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I Want to be Like Mike

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I got a chuckle reading a Reader's Digest article a while back telling the story of a New York City road crew that found an interesting way to earn some extra money. Apparently, during the noon lunch hour, they'd sell a few minutes on the jackhammer to suit-wearing paper pushers more than happy to drop ten or twenty bucks to take out their frustration on an innocent chunk of asphalt. This enterprising road crew struck a chord of human nature left unmet by your typical white-collar desk job. I was reminded of this story after calling my college buddy "Mike" who had recently exchanged his desk job for one in the field building ponds.

It was a cold and rainy day when I talked to him and Mike was in the middle of doing pond cleanouts, which is something more than one person has suggested would be perfect for the Discovery Channel's show, "Dirty Jobs." Figuring he might be bemoaning his mid-life career decision, at least at that moment, I ribbed him a little about his decision. What Mike said next made me smile wide. In all seriousness and with passion that would make infomercial guru Billy Mays proud, Mike declared to me, "The worst day in the field is better than the best day in the office." Here's a guy who had a degree, worked everyday on a CAD program designing interior spaces, and chucked all that so he could be outside doing something he really loved. He wasn't going to let a little inclement weather and a tough job dampen his spirits. Boy could I relate!

The best days for me are the rare ones I get to be out in the field slinging rocks and using a shovel. The sense of satisfaction derived from creating something from nothing produces a much more tangible sense of accomplishment than yet another meeting or reading another report. One day tends to blend into the next when I'm using only my noodle and not my muscles. Maybe that's why so many white-collar guys still enjoy cutting their lawns, perfect lines and all -- breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the process of seeing direct results from their actions.

The moral of the story? There's something to be said for doing a physical job that produces immediate results from your efforts. Mike's refreshing outlook made my outlook brighter. Because of my love for ponds, and our longtime friendship, my college buddy had become such a pond lover that he, too, had made it his career. And to me, that makes my desk job worth it -- seeing people who were burned out have their passion renewed. That's what makes my switch from the field worth it, I guess. But it still doesn't change the fact that, "The worst day in the field is better than the best day in the office." Kudos to all the other "Mikes" out there who are doing what they love.

Last updated: Jun 4, 2008




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