines the need for correcting misconceptions, overcoming complacency and building work ethic based upon his experiences as an “apprentice” with manual laborers.  Rowe describes working with a rancher to castrate lambs and finding firsthand that “humane” techniques aren’t necessarily the “right thing to do” as compared the practical application learned by people who have decades experience with animals – and knows what is best for the animals.  He learned firsthand that misconceptions can cause pain, literally and figuratively.

“We’ve declared war on work as a society…we didn’t set out to do it…but we’ve done it.”  Rowe goes on to illustrate four ways we’ve waged this war; in Hollywood’s misrepresentation of manual labor, Madison Avenue’s pursuit of riches, Washington’s policy decision and in Silicon Valley where technology would mean nothing without the people behind it – both those building the circuitry and the egg heads.

“The most important thing to know – and to come face-to-face with – is that I got it wrong about a lot of things.”  He suggests  a public relations campaign for work, outlining the multi-billion dollar infrastructure and declining trade school enrollment as real problems. Rowe points to the marginalization of  many jobs. “The jobs we hope to make and create aren’t going to stick unless they’re the jobs people want.  Clean and dirty aren’t opposites.”

Raising food, feed, fiber and fuel isn’t a clean or even glamorous business, but it does involve a lot of work.  Farming and ranching is also a business complicated by misconceptions; Rowe points to his experiences with entrepreneurs on a dairy and swine farm to illustrate how he found smart business people in these manual laborers.  Misconceptions about the care of animals and land – and the dirty work involved in both –  aren’t likely to change until people get on a farm or ranch to learn firsthand about the people who try to “get it right.”  The question is… are we too complacent to help make that happen?

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