4 Myths About the Trades

There are many myths and truths about the Trades. Here is a closer look at 4 of them:
1) The Trades cause hunger and thirst
2) You can’t eat or drink while playing during the day or night
3) There’s no food, water, or shelter in the world outside of DayZ Standalone

The “working a trade” is an old-fashioned term that gets thrown around a lot. It’s important to know what the definition of a trade is, and if you’re going to try it out for yourself, here are 4 myths about the trades.

We’ve chosen to reprint a vintage essay each Friday to assist our younger readers discover some of the greatest, evergreen jewels from the past, with our archives currently totaling over 3,500 items. The original version of this story was published in November of 2014.

“Think about the realities of today’s labor market. We have a significant skills deficit. Despite the fact that unemployment is at an all-time high, millions of skilled positions go vacant because no one is trained or willing to fill them. Meanwhile, college graduate unemployment is at an all-time high, and the vast majority of those who do have jobs are not working in their area of study. They also have a trillion dollars in student loan debt. There are a trillion! And yet, we continue to promote a four-year college diploma as the greatest path to a successful profession for the vast majority of people?” Mike Rowe (Mike Rowe) (Mike Rowe) (Mike Row

What we do for a livelihood frequently defines us, for better or worse. When we meet someone for the first time, it’s one of the first questions we ask. It is here that we will spend 90,000 hours of our lives over the period of 40 years. Unfortunately, the majority of individuals are dissatisfied with their jobs (by a factor of two globally!). The drone-like office employee is mocked incessantly in pop culture, yet that’s where the majority of us work.

Is there a better way to do things? Are there jobs that will keep us interested, provide for us, and make us happy? Yes, but with one key caveat: young men should broaden their quest for such a profession beyond the white collar jobs that are sold to us from the first day of secondary school. Graduating from high school, attending a four-year college, and then finding job in an office is the default route for today’s high school students (in fact, there are nearly twice as many business degrees handed out as any other single degree). However, college is not for everyone. A lifetime of sitting at a desk isn’t either. Fortunately, there are many of rewarding, well-paying occupations outside of the cubicle.

We’ll start a three-part series today encouraging young men (or older guys seeking for a career move) to learn a skill. In this first essay, I’ll debunk four prevalent misconceptions and preconceptions about the trades. In the next piece, I’ll discuss the advantages of working in the trades (of which there are many). After that, we’ll go into the specifics of how to obtain skilled labor jobs. After that, we’ll conduct a series of So You Want My Job interviews with skilled laborers to get a firsthand, inside look at what it’s like to work as a craftsman.

Let’s begin by debunking the stereotypes that have made blue-collar labor a career option that most young men would never consider.

The 4 Skilled Labor Myths

Welders, plumbers, electricians, and machinists are in more demand than they’ve ever been, with better pay and benefits. While our country is experiencing record youth unemployment, there are actually hundreds upon thousands of trades positions available (many of which are really excellent ones) that go unfilled because there aren’t enough qualified employees to fill them.


However, this wasn’t always the case. The workforce of the United States looked quite different a century ago. Farmers accounted for 38% of all employment in 1900, with another 31% employed in various occupations such as mining, manufacturing, and building. Service industries employed just approximately 30% of the workforce (defined as providing intangible goods). Fast forward 100 years, and the situation is almost same. In 1999, approximately 75% of the labor force worked in the service sector (most typically in an office), while farming fell to 3% and other crafts to 19%.

While the number of skilled crafts workers has decreased dramatically, there is still a large need for this sort of job. From our electrical systems to our plumbing, and even the nuts and bolts that hold our buildings together, these blue collar men and women actually keep our nation’s infrastructure intact. Our country is experiencing an ever-widening skills gap as a result of young people’s lack of interest in certain fields. This indicates that there are excellent positions available but no qualified candidates to fill them. Mike Rowe, the former presenter of the hit program Dirty Jobs, is lobbying for a return to blue collar labor via his foundation and scholarship fund for this reason. It’s not just him; high schools around the nation are recognizing the need for trained workers and are transitioning from liberal arts colleges to job training centers rather than exclusively preparing kids for college. Because state-funded projects can’t find welders or elevator installers, state legislators are promoting and recruiting on behalf of construction corporations.

Why aren’t more young people taking up their hard hats? There’s excellent employment and good money to be found in the trades. To get their thoughts, I spoke with Kevin Simpson of Pickens Technical College and a few of people from Emily Griffith Technical College (all in the Denver area). What do these colleges believe is the primary offender? Stereotypes. Workers throughout the country are clinging to assumptions about blue collar employment and trades that may have been accurate fifty years ago but are no longer valid. People have a lot of misconceptions regarding skilled crafts occupations; let’s take a look at them and dispel them:

Myth #1: Blue-collar jobs are “lesser” than white-collar jobs.

“Blue collar and white collar workers are two sides of the same coin, and as soon as we start seeing one as more important than the other, we’ll have crumbling infrastructure and a skills shortage.” Mike Rowe (Mike Rowe) (Mike Rowe) (Mike Row

Manual work has been seen as a slave’s or lesser’s task since ancient times. The higher classes worked with their heads, philosophizing, running cities and countries, and selling products (though for a long time even merchants were looked down upon, since in handling money they were inferior to those who made their living purely through cognition). Egyptians, Greeks, and white Americans in the 1800s all despised manual work and compelled others to do it for them. It was difficult, and since our human nature is to seek comfort wherever we can, being above it was a sign of status.


Manual work lost some of its stigma during the industrialization phase around the start of the twentieth century. It was where the economy was heading, where the majority of the jobs were, and there was a feeling that it was critical to the construction of the country’s rapidly growing highways and cities. Skilled artisans acquired more respect since studying a trade was a clear step up from becoming a cog in the industrial system that had emerged in the 1800s.

Following WWII, however, an increasing number of people started enrolling in four-year universities, fueled in part by veterans who were able to have their tuition paid for by the US government under the GI Bill. Is there a way to get almost infinite free education? Who wouldn’t be interested in such a deal? All the better if you could earn a livelihood only by using your head and without having to work hard physically.

As the four-year education trend gained traction, instructors and administrators started to serve as advisors to students, assisting them in deciding where to go, which universities they could be eligible for, and so on. These counselors sent their finest and brightest pupils to elite four-year universities, while sending their poorest children to trade or technical schools. Learning a trade became associated with people who couldn’t make it in college, and no young man wanted to be thought of as second-best.

The rise in college graduates corresponded to a transition in the economy away from industry and agriculture and toward a more intellectual and service-oriented sector. Over three-quarters of Americans now work in a white-collar occupation.

As the image of blue collar employment faded and the market for white collar positions grew, it became cultural orthodoxy that the only way for a young person to have a solid, respectable, well-paying job was to go to college. More education has always been seen to be better, with the notion that the more education one gets, the smarter one is and the better work or life one would have later on. Trades, on the other hand, frequently need less education (about half in most situations, but as little as a third or quarter in other circumstances), and as a result, this career path has come to be associated with lower chances of success.

As a result, by the third decade of the twentieth century, both the legitimacy and attractiveness of learning a craft had plummeted, while the gap between white and blue collar employees had widened dramatically.

This notion, however, that diverse labor equals less effort, is far from unbreakable. It’s past time we questioned it, asking, “What exactly constitutes ‘better’ in terms of a career?” In many circumstances, trades occupations have grown more lucrative and steady than most office positions. Being a businessman rather than a poor industrial worker used to be a symbol of cultural standing. As our economy switched to the service sector, the income disparity and quality of life grew to the point that being a company owner was really a superior profession. However, based on how we define excellent employment today — primarily in terms of salary, stability, autonomy, benefits, work-life balance, and so on — such gaps are simply no longer existent in many trades or blue collar professions.


Furthermore, mastering a trade does not always imply that you are not suited for college or that your intelligence is inferior. You may be quite intelligent and yet choose to work with your hands to earn a livelihood. The notion that you can either be a smart white-collar worker or a stupid blue-collar brute is a complete fallacy. During the day, you might be an electrician, and at night, you could be a voracious reader of classic literature.

It’s also not true that your day-to-day employment in the trades won’t stimulate your mind:

Myth #2: Blue-collar job isn’t innovative or engaging intellectually.

Another impediment to entering the trades is the misconception that the labor is mindless and monotonous. Today’s youth want to be intellectually engaged by their work; they want to be creative and inventive, like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. The drive to create is admirable, and it is truly a sign of maturity. The problem is that we impose limitations on how we believe we can achieve such attributes at work. It could only happen in a contemporary, minimalist workplace with a Mac and iPhone on hand, a large whiteboard on the wall, and a pot of fine coffee, right? In a blue uniform with an auger in hand, getting to know the interior of a toilet, how on earth could creativity happen?

The fact is that every profession comprises useless and unpleasant activities. That’s simply the way things are. In truth, many office occupations are more tedious than you may think. According to a recent research, 90 percent of office employees squander time throughout the day on non-work-related activities, mostly online browsing. But that makes sense, doesn’t it? Over the duration of an 8-hour workday, no one can be completely productive. Perhaps more unexpected is that nearly 60% of employees waste at least an hour at work, with 30% spending two hours or more. What is the reason behind this? The great majority of people say they are bored, unchallenged, or dissatisfied with their employment. Does it seem like an interesting and energizing place to work?

Vintage painting plumber fixing sink boy looking.

It’s a fair argument that the crafts provide greater intellectual stimulation than the bulk of office or even entrepreneurial occupations. Consider a plumber or an electrician who works in a home. He spends his days exploring new locations, meeting new people, and solving new issues. There might be a variety of reasons why a toilet won’t unclog or why a certain outlet won’t operate. If the usual problems and remedies don’t work, the craftsman will employ progressively difficult troubleshooting processes to uncover the underlying cause of the problem. In a manner that many of us in white collar positions never have to, he’s putting problem-solving talents and fast thinking to use. The skilled trades just provide a different sort of creative outlet than a job in a fashionable office with a startup. That is exactly what Matthew Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft, discovered. He learned that being a motorcycle technician gave him with considerably more excitement and joy than sitting behind a desk after going to college and adopting a mind-numbing white collar job:


“It has long been understood that the satisfactions of revealing oneself concretely in the world via manual ability make a man tranquil and easy. They seem to free him of the need to provide rambling interpretations of himself in order to prove his value. He just has to point: the building is standing, the automobile is now running, and the lights are turned on. Because he has no genuine influence in the world, a youngster will boast. However, the trader must contend with reality’s flawless judgment, which cannot be construed away from one’s faults or weaknesses. His genuine pride contrasts sharply with the’self-esteem’ that educators bestow on pupils as if by magic.”


Listen to my podcast on the deals with Mike Rowe:


Myth #3: You must pursue your passion, and welding is not one of them.

“Follow your dreams!” is a popular expression in our society these days. The idea is that you’ll figure out what you want to do in high school or college, and then acquire an education to help you attain your “dream job.” What this really does is to cause a great deal of anguish among teenagers and twentysomethings over what to do with their life. We have a hard time deciding when the possibilities seem to be endless. We come to believe that if we don’t discover that one thing we really like doing, our life would be wrecked.

Thankfully, although this might be difficult to accept at times, your life isn’t unlimited. Most individuals, particularly those in their late teens and early twenties, have no notion what they want to accomplish with their lives. However, due of the negative preconceptions associated with blue collar labor, they end up in business or law school by default, believing that working in an office is preferable than working as an elevator mechanic. How could somebody be enthusiastic about repairing elevators? You may be surprised by the response.

There’s a lot of study being done to illustrate that professional passion or satisfaction comes from a variety of reasons that are quite different from the outmoded advice of “following your dreams.” In reality, research shows that passion comes after hard effort and being successful at what you do, not before it. In practice, this implies that if you put in the effort and learn the art of being a plumber, you’ll find that you like it.

The fact is that our “passion” is a mix of what we’re excellent at and what we put effort into. Workplace fulfillment is more about mastery, autonomy, and balance than it is about having a pre-existing passion. Love for your job seldom comes from satisfying a deep-seated longing in your heart to accomplish that one thing and just that one thing. In fact, converting a pastime into a career is a proven way to put a stop to that burning urge.


I can’t recommend Brett’s podcast with author Cal Newport enough if you want to understand more about the fallacy of discovering your passion. It’s one of my all-time favorite AoM podcasts, and one that I believe every adolescent and twentysomething (and beyond) should listen to.

Myth #4: Dirty, difficult labor is unappealing.

A man holding degree and a labor on the right.

Mike Rowe recounts seeing the above poster in his high school guidance counselor’s office in the late 1970s in his book Profoundly Disconnected. “Work smart, not hard,” says the adage. While the meaning may have been more along the lines of “Hard effort is excellent, but being clever is even better!” the high school kid most likely misinterpreted it as “Yes!” If I’m clever, I don’t have to work hard!” Students who saw these posters in the late 1970s and early 1980s are now operating businesses and, even if subconsciously, passing on their beliefs to newer generations. Beyond those CEOs, there are writers, podcasters, and “lifehackers,” all of whom advocate working smarter, not harder, to avoid the mundane, tedious tasks. You may even earn millions working just four hours every week! (At least, that’s what it says.)

Work smart and hard poster mike Rowe.

Thankfully, with Mike Rowe’s assistance, that message is being relegated to its proper location: the trash. He’s swapping it out with a new sign that says, “Work smart AND hard.”

The fact is that those who hustle own the world. Ambition without hard work will not go you very far. Even this generation’s professional idols, such as the late Steve Jobs, Zuck, and Richard Branson, put in a lot of effort. You only see the glamour, but they’ve put in their fair share of late nights.

You may argue that working hard with your head is preferable than working hard with your muscles. True, there are several types of hard labor, but they are all difficult in their own way. Each sort of difficulty has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and the difficulty of physical work does not simply equate to the difficulty of typing at a computer all day.

During Mike Rowe’s tenure as presenter of Filthy Jobs, he discovered something quite intriguing about hard, dirty labor. While he first began that position, when the program was still in the ideation stages, he anticipated the individuals he met to despise their jobs. But they all fell in love with it, virtually without exception. He even described them as the happiest folks he’d ever seen. I’ll say it again: working hard and mastering anything will lead to enthusiasm for your profession. Swinging a hammer every day will never be as difficult as filling TPS reports from 9 to 5, especially if you despise every minute of it.

Many trades are nasty and filthy in addition to being hard at work. Our culture’s fixation with cleanliness has lately been exposed. Antibacterial soaps and boiling water are the order of the day. This mentality pervades our approach to work. We want everything to be clean, tidy, and minimalist, much like that lovely Apple laptop on your clean desk.


When we are raised in a super-clean environment, we develop a dislike for things that are unclean or nasty. And the fact is that many tradesmen’s hands are filthy at the end of the day. While some deals may not get filthy, Kevin Simpson thinks that around 90% of them do. Plumbers, electricians, and construction workers are the kind of employees who shower at the end of the day, not at the start.

Dirty tasks become unappealing in a sanitized culture. Perhaps this is why their salary is rising and the demand for trades jobs is bigger than ever. Mike Rowe predicts that in the near future, an hour of plumbing will be more expensive than an hour with a psychotherapist. You have the potential to earn significantly more money than your office-dwelling contemporaries if you can overcome your phobia of dirt, filth, and perspiration. You could even learn that utilizing your body and hands every day feels wonderful, that being in contact with the elements, even when they’re dirty, is fulfilling, and that nothing beats a well-deserved shower when you truly have dirt to scrub off.

The misconceptions about working in the trades have finally been debunked. We’ll go through the advantages and why any young guy, or anyone contemplating a career change, should pursue skilled work in a few weeks. For now, I’ll leave you with an extract from Luciano Palogan’s address at the Philippine School of Arts and Trades in 1910, which is a magnificent hymn to physical labor:

Without toil and effort, nothing great or good can be done.

Manual work was formerly regarded a dishonor and a degraded man’s vocation, but those days are long gone. The days of the kid walking a block to summon a “muchacho” to carry his books to school are long gone. And the young man’s pride of a few years ago, unsoiled, soft, and cushion-like hands, has gone out of style.

The Filipino has turned a new page in his life. He now understands that physical work is an honor, not a dishonor; that manual labor does not lower a man’s social standing, but rather promotes him to a better level of living.

Manual work removes perspiration from muscles and roughens the hands, but it also restores strength and increases the size of the hands. The purest insignia that a man may wear to prove that he belongs to the big society of workers and not drones is roughness of the hands and scorchings of the sun on the face.

Complete the Series

4 Misconceptions About Skilled Trades Working in the Skilled Trades Has 5 Advantages What Is the Best Way to Begin a Trades Career?



The “art of manliness trades” is a book that discusses the myths about trading. The author has also included 4 myths about trading in this book.

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