"Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting."
By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
For about ten years, Mike Rowe hosted a show called Dirty Jobs. As the show's title implies, in every episode Rowe met ordinary Americans who worked "dirty" jobs — but in many parts of the country, they were known simply as jobs. Through these experiences, Rowe found that people who worked these less than glamorous careers, were some of the happiest people he had ever met. This was counterintuitive to some of the well-to-do folks he knew who had seemingly found their "dream jobs," yet struggled with unhappiness and lack of purpose.
Dirty Jobs to Perfect Ones
Rowe, being in a position where he has seen everything there is to see, often gets letters from fans seeking advice. You can generally categorize these letters into two piles:
A) How does one live the perfect life?
B) How does one find the perfect job?
And often, they are the same question, as we see the perfect job equalling the perfect life. That we are our jobs. An employer might love the sound of that, but as a human being, it seems awfully limiting, no matter how great our jobs are. But perfection is known, it's the thing we think we are supposed to do, so we set a course for it. But what will actually make us happy often takes discovery, and we may miss those opportunities in pursuit of what we already know.
A fan named Parker writes:
Mike Rowe writes:
(Via Mike Rowe)
Not the typical type of advice you'd expect to get from a celebrity, but, hey, it's free. And when you ask a "dirty" guy, you get dirt philosophy. But dirt can mean many things, in some circles it means unclean — in others, it means natural, from the earth, and grounded. Whatever the case may be, we can't learn anything, drive interest, or allow for passion to develop if we don't first get our hands dirty.
In his talk at TED, Rowe said:
The happiest people I know have repeated the same answers when asked about their paths to happiness: They had no idea. They didn't know that living here, doing this work, and living this life would be so enriching. Exactly! They had no idea. The known, the thing we think we are supposed to do, doesn't always end up going where we think it will. By the very fact that you are aware of this career says all you need to know: it's crowded, full of expectations, and institutional. (And don't start believing that creative fields are any different, there are no sacred cows.) So, within the context of the limited paths you are aware of, you have come to believe that this is the best, the thing that defines you. You have your heart set on it, like a first love, you can't imagine anything else making you happy, because it's all you know. Your problem isn't that your first love or your dream job is so great, it's that your imagination is lacking. But, the unimaginable thing, the thing you did on a whim or by chance or fell into, or the thing that somehow discovered you, could be everything.
So much of our unhappiness comes from our expectations. But expectations are within our control. (Because they only exist in our minds.) People who are happy don't feel all the expectations and pressures that unhappy people feel. Because the pressures of expectation are what causes unhappiness, and the lack of them is what makes people carefree (and whistling Dixie). Then our own happiness is within our control, if we are willing to let go of some of the more negative aspects of our thinking.
On this, Rowe said:
Reminiscent of the life advice given by Mark Cuban:
It's not that these "dirty" jobs are literally the only jobs that can make people happy. It's a counterbalance, that even a dirty job can be happier than a high-status job. Then, we are no longer bound, there's a world of different paths open to us, any of which can be fulfilling — rather than a lonely singular path. People I know who teach, who work for nonprofits, who work for charities, who go to remote areas to help people and solve problems, none of them knew that was what they would be doing. But here they are, outside of the box they imagined for themselves, doing good work.
We are limited by a lack of imagination. We are all like Claire, we think we know what we want, and are unwilling try anything else. We shut it down because we think we already know, but keep going back to the things we've already tried. We need to be open to the unknown, and base decisions less on plans, and more on trial and error (the primary method of problem solving and discovery). Live. Get your hands dirty. Within your one life, you can live several lives. Life is not meant to be manicured and heavily charted. Life is experiential. Improvise, try living and adapt as you go along. Isn't that what we were taught as children?
And when life feels like play again, is when you will find everything you've been looking for. Because that's what humans do, improvise and adapt — it's what we are built to do, it's what gives us purpose, and it's what makes us happy.
Useful Companions (Improve Your Education and This Site by Buying a Book):
- Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work - Matthew B. Crawford
- The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker - Mike Rose
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success - Carol Dweck
- Between Craft and Science: Technical Work in the United States - Stephen R. Barley (Editor), Julian E. Orr (Editor)
- Poetics – Aristotle (Author), Malcolm Heath (Translator)
- How to Win at the Sport of Business - Mark Cuban
- Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art – Stephen Nachmanovitch