This is Part 2 of the Ten Life Lessons series.

6. Work Dirty Jobs

The Show Dirty Jobs was a surprise hit years ago when it first aired more than a decade ago. Mike Rowe, the popular host and eventual spokesman for doing “dirty jobs,” continues to sound the alarm: ‘dirty’ jobs are not to be avoided; in today’s college-crazed-one-size-fits-all-I’m-too-good-for-that-work culture he argues convincingly that young men in particular should not follow the crowd. His reasoning: dirty jobs are rewarding, profitable, and abundant. Passion is the buzzword of the times; hard physical labor is apparently a thing of the past for many—tragically.

I heard him once say something to the effect of: “We’re teaching kids to go to college with money they don’t have for jobs that don’t exist.” Everyone’s rushing to get into the cozy air-conditioned office not realizing there are better and more rewarding opportunities out there. Instead of sending emails and picking up phones, young men might be better served by learning to build a home, fixing a leaky faucet, putting up an electrical grid, driving across the country to deliver goods, etc. ‘Dirty jobs” involve many different skills, working in many different locations, with diverse groups of people, under different, sometimes dangerous, conditions.

Consider that the “skills gap” in this county gets larger by the day. Even in a post-industrial society, many U.S. based companies are looking to fill jobs in the skilled trades. While average college graduates with liberal art degrees graduate with roughly 30 grand in debt and struggle to find work, those graduating from two year programs and apprenticeships set themselves up for careers with many opportunities and with above average pay. Look at this young welder from Texas who has earned over 6 figures in his first two years.

It’s not say one is going to settle for hard physical labor; the body can only take so much for so long. I argue that while young, though, it is critical to work difficult dirty jobs that our class-conscious society deems nasty and suited for delinquents. Why? Ideally, the experiences put you in touch with your inner humanness: you see the struggles of the poor and forgotten, gain a better understanding of people and develop compassion, get inspiration to do more for your life, allow you to remember where you came from and simply treat people better regardless of status, income, and education.

7. The law of 33% and the 80/20 Rule

Both of these deeply resonated with me when I came to realize their liberating truth. First, the law of 33%. Not sure of its exact origins but it boils down to spending 33% of your time with select kinds of people: people below you, people on your level, and people above you.

Only after leaving my hometown and moving alone did I realize that everyone I spent my time with was not where I was. I put considerable effort into trying to bring others up but was only exerting needless time and energy with those I thought were close friends. I was passionate about embarking on a new journey away from the place where we grew up; they seemed perfectly content staying put. You need people that understand you, people who can challenge you. Iron sharpens iron, after all.

The 80/20 rule is likewise true. Straight from Wikipedia it goes something like this: “The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”

Go into any classroom, business, organization, circle of friends, check the stats on wealth, look at any athletic competitions in action, and you will observe that the top 20 percent do a majority of the work. This is especially important to realize at work. No need to be stressed for others not putting in their time and energy. It’s a fact of life: some slack, while others – a select few – put in work. Your boss who dictates but is not as competent and gets away with limited work, this principle is at work.

8. The Power of Saying No and the Importance of Alone Time

Probably the most memorable thing I learned in college were the words from a motivational speaker visiting just before the beginning of the fall semester: “Don’t overpromise and underdeliver.” I have found myself playing this in my head when I have taken on way more things than I could realistically handle.

So much of life success depends upon being able to manage time well. This includes an ability to say no even to those closest to you. When you’re not sure of yourself and motivated by a dream, a goal, a transcendent purpose, and what have you, you will find yourself going with the crowd, saying yes to everything that sounds like fun largely out of not wanting to be alone.

If what you seek is greatness, though, alone time is a must. You have to discover your personal strengths and be able to develop them in your personal private time. You get rewarded in public for what you do in private. It is as simple as that. Schooling imposes a teacher as the sole authority figure telling you what to do, when to do it, how, why, etc. This reliance on an external force providing sole motivation to do anything has to be broken from an early age. Schooling is about controlling the masses; personal time spent in trying new things and challenging yourself begins to unlock your God-given potential.

9. Life is Difficult and Painful

For millennia people everywhere from all walks of life had it tough—and we should be prepared for the same. Fighter pilots drafted into World War II leaving home and family to die; tyrannical leaders massacring their people; hunger; poverty, and so on. The last century alone was known as the bloodiest of all time!
Life was never this mesmerizing spectacle to be shared instantaneously with friends and “followers.” It was a painful sacrifice. Today, however, most of modern life is look-driven, feeling-centered, and pain resistant. It was never this way in times past.

Men labored tirelessly to provide for a family. Work was work, no matter how dirty and dangerous. Kids weren’t isolated away in brick buildings for eight hours a day with “safe” spaces, scream rooms, guidance counselors, school psychologists and all the rest; they contributed their fair share and joined adults in labor and conversation. Women worked in the home—and sacrificed themselves for the betterment of the family.

I grant that nostalgia is healthy at times. Desirous of Edenic times, we all long for the purer, fuller, more enjoyable times of yesteryear. However, with the rise of technology and pervasive digital video streaming social media in particular, we somehow have come to believe that life should always feel good.

I’m guilty of leaving jobs because “I didn’t like it,” walking out of relationships because of a strong disagreement, carelessly burning bridges, among other immature foibles. I still wonder whether that was pure stupidity, a subconscious belief and desire that life, work, and relationships should always look and feel good, or a mixture of both. I realize today that life was and always will be difficult. There’s no escaping it; it’s another one of those universal laws made painfully evident by history.

10. Read. Read. Read.

William Faulkner stated that only rich people and women read. It’s true. Reading has always been an elite activity done by those with money and time. I, mean, who has the time, energy, resources, and education to write them in the first place: well-to-do folks.
Shortly after graduating from college I found myself in the school library. Of all places, right?! While looking for a particular book on the shelves I heard a female high school-aged student exclaim: “People actually still read??!!
Yes future college student about to enter the college I am now ashamed to say I graduated from! Have the standards plummeted that badly?! Sorry.

To me her statement simply reflects the degree to which reading, and educational material of genuine worth, is seen a laborious task to be done in a confined classroom environment for the purposes of passing an exam. She could have been simply rattling off, for sure. Yet, I’ve seen the phenomenon of reading only when in season (during the 10 months of school for those in K-12, or two semesters during college) even among intelligent, productive college-educated adults.

Not reading makes you dull, uninteresting, and a conformist to a great degree. That’s at least my perception of things. Just look at what happens to kids when they get two entire months off during the summer. Business Insider noted how kids simply become dumber during this “free” time. This a subject that fascinates me and I’ll be sure to write a post about it in the near future.
For now, though, simply understand that reading provides the following benefits: it makes you smarter, more interesting, a better conversationalist, more confident, attractive, increases your pay (the more you learn, the more you earn, and I’m not talking traditional college degrees either), makes you a leader and influencer, among many other social, economic, and cultural benefits.

I don’t buy into the excuse that “I don’t like to read.” I used to believe the same thing until I read the memoir, “When I was Puerto Rican.” I was completely mesmerized by the language, experiences, and history so familiar to me as a Puerto Rican. Read what helps you discover who you are, your past, what you believe you would like to do and become. Start with newspaper stories that catch your interest, a daily thought of the day, a Bible verse. Something. Anything. Keep reading my articles ????

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