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Mike Explains Further

In the long history of bad advice, you’d have to look pretty hard to find something dumber than Work Smart Not Hard. It first appeared years ago as part of a recruitment campaign for college. It was bad advice then, but today, it’s just plain dangerous. Google Work Smart Not Hard and you’ll see just how far this idiotic cliche has wormed it’s way into our collective conscious over the last forty years. It’s repeated daily by millions of people like some timeless chestnut of conventional wisdom. Is it possible we actually believe such nonsense? You bet it is.

Consider the reality of today’s job market. We have a massive skills gap. Even with record unemployment, millions of skilled jobs are unfilled because no one is trained or willing to do them. Meanwhile unemployment among college graduates is at an all-time high, and the majority of those graduates with jobs are not even working in their field of study. Plus, they owe a trillion dollars in student loans. A trillion! And still, we push a four-year college degree as the best way for the most people to find a successful career?

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. The part that keeps the lights on. That’s just crazy. In a sane world, there should be posters hanging in high schools that reflect the reality the situation we’re in. Wouldn’t it make more sense to promote Work Smart AND Hard.

So…with a little creative license (and no respect for the original,) I’m pleased to present a new platitude with a different attitude. I think the image speaks for itself, but if you want to see how we made it, watch this. And if you’d like to help spread the word, I’ll try to talk you into buying one here.

Posters are $10 or as much as you want to give. All proceeds go to the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which pays for trade school scholarships.

PS. If you’re bored, fascinated by behind-the scenes footage, and curious about the process that brought this poster to life, you might also enjoy this video. Then again, you might be left wondering precisely how much time I’ve actually got on my hands. And subsequently, yours. Only one way to find out…

The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge

Here’s a picture of me holding a copy of The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge. (Skill and Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo.) I wrote The Pledge last year for three simple reasons:Mike-Rowe-SWEAT-Pledge copy

1. I believe what it says, and felt strongly the world needs one more acronym.
2. I wanted to raise some money for the scholarship fund. (We sell them for $12, and the money goes to the foundation.)
3. I needed something declarative that everyone must sign who applies for a mikeroweWORKS Scholarship. Something that reflected my own view of work-ethic and personal responsibility.

*You don’t have to apply for a scholarship to get your own signed copy. Each Pledge contains 2 signature lines – one for Mike and one for you. The poster is perfect for framing, and starting awkward conversations about personal responsibility.

Want to share The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge with your school, gathering, or club? You’re welcome to download this version of the Pledge to help spread the word about The mikeroweWORKS Foundation and the Skilled Trades. Please do not resell or print in mass quantities.

You can buy Mike’s Work Smart AND Hard and The S.W.E.A.T Pledge posters and other great items on The Shop page. Check it out!

  • Pingback: No Jobs? Mike Rowe's Lament

  • Athena007

    LOVE the new one! Can we, also, buy the S.W.E.A.T. Pledge poster?

    *Nevermind! I see it listed along with this one. :)

  • Browncoat

    I tried college. Wasn’t for me. Too much partying and not enough patriotism kept me out of the military. So, in 1978, I opted to join the pipefitters apprenticeship (union). Loved it. Also learned about the seedier side of union power. Pretty much voted Republican ever since. But I finished the four year program as a journeyman pipefitter and did that until 1990. I’d taken a CAD course and became an industrial piping designer. Done that ever since… And for the last 10+ years, the money has been very good. God had a plan. And worked.

    • Big Jim

      sorry to hear you thought GOP was once worth voting for. Glad to hear you have now seen the light though!!

      • Browncoat

        At one time, not too long ago, it WAS worth voting for. Now I vote as conservative as possible whether GOP (rare) or Democrat (non-existent where I live). And when and if I have money for a race, it goes to the candidate, not the party or the PAC.

        • The MOSEPH!!

          Democrat and conservative rarely, if ever, can be found to be harmonious. Or apply to the same individual. Common sense & personal responsibility are not in the Democrat handbook. Race baiting & blaming everyone else are, however.

          I, too, have found that the Republican Party no longer stands for my conservative values. I left a few years ago, though I will vote for the most conservative candidates in each election regardless of party (unless we’re talking a lesser of two evils & the more evil choice shouldn’t ever be allowed near a fountain pen & a piece of legislation). Thankfully, in the area, the Republicans typically are conservative. It’s a shame that’s not always the case on a national level.

        • MickeyFreakinDougal

          Isn’t it amazing how completely Big Jim ignored what you actually said in your original post?

          Good for you, Browncoat, and may God bless you with many more years of prosperity.

      • name429name

        When did he stop voting GOP?…”Pretty much voted Republican ever since. But I finished the four year program as a journeyman pipefitter and did that until 1990. I’d taken a CAD course and became an industrial piping designer. Done that ever since… And for the last 10+ years, the money has been very good. God had a plan. And worked.”

        • Browncoat

          I typically vote for GOP candidates but NOT because they’re Republican but because they’re the most conservative candidates.
          Same with or president. It’s his policies I’m against, not because he’s half black. My first choice for 2012 was Herman Cain. Allen West is at the top of my short list for 2016.

      • Oldflyer

        Big Jim. Snark is easy; requires minimal intelligence

  • Queenbee

    I’m with Athena007! I want the S.W.E.A.T. Pledge poster! PLEASE!

  • jeefray

    I push all young people towards the trades and find many of them are very interested. Especially when I tell them that they need young people, right now, to start learning a trade. I come from people that were hard working, in trades, picking fruit or any other job that kept food on the table. Real work is very satisfying. I had the dumbest job on the face of the Earth, but I enjoyed it because I brought my enthusiasm, along with my desire to do quality work. I watched other people live large and do very little for the money they were paid. It never ceases to amaze me that people think it’s okay to screw their employer, for any reason. So there’s nothing wrong with working for a living and I have a weird feeling that the compensation levels on trade jobs are going to skyrocket in the the next few years. Never seen your show, don’t care about your politics but I like that you push people to work.

  • Mary F. Clay

    Working hard is good for you; believe it or not! I enjoy hard work, make the day go faster!

  • Jared Blackburn

    There is a dirty (no pun intended) little secret here: Though there’s demand for these jobs, most want experience and very few have on the job training / apprenticeships (meaning, basically all require technical / vocational school) — well, they’re not called “skilled” for nothing, but getting the skills can be a problem. I guess that’s what the scholarship program is for. Still, these jobs really are basically out of reach for a lot of people, no mater their career interests. Claiming there are opportunities for anyone willing to work and learn from employers that are desperately begging and pleading seems to be a bit of an exaggeration from where I’m standing.

    Then, I guess that’s the point of all this — to convince kids to get training for an actual career while they still have the chance, even if its often too late for the old.

    • Jen Smith

      Jared; I cannot speak to what you said, although I will say that it is much the same for many new college graduates, including myself in 1990. I had the degree, even an internship and related experience as a science beat reporter on the campus paper. Employers still wanted experience, which one cannot get unless they’re hired. And you cannot get hired by so many without experience.

      So, I guess that I’m empathizing with you, sort of. Life is difficult, whatever path one takes. I think it’s worth it.

  • TheRockHardWorker

    I have 2 college degrees and i cant find a job to save my life. I have applied to lower positions min wage positions and companies want young kids fresh out of college to fill their low paying positions. Its ridiculous. My friend was a deckhand rt out of high school he was making $30k /yr now he makes $130k/yr with paid expenses full medical 2wk paid vacations etc. Its hard work but he gets paid for it. Now he has enough money saved up to get into a less physically demanding career. His main reasoning to get out is not the job its the ppl. He often complained how dumb his co workers were. Just really simplistic low educated mindset. They dont carry themselves very well. Meatheads. That is the only reason the reason he wants to quit. At least he’s able too. Maybe that’s why a lot of ppl don’t want to get into blue color work. Too many simple minded ppl in the field. Change that and i bet more ppl would valie those careers.

  • James Leary

    Hey All…I lost the Think BIG app, and can’t find it again….Anyone?

  • MickeyFreakinDougal

    You’re awesome, Mike Rowe!! I have a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science, but I just went to CDL school and am about to start a career in trucking. “Work Hard AND Smart” posters are hanging everywhere in our school.

  • Jeffrey Gibbs

    Mike… POTUS by executive order has implemented the DOD MOU order on all DOD installations worldwide fall 2014. Basically if your school is not a college or give college credit you can not be approved DOD MOU list. Not on the list you can not attend (any) worldwide DOD Job/Ed fairs. No schools for Heavy Equipment, railroad, Pipeline, commercial pilot, plumber, wind tower, boat captain, solar farm, commercial scuba diver, truck driver CDL, armorer, cell tower, on and on…Check yourself… the approved school list to attend military JOB/ED fairs on DOD installations worldwide is located at website DOD MOU…98% is college “bricks and mortar” or on-line classes. I work for Heavy Equipment training and in 10 weeks GI Bill approved funding graduate average salary 50k.. I can get a veteran a into a new career. We have been doing so for 50 plus years. Due to POTUS executive order as of 2014 we can no longer present this career opportunity at military JOB/ED fairs on DOD installations worldwide. “Somebody has got to do it” or aka dirty jobs training has been banned from DOD job fairs. Another result of POTUS overreach by executive order.

  • geezer2013

    What about old guys like me? I’m 73, near the end of my string…BUT I don’t want to just sit. I have a head full of knowledge, a lifetime of experience, and a good work ethic. Surely I’m worth more than just a Wal-Mart greeter … help!

  • LorleeLeeMurray

    I turned down a scholarship and instead got married, had first baby a year later – we needed income because my husband was in the Navy and did not (at that time) make enough (we qualified for food stamps but were to proud to ask for help). I used my four years in high school art and went out in search of a job – I found it in a print shop. I then learned everything they would teach me and moved to another print shop that offered more training, again working (at more money) and learning and moving up – eventually led me to a career in graphic design, print management and a free-lance advertising agency doing work for large companies such as Dole, Warner Brothers and others. I then had a heart attack and decided that 80 hours a week and 3 kids was too much – a friend offered me a job at a private art studio teaching kids art. I did that for 17 years. Now my husband an Electronics Engineer retired from the Navy at 55 – I run a studio for kids from my home, a ranch in mile high Prescott AZ, teach part-time (art) at a local rural 2-room school house and volunteer through the Prescott Art Docents, sell my free-lance photography and art as well. I do NOT have a degree. I have worked smart and hard all my life (5 jobs at one point, granted not long). I have three successful children (one Air Force, one a pre-school teacher and another with a homestead and all have children) – I will not push any to go to college unless it is what THEY want. Thank you for bringing work ethic and careers that all those who “work smart not hard” need everyday and think it is below them to look at those options.

  • LeaderMan

    I work with a group of people that are extremely intelligent and talented, but over the years whenever I’ve expressed working hard to accomplish something, I was always quickly corrected and made to feel embarrassed like I was using a poor way of thinking, Me and my wife have always been hard workers,smart thinkers, and account holders, meaning we hold ourselves accountable and we hold those working with us accountable, but we do it in a good nurturing and training way, because we also realize that we may learn from them too. We now have a new catchphrase we use with The young people that we work with and the older ones as well, “if you want more! do more!” I don’t think that ethics is anything people just know it’s something they have to be trained in, learned over time and realize that money does not mean everything, that the relationships and the knowledge you gain at any job if you put the time in, will help you on that next job. Or in other areas of your life if you just apply it. Thank you Mike for showing that these skills can still exist.