Last fall I stayed in Alabama for one month to work in home construction. During that month, I gained more construction experience than my previous 41 years of life, which consisted mostly of assembling Ikea furniture and nailing things to the wall. This blue-collar job was given to me at a stage of my life where I desire to own a home, so I took the work seriously and contemplated on the experience after it was over. Here are fourteen things I learned…

1. Nothing fits the first time around

You can sum up construction as “forcing things to fit that don’t want to fit together.” You can take your time, be methodical, and measure diligently with your tape, but when it comes time to lay down a counter or build stairs for a deck, the pieces won’t fit. Then you have to figure out how to make the thing fit, either by cutting some more, using a wood shim, or pounding it into place with your fists of rage.

As a perfectionist, I dislike how construction work is more an art than a science. In fact, my writing is more of a science because I am able to methodically examine the purpose of every word in every article or book before releasing it to an audience knowing that it is perfect based on my ability, but in construction the standard is often “that’s good enough” before moving on to the next task that will also be impossible to get perfect.

2. It’s okay to mess up

Mistakes happen all the time. Whenever you hear an outburst of profanity then one of your coworkers just made an error, and you hear profanity all day long. Construction is not a baking recipe where if you add the wrong amount of ingredients, your bread won’t rise properly. In fact, a good chunk of the workday is correcting your mistakes or correcting the mistakes of the contractor who tried to do the work before you.

The biggest hurdle I had to doing my own construction work was the fear that I would mess up. Now I see that as a big laugh. Even the experts mess up, so the perfectionist in me officially died in Alabama.

3. There is no one right way to complete a job

There is no field manual to complete a job. You attack a task based on your experience and the tools you have on hand. The more experience and the better tools you have, the more likely you will complete the job quickly with the fewest mistakes. When you’re learning on the job like I was, you observe a variety of techniques and then pick the most efficient ones to incorporate into your skillset.

Funnily enough, the one time there was a field manual on a job (to build an outdoor gazebo from a kit), the foreman didn’t like the instructions and modified it based on his experience, which ended up saving us time. Even a detailed instruction manual is just one way of getting things done.

4. Blue-collar men are not college-educated

I don’t remember meeting any college-educated men on the sites I worked at. When I got hired, the second-in-command looked at the boss and exclaimed, “We’re hiring former scientists now.” What the workers lacked in book knowledge they made up for in practical experience.

I noticed that blue-collar men process information and content differently than my college-educated peers. The attention spans of the former are not trained to read dense books or listen to long podcasts packed with information; they much prefer shorter snippets and sound bites to get to the essential truth of the matter, which I imagine is why politicians and corporations create memorable slogans. Blue-collar workers also don’t waste time participating in political activism or getting to the bottom of intricate cultural issues. They don’t have a vague mission to “spread the truth” or “improve society.” They care more about getting through the day and then getting paid on Friday. They hate communism, love guns, smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, engage in more direct communication without a labored sensitivity for other people’s feelings, are more masculine, are less politically correct, like making fun of gays, and curse in every other uttered sentence, if not every sentence.

5. Working outside is harder than working inside

When you’re working outside, you’re more likely to be digging holes, carrying very heavy things, serving as a blood meal for bugs, or on the verge of passing out from baking in the sun. By comparison, the hardest part of indoor work is bending down repeatedly. Digging holes in the summer heat really is the worst.

6. Workers break every safety rule in the book

Before using a new tool, I like to educate myself with safety videos on YouTube so that I don’t injure myself. The men I worked with never followed these rules, and actually invented new ways of using tools that were rather dangerous. One example is the “standing cut,” whereby a man takes a piece of wood, braces it against his bent right leg, then uses a circular saw to cut it. When it came to eye protection, the most common form was squint goggles, which as you may surmise is the act of squinting while sawdust is flying at your face. I was the only person on the job who ever used ear protection, and I figure the other guys thought I was a sissy for doing so.

The worst injury I saw on site was a man who dropped a heavy piece of metal on his foot. He wailed in pain for some time, almost to the point of tears. When I suggested he get emergency medical treatment, the foreman looked at me and said, “Roosh, I know you’re trying to be helpful, but he’ll be fine.” Sure enough, he resumed work a few minutes later.

7. Construction is a matter of time as much as skill

Most construction jobs can be done by any man possessing an IQ of 95, at a level comparable to the pros. As long as you study a handful of YouTube tutorials and be patient, you can complete a job that looks great, but the reason most people don’t do it themselves is because of time. Your lack of experience and skill means it will take you weeks to paint your house while the pros can do it in a couple of days. If you tell me to build an outdoor deck right now, I’m confident I could do it, but it would take me forever.

Construction isn’t rocket science. If you can assemble Ikea furniture then you can theoretically build stairs. In the future, I’ll probably do smaller home jobs on my own and hire out the bigger ones.

8. Building is more fun than finishing

Building is when you buy the raw materials from Home Depot, devise a plan, cut all the required pieces, and then put it together, such as a deck or even a house. There is a lot of room for error and you don’t have to pay much attention to detail. Finishing is when you’re painting, adding trim, caulking, touching-up, or otherwise doing a task that will make the outer layer finished and visible to the world. The latter is far more monotonous and boring because you can be doing the exact same task for hours on end, whereas building is composed of more tasks and variety. On the plus side, finishing is generally easier for an inexperienced worker because of its simplicity.

9. Your body is either built for manual labor or it’s not

My physical energy decreased every week while on the job with no hope of recovery. The 100+ equivalent squats I was doing each day caused my legs to feel numb at night. I was so tired that I didn’t even have the energy to read. I figured that for every four weeks I worked, I would need at least two weeks off.

Compare that to men who have been in this line of work for decades. There was one man in his fifties who had never seen a gym in his life. He drank heavily, smoked, and ate fast food every meal, yet he could run laps around me. A weekend of hard partying actually had the effect of increasing his energy. Many men who did not look physically impressive were able to maintain consistent output while I faltered because of my fragile constitution.

If I had to pay the bills, I have no doubt I could work construction indefinitely, but it would come at a cost of all other areas of my life, including my intellectual work. I wonder if the job we’re currently doing is the job we’re meant to do, and the fact that so many of us have comfortable desk jobs may be an indication of how weak men of our generation have become.

10. You don’t need the right tool (but it sure does help)

Home construction is a mobile job. You drive to a person’s home with the right materials and tools and then get to work, but you can only fit so many tools inside a truck. This means that you have to visualize the job beforehand and decide which tools you need, but you will always forget something, and when you do, it doesn’t make much sense to leave the job and spend an hour or two retrieving the tool you need. Improvisation is common.

I have witnessed water bottles being used as paint buckets and power drills used as hammers. One task I was assigned to called for using a clothing iron to melt a strip of adhesive attached to Formica. We did not have an iron, but we did have a hairdryer for some reason, so I used that instead. You will never have all the tools you need.

11. There is too much drone work

The more skilled you are, the less drone work you do, because it wouldn’t make sense for the foreman to mop the floors when the guy making the least amount (me) could do it, but even the most skilled worker did lowly things like hauling trash to a dumpster or digging holes. That said, if toilets had to be cleaned, like was the case one afternoon, the job went to me, and so I cleaned the toilets. Even the owner of the company got his hands dirty, usually when it came to meeting an urgent deadline. Your ability to get the job done mattered more than your perceived status of being above this type of work or that.

12. Your mind begins to obsess about lunch, quitting time, and the weekend

For the first week on the job, I was genuinely interested in all the work I was doing, but by the third week, all I could think about was lunch, and when lunch was over, all I could think about was going home. All my fantasies started to revolve around the times I knew I wouldn’t have to work, because the work itself wasn’t fun. Every cool thing I learned on the job was surrounded by hours of drone work. For my coworkers, the weekends were time to let loose and live it up to unwind the tension from working manual labor all week. They would sometimes scandalize me with stories come Monday.

13. The favorite music of your co-workers can drive you crazy

A few of my coworkers needed to listen to music while working, either rock, country, or hip hop. Rock was tolerable, especially if it was the oldies station. Country music was intolerable, because all of the songs were about a guy who couldn’t imagine living without this one amazing woman in his life. Maybe old country music displayed genuine masculinity, but modern country is idolatrous slop.

Hip-hop music was the worst. I wanted to take the power drills laying around and apply them to my brain to stop the pain from the incredibly stupid and disgusting lyrics. I could forge through country music, but during the hours of hip hop, I relied on prayer to distract me from the assault on my ears. I preferred working in silence, especially if we were outside, so that I could hear the birds. They were my preferred music.

14. Construction is not worth doing financially unless you develop a specialty or trade

I imagine that entry-level construction is the hardest way to make money. Your pay hardly increases with years on the job (partially thanks to the flood of unskilled immigrant labor), there are no benefits like health care, and if your body wears out, you will be in dire straights. Unless you are a college student looking for a short-term job, I can’t advise it.

To make a blue-collar job worth your while, you should receive training and focus on a specialty. Better to become a carpenter, plumber, electrician, car mechanic, or some other trade where a hungry Central American worker who just arrived in the country can’t immediately compete against you. These jobs still require a heavy bodily investment but less than a grunt worker. You use more of your mind and get paid way more.

Another option is to start as a grunt worker, gain experience over a few years, and then start your own contracting company. From observing my boss, there is a lot of stress involved in owning a firm since you are responsible for both employees and demanding clients, but you can achieve a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. I did notice that heavy smoking and drinking are common among men who work construction.

Conclusion

I can admit that I had a romanticized view of manual labor. It has been easy for me to advise other men to pursue a trade while I sit at a desk all day, but now that I see the intense bodily involvement, I can’t advise it for men who don’t have a sturdy physical constitution. If you’re a dainty cosmopolitanite like me, you will wear your body out before retirement and have to pursue another line of work.

Even though I’m not cut out for manual labor, it was more fulfilling to me as a man. My body was used more in line with its intention from creation and I slept better than I ever have. I enjoyed the comradery with salt-of-the-earth men where I did not have to speak with a filter in case I offended a female coworker who would then rat me out to Human Resources. If I could develop a specialty where the physical labor component was eased somewhat, I believe I could perform this type of work to earn my daily bread, but it looks like God has given me a different gift.

Construction may not be for every man, but if you have the opportunity to try it for a short while, I recommend it. You will work as men of old did, perhaps like those of your ancestry, and experience a different side of your nature that is concealed from you while working the comfortable jobs of modern times.

Read Next: 6 Things I Learned From Camping Alone

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I worked as a helper for some electricians over a summer a few years ago. I learned many of the same lessons. The music was intolerable even back then and I wasn't even a baptized Christian yet. There's lots of drug use. Since it was a union job, the main way the owner of the company would "fire" people would be to transfer them from a job that didn't drug test to a job that did drug test. When our site's construction was winding down, he let the apprentice and one electrician know they were being transferred to a drug test job the coming Monday. Both of them said they got shoulder injuries that weekend, so they couldn't come in to work. Overall I liked that job because when doing electrical work there's a lot of time to yourself, and you could put in earbuds and listen to a podcast and as long as you're aware of your surroundings, you'll be fine. (I was almost run over by a forklift while listening to a podcast).

I believe the only reason I was able to endure physically was because of the muscle memory I had built up from sports and training from my childhood to early 20s. Wrestling and soccer were invaluable for endurance, and football and weight lifting were necessary for the heavy lifting. Still, I was drained at the end of most days (and electrical work is often easier than other trades) and if I had a family, I don't know how I would have the energy to be a good father. Maybe that would come with more time on the job - also when you become a journeyman you do a little less physical labor than the apprentices/helpers.

Every time I ever worked a union job there was a lot of the "good enough" mentality - in the sense that you didn't need to try to be a good worker, just not a bad one.

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Well said, Roosh! The most physical job I ever worked was as a technician working for this sort of IT offshoot group. We were often also called upon to do things that were vaguely related to IT, like drilling holes for wires, carrying heavy things (not always computer equipment) up and down flights of stairs, and sometimes even between buildings that were about half a mile apart, in the hot Southern sun. That was before we got the privilege of having a golf cart, which made those types of tasks more fun. But the takeaway is that IT is surprisingly physical for a job that's supposed to be about computers. Also, IT also usually follows the "good enough" model: if the user is satisfied with the work you did, it's good enough. Pack up and head back to the office, and check the tickets for more issues that need your attention.

It's a far cry from being a coder, though, where you're paid to just sit at your computer and type. Sometimes it's an odd feeling having to ask for IT guys to come do stuff at my desk, because I'm so accustomed to doing it myself and being the IT guy, but it's "policy". And as for "good enough" - kind of, with coding. There is no such thing as perfect code, but other coders will ride your butt about writing better code or sperg out about trivial little things that don't really matter. In fact, we get a lot of spergs compared to straight up IT, now that I think about it.

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6. Workers break every safety rule in the book

Yuppers... I once worked at big-box retail store that sold Christmas trees. Went to cover the lunch of the guy working of selling the Christmas trees.

I got a 5 second instructions on how to run the chainsaw and how to cut the base of the Christmas Trees, and was left alone. I had no safety equipment when operating it. That isn't an anomaly, I've seen other places like Lowe's and Walmart all do the same thing during Christmas. The insurance companies would have heart attacks at that.

Now retail and customer service work... Do that for a month. Then come back and tell me that most people are going to Heaven.

I once took a little poll of my coworkers, if only retail and customer service people could vote, we'd all wake up tomorrow in a brutal police state that would be a combination of the "Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice" and the Chinese Communist Party. "The Chinese are too soft on their criminals" one coworkers told me.

St. Joseph the Worker would be proud of you, Roosh.

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This seems like the polar opposite of my last job. I won't get too specific but I collaborated with the science labs at a university, and the paranoid-level fixation with safety was just tiring and outright demoralizing. The minute, petty, and pointless rules made me seriously wonder if the people in charge almost get some kind of weird turn-on.
Another position a few years ago was working on a research vessel. As women are shoe-horned into science now, it was roughly 50/50 male and female, but I was part of a different project on board where the work was a lot more physical, and unsurprisingly, all male; the women were involved in "cooler", less physically demanding, and less boring work. During the work day, when the teams went their separate ways, the atmosphere in my all-male group radically changed - no topic was taboo. Communication was straightforward and simple. Mistakes were called out immediately, but not dwelled upon or turned into some meeting.

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Very interesting story. It took guts to do that at your age Roosh, if even for a month. Except for one less than two year stint trying white collar office work (hated it), I was either in the military or doing mechanics or machining/heavy manufacturing assembly for many years. Much of the mechanics was outdoors at customer sites in all weather. But those career paths were a very good fit for me. Sometimes my co-workers, especially in unionized manufacturing, left a lot to be desired, in terms of laziness and passive-aggressive behavior. But I always had adequate to very good pay and benefits that allowed my wife to stay home with kids. I wouldn't change too much.

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15) There is a very high usage of illegal drugs, especially pot, among construction workers, often times on the job.

As for the bit about remembering which tools, etc. I agree, and anecdotally the best way to find a local contractor who knows what they are doing is to go to the Home Depot/Lowes parking lot about a half hour before they open to see which contractors show up. Stay there for a while, see who shows up late, or who has to come back a second time a couple of hours later.

Only hire the ones who are there early and get it right the first time.

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I've worked in both male professions and female "professions". Male professions are tough work with tight deadlines and considerable risk and stress. They very from being mind-numbingly repetitive to extremely difficult and risky, often in a matter of seconds. Female "professions" are no different than receiving welfare. The only exception is retail / food service work.

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When I was in college, I tried doing temporary farm work. At the end of the day I was so exhausted I could barely make it into bed.

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Roosh, I wonder if you would enjoy a hobby like woodworking? It might be a good way to scratch the itch of doing something tactile and physical, and you get a real sense of satisfaction from building stuff. Plus, it (should) last a long longer than cooking/baking food.

My dad works doing computer stuff but has done woodworking and home renovation projects for fun my entire life, it's worked out pretty well for him. You get to achieve something with your hands, but in a less demanding environment than working as a contractor.

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Yuppers... I once worked at big-box retail store that sold Christmas trees. Went to cover the lunch of the guy working of selling the Christmas trees.

I got a 5 second instructions on how to run the chainsaw and how to cut the base of the Christmas Trees, and was left alone. I had no safety equipment when operating it. That isn't an anomaly, I've seen other places like Lowe's and Walmart all do the same thing during Christmas. The insurance companies would have heart attacks at that.

Now retail and customer service work... Do that for a month. Then come back and tell me that most people are going to Heaven.

I'm a line cook, and I did some front-of-house stuff when I was younger. Dealing with people does suck, but I always noticed the people who had the worst problems were the ones who started out with bad attitudes.

I think the average older person grew up in a different time of customer service (more training, paid on commission, department stores were glorious wonderlands of consumer goods), and others base their expectations around movies. I worked a retail job in between quitting pre-school/getting a cook position and wow that sucked, lol

But yeah random people tell you awful things, like having children is "bad for the environment" or that America should also a one-child policy. Elitist mindsets: not just for the elites!

I'm one of those people who would get twitchy and weird working in an office. I'm also more comfortable standing or running around than sitting. I also get free food at the end of the night and yell at my coworkers!

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Roosh, I wonder if you would enjoy a hobby like woodworking? It might be a good way to scratch the itch of doing

That's one of the first hobbies I will try after getting out of the apartment I'm currently living in.

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Roosh, I wonder if you would enjoy a hobby like woodworking? It might be a good way to scratch the itch of doing something tactile and physical, and you get a real sense of satisfaction from building stuff. Plus, it (should) last a long longer than cooking/baking food.

My dad works doing computer stuff but has done woodworking and home renovation projects for fun my entire life, it's worked out pretty well for him. You get to achieve something with your hands, but in a less demanding environment than working as a contractor.

I agree. I'm very interested in finish carpentry, cabinet making, and restorations. Mostly stuff I can do as a one man or occasionally two man crew.

I'd hope to make a legit side-gig out of it, but either way, it looks like a great thing for those of us who are a not spring chickens anymore and don't have a huge background in manual labor (I have a bit more than Roosh, plus military experience, but not too much in manual trades)

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I think that all men should work at least one manual labor job in their life, even if they are set in a comfortable and lucrative career path.

In my late teens and early twenties I worked a few farm jobs. Some sucked and I only stayed for a month or two, but others were good and I stayed the season / until I had to move locations. Either way, I learned a lot about myself and my limits. I also learned a lot about plants, cycles of nature, animals, weather patterns, etc. -- there is a lot to it, and I really just was able to acquire a pretty basic level understanding. It's probably not the most difficult job ever, but it is very demanding and made it hard to do much else. I'd come home from work, eat, and be too tired to do much else.

One benefit I liked with farming is that there is generally a lot of time to work by one's self, and the times I worked with others was often enjoyable. Farming attracts all sorts of people, but most are pretty friendly and down-to-earth. I always did smaller and organic farms, so I didn't have to deal with all the pesticides, big tractors, etc.

I definitely think this kind of work helps build work ethic that can transfer to other jobs. Perhaps more importantly, it instills a certain sense of gratitude and humbleness, or at least it can for people who have a good attitude about things.

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A long time ago and for a brief period I worked as a sparky's assistant. Pretty much everything discussed in this article also happens on British construction sites. I laughed a lot, reading this and remembering it all. It was during an incredibly cold spell, mid-winter, and I had to do the first fix, nailing metal cladding down walls for cables. My fingers were so numb I could hardly feel them, and I had to keep warming them over a halogen site light just to get them working.

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Imagine a crash of the current system with an artificially created lot of useless jobs producing nothing valuable for human life.
So many people today never were holding a simple hammer in their hand.
There will be a lot of pain when the house of cards collapses.

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I'm close to Roosh's age, late 30s/early 40s. I always worked labor jobs loading and unloading boats around 95% men my entire young life. I was huckstered into a computer job over my original choice, construction mechanic, by a Navy recruiter because of my high ASVAB score. The promises of huge enlistment bonuses and cushy inside work fooled me into 6 miserable years in an office job. This was during the Bush years, so things hadn't gone full retard yet in the military, but it was exactly like the movie Office Space and I loathed the work. After leaving the military, I worked as a merchant Mariner for a while then began learning trades. I've worked as a Diesel mechanic and in construction since then. I specialize in drywall hanging and finishing, which I got into at first because nobody else wanted to do it and they subbed it out. But I love the work. It helps to be slightly on the spectrum as I suspect I am.

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Blacksmithing is another option.

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Interesting article. I was thinking a lot about getting a job with a strong focus on manual work. Until now I only had one vacation job after I finished school, where I had to do a lot of manual work. Since I started with my studies at the Universtity, I am most of the time sitting in front of a computer. Right now, I am working in the IT business and the constant sitting and watching at a screen is killing me. Therefore, I was thinking about switching to a trade done mainly outside, but am not really sure about it. Your article somehow confirms my doubts I have about moving into a direction of manual work. My body has been more or less only a carrier of brain for most of my life and I have not been in good shape since I left school, but my body is itching to do more than just carry the brain.

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Another good paying blue-collar option is working on a pushboat. Pushboats move barges up and down the nations rivers. It pays well, plenty of time off, and you save money because you eat and live free while on the boat. A friend of mine does it and he works a month on, a month off. The company flies him to the port and home each trip. (He works out of Texas, but lives in Michigan.) He makes over $100k.

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