What would it take to get you to bite off a lamb’s testicles?

Now there’s a question you need to ponder over.  Not like biting off lamb testicles was on your radar screen, or that you knew that people get paid to do that, but sure enough as Mike Rowe learned, there are people that do this as part of their overall practice of sheep ranching.

What does this have to do with anything?

Essentially this is an article about work and that your beliefs about it—and by extension that your beliefs about a whole bunch of other things—may be wrong.

Mike Rowe does a TV show called “Dirty Jobs.”  I had never heard of it before I saw this TED video below, and I’ve learned that he goes all over the world to learn about the unpleasant, dangerous, and just plain crazy jobs that some people have.

In the 20 minute TED clip you’ll find at the end of this article, Mike  relates a story about how he went to a particular “dirty job” with certain expectations on the “right” way of doing things, only to discover not only something completely unexpected, but that the “right” way, the way advocated in every text book and by “experts” was exactly the wrong thing to do.

That’s about as much as I’m going to say here about lamb testicles; to get your face in it, as Mike did, you’ll have to watch the clip below.

But still you ask, “What does this have to do with anything?”  Well …


Everything should be up for examination and re-examination because despite what you think, you don’t and never will have the final word on anything or anyone.  A willingness to look and listen newly may bring moments of such momentous discovery that it completely turns your world upside down; a phenomenon called peripeteia.  Something else I learned from Mike.

And Work more than anything deserves your careful re-examination

We spend most of our lives working or at least at work, and it is my most fervent wish that people find work that fulfills them, work that they are passionate about.

Many years ago, I remember listening to a young vice-president at AT&T talk about how every Monday morning he was so charged up to get to work that he literally wanted to kick the door down to get into his office.

At the time I was a young intern and until that moment I had never been around anyone with such a positive perspective on work. Work for me was something no one wanted to do, but what everyone had to do in order to earn money.

Since then I have come to see that work has indeed got a bad and undeserved rep and that work need not be a four-letter word.

In keeping with perepeteia—things that you think you know being completely wrong— in the clip below, Mike talks about how he was surprised to find that the people he worked with on his show, the people with the dirtiest jobs, were the happiest and most balanced people he knows.

These people were working with their hands in some of the filthiest or most dangerous conditions in the world, and it made him think that …

Work may not be about following your passion

The world is filled with actors and musicians who wait on tables to pay their rent.  They are clearly following their passion but they don’t earn a living from it; in fact very, very few will be able to earn a sustainable living from following their passion.

So if earning a comfortable living, being able to afford a nice home and put your kids through college is important to you, then following your passion may indeed be the worst advice you can get: peripeteia.

This was Mike’s conclusion from being around all of these people doing dirty jobs, some of whom were making lots of money from doing unpleasant and unexpected work, like the farmer who realized there was a market for biodegradable pots made of cow manure, or the pig farmer who realized he could feed his pigs from all of the left-over food being thrown away every day from hotels and restaurants.

These people were all very happy about their jobs, but none of them got to it by following their passion.

It’s about finding work you can be passionate about

There’s a huge difference.  I would never tell anyone to not follow their passion, but everyone needs to make an honest assessment of whether that thing they’re so passionate about can provide the income they’ll need to have the life they want.

You may come to the sad truth that your passion won’t provide the lifestyle you want, and to be responsible for the entirety of your life, to be responsible for your future, you’ll need to pursue something else.

On the other hand you may have a job that provides you with the lifestyle and security you want, but that you dread, because the company’s values are not your own, or that your bosses, colleagues and/or customers combine to make an absolutely unpleasant and disempowering workplace.  I don’t know which is worse

The good news is that passion can be found in the strangest and most unexpected of places, and all that’s required is an open mind, your willingness to explore and the courage to step into the unknown.

Taking such a step may occur for you like biting off a lamb’s testicles, but under your circumstances it may be the absolute best thing for you to do.  Peripeteia.


Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.