Mike Rowe

We kick of the Work & Family evening session with the host of Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel.

The castration process of lambs.

The Dirty Jobs crew & I were called into a little town in the Rockies. The job in question was sheep rancher. On the show I’m an apprentice and work with the people who do the jobs in question. My job is to keep up with the daily tasks of one day of their lives.

On this job, I realized that castration will be a part of this job. I rarely do research but this time I did. I called the Humane Society and said I’m going to castrate lambs, please tell me the deal. I was told they use a rubber band, applied to the tail tightly, another to the scrotum, tightly. A week later the blood flow stops and the parts in question fall off. I called the ASPCA to confirm it and they did. I called PETA and they confirmed it (though they didn’t like it).

On the day of, we started with our lead Albert, the crew and I follow. He grabs into his pocket and he pulls out what I thought would be a rubber band but he pulls out a … knife. He cuts the tail, then he cuts the scrotum. And then he puts his head toward the scrotum and I hear a slurping sound.

I’ve done something I’ve never done on a Dirty Job show. I said “CUT. We are not going to do it this way. We can’t do this. I want to do it the rubber band way.”

So I put the band on and it looked like the lamb was in pain. Doing it the PETA way means the lamb is distressed for a week until the balls fall off. Meanwhile the other lamb with the knife procedure is out eating and frolicking. I realized I was wrong. So I decide to do it the Rocky Mountain way. But there are 100 lambs in the barn. I felt like it was turning into a German porno.

Albert says push the scrotum up and the testicles come down, and then: “Bite it. Just bite them off.”

How did I get here?

But I did it.

After that shoot, Dirty Jobs didn’t changed – what the show is – but it changed for me personally.

I not only tell the story you just heard, and 190 like it but I also talk about what I got wrong. Some of the other notions I’d gotten wrong. People with dirty jobs are happier than many people I know. These are balanced people who do unthinkable work – roadkill workers whistle while they work. They have this amazing symmetry to their work.

Follow your passions. Follow your dreams and go for broke.

This is what we’re told growing up to achieve success.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but apparently if you follow your passions you can’t go wrong.

But that’s not the only way to go. Think of what other people are doing and go the other way. It’s not just following your passions, it’s doing jobs other people aren’t doing.

I started looking at efficiency vs. effectiveness. Teamwork vs. Determination. Platitudes that hang in fancy boardrooms, that stuff has all been turned on its head.

Safety. Safety first – what if OCHA got it wrong? What if it’s Safety third?

I value my safety on these jobs. But the ones who get it done are not out there thinking safety first. They think of the business of getting the job done. When I was working on The Deadliest Catch - most hazardous environment I’d ever seen. I’m 40-feet over the deck. I say with some level of incredulous to the captain and I say OCHA – and he says: Ocean

Captain says: Son, I’m the captain of a crab boat. My responsibility is not to get you home alive, it’s to get you home rich. If you want to get home alive, that’s on you.

What it all comes down to is this. I’ve formed a theory and it’s this: We’ve declared war on work on society. All of us. It’s a civil war, a cold war. We didn’t set out to do it but we’ve done it. We’ve waged this war on at least 4 fronts.

  1. Hollywood – the way we portray working people on TV, it’s horrible. Plumbers all have giant butt cracks and weigh 300 pounds. We turn working people into heroes on punchlines.
  2. Madison Avenue – what’s that message we put out there? Work 9-5 (or some semblance of that routine)
  3. Washington – I can’t even begin to talk about deals and possibilities of the ‘bottom line’ behind working jobs
  4. Silicon Valley – how many people have an iPhone, Blackberries. We are plugged in.

But innovation without immitation is a complete waste of time. We’ve got this new tool box. Our tools don’t look like shovels and picks. The collective effective of all of that has been the marginalization of lots and lots of jobs.

I dont know how may more of these [Dirty Jobs shows] we’ll do but we’ll do as many as we can.

I’ve got it wrong about a lot of things – so we’re thinking I’m thinking that the thing to do is a PR campaign for work – manual labor, skilled labor. Somebody needs to be out there about the forgotten benefits – grandfather stuff – the stuff we grew up with but lost.

Barack wants to create 200,000 jobs.

This war on work has impacted our infrastructure but it’s also declining technical schools. Fewer steam fitters, electricians… these guys are in decline.The jobs we hope to make and hope to create are not going to stick unless they are jobs we want.

Clean and Dirty are not opposites, they are two sides of the same coin.

Get back to work.

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