Charlie's Blog: The Blue Collar Approach to Living


The Blue Collar Approach to Living

What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.

When I meet people, I tend to sort them into two types of people. The first type are the schemers. These are the ones who believe that success comes from superior thinking, tricks, gimmicks, and the "gift of gab." The second type are the doers. These are the people who either never bothered with the gimmicks or have merely grown tired of them. The doers put their hard hats on and get to work. Naturally, the schemers think these doers are a bunch of simple minded fools. Work is for suckers too dumb to pawn it off on others.

The world of personal development is largely devoted to scheming. The epitome of this scheming has to be The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It is largely a book of tricks and gimmicks  You don't have to read the book to come to this conclusion. It exists right there in the title. The 4 hour workweek is a play on the 40 hour workweek. Blue collar people work 40 hours a week. These are the fools and suckers in life. Ferriss could have written about a 7 hour workweek or a 3 hour workweek. But the four hour thing has the echo of the 40 hour thing. Even the cover has a graphic of a guy lounging in a hammock on vacation in some tropical getaway.

I have read the book, and it boils down to two basic tricks. The first is to shirk some work such as not answering your emails. The second is to pawn off work on some peon. In this case, it would be a call center in India. These tricks are nothing new because they are the Standard Operating Procedure for managers in every Fortune 500 company. These parasites are paid handsomely for being clever at getting out of doing things.

I'm not into tricks and gimmicks. It's not that I'm too stupid to trick others into doing my work for me and getting paid to do it. I just find it dishonest and immoral. I don't think it is enough to win honors. One must also have earned them. Otherwise, they are as empty as the martial arts championship Ferriss won by exploiting a loophole in the rules and pushing everyone out of the ring sumo style. As Aristotle put it, "Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them." At the end of the day, there is no virtue or honor in winning on a technicality.

Unfortunately, the mindset behind The 4-Hour Workweek is not confined to The 4-Hour Workweek. Among personal development literature, websites, and podcasts, there is the desire to achieve success without actually working for it. Now, this isn't to say that you can't become rich through trickery. Con artists do it all the time. But somewhere between the illegal and the moral is that twilight zone where people can lie and get away with it. We know this as "marketing." If you read the Wikipedia article on it, you get nuggets of wisdom like this:
Marketing is the study and management of exchange relationships. The American Marketing Association has defined marketing as "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large." 
The techniques used in marketing include choosing target markets through market analysis and market segmentation, as well as understanding methods of influence on the consumer behavior.
Now, Wikipedia usually offers the straightest answer you can get on a topic. Unfortunately, they fail on this topic. Marketing is merely a fancy term for what we have always known as "bullshitting." Except for clothes and music, the needs and wants of human beings have been fairly consistent for millennia. They want to eat, drink, sleep, and gratify their genital areas. To a secondary extent, they want to be entertained and also achieve social status in various ways. And the most consistent want is to gain these things without actually working for them.

Work is a dirty word. People want the EZ Path® to health, wealth, and happiness. If you doubt this, write a book called The 80-Hour Workweek and see how many copies you sell. People don't want the work. They want the trick. They don't want to study hard and do their homework. They want to sit next to the smart kid in class and cheat off his paper come exam time.

My thesis is a simple one. The near universal aversion people have for work is the cause of much of our misery today. Despite record high student loan debt and a dismal job market for white collar workers, kids still pile into colleges and universities to train to become debt slaves because they want to escape the alternative which is life in a blue collar job. If you ask these foolish kids why they don't pursue a career in the trades, they will answer in the same way. "I'm too smart for that sort of work." But they aren't too smart for the work of pouring coffee in Starbucks to service Sallie Mae and eat Alpo.

Here's an idea. It is a nutty idea, but I think we should try it and see what happens. Why don't we give hard work a chance? We are at the stage where the tricks and gimmicks have exhausted themselves mainly because we have run out of idiots to do all of our work for us. Why don't we start doing our own work instead? And, why don't we do a whole bunch of work while we are at it?

The work ethic works. Granted, hard work does not always pay off. But the alternative is laziness which never pays off. And, yes, there is a place for genius, but genius should enable us to do more not enable us to get away with doing less.

People today marvel at what our forebears accomplished in their day. They can't fathom things like the great cathedrals of Europe or Hoover Dam. How did these people do so much when they didn't have our technology? But the answer to that is obvious. They worked really hard at what they did. The irony is that we never ask the opposite question. Why do we achieve so little today with all of our superior technology and knowledge?

We are lazy. You can scheme all day, but nothing gets done without the doers. The world can live without schemers. It can't live without doers. Work must get done to have or achieve anything of substance or value. The world will always depend on the workers.

Embracing the work ethic is a hard thing. Work is such a torture. But when you actually do some work for a change, you will discover that this fear looms larger in the mind than in reality. Laziness is simply a barrier we erect in our minds because we have come to equate work with hell. It has been my experience that the only hell of work is having to deal with scheming rats too lazy to do their jobs.

People need to make peace with work. They need to accept it and embrace it. It is the hard path, but it is rewarding. Work is worth it. Work will make you a better person, and work makes the world a better place. And you will also learn that the highest honor and greatest success in life is when people praise you for your work ethic. We call this dignity. It is something no schemer will ever have.