We recently came across an interview with Mike Rowe from a few years ago. Mike has been a champion of the trades and "dirty jobs" for a while, so we always listen when he has something to say. The entire interview was great, but one thing he mentioned in the interview that really stuck with us was his recollection of a poster in his high school guidance counselor's office:

Work Smart NOT Hard

Mike mentioned how even back then, he'd completely disagreed with the concept of Work Smart NOT Hard, and how he'd wanted to scratch out the "NOT" and replace it with "AND". We think Mike really gets it.

There's nothing wrong with hard work

Here in the United States, we tend to push our kids towards college pretty hard, and pretty early in their lives. Usually, they're not ready to make a decision about what they want to do for the rest of their lives when they're just 18-years-old. There are plenty of jobs out there in the skilled trades that pay well, and are respectable—yet we still push people away from "hard work".

There's a problem with this suggestion that hard work isn't smart work. Even worse is the suggestion that smart work—whatever in the world that actually is—is better than hard work. Hard work is what this country was built on. Hard work is what continues to push us forward. We still need all the great plumbers, welders, masons, carpenters, road crews, and all the other hard-work jobs that keep America running. More importantly, this hard work that we depend so much on as a society has always been smart work. There's a heck of a lot of incredible tools, processes, machines, and technological advancement that has come out of hard work. People working hard are always working to get the job done even smarter than before.

That poster is just a small part of a weird narrative in America that suggests a college degree will put and keep a smile on your face, and help you weather every work-related storm in your future. Don't get us wrong—there's incredible value in education and training, and learning the skills that are necessary to perform the kind of work you want to be doing. But we've all seen that the promise of everything being bright-and-sunny as long as you have a degree isn't always true. We all probably know someone with a college degree who struggles to find a job in their field, then winds up taking any job that will help them survive, no matter what it is. It seems something is wrong when all this working smarter makes living harder.

The evidence suggests we’ve taken some very bad advice, and tried to separate hard work from success. Consequently, we’ve become profoundly disconnected from a critical part of our workforce—the skilled part.

Work Smart AND Hard

Mike decided he wanted to fix that old poster from high school, so he came up with this one:

Work Smart AND Harder

We think it's a great message, and we totally agree. You can check out the rest of his interview below and read more about the poster at his foundation mikeroweWORKS Foundation.