Mike says many people don't appreciate the dirty work that needs to be done—and he has a theory why. "I think there's a dirt index in the country," he says. "Over the years, we've always been able to link our willingness to get dirty with a certain level of productivity and a certain level of respect."

One hundred years ago, people had more of an understanding of dirty jobs like farming, Mike says, but now that manufacturing, technology and financial services have taken the place of manual labor, people no longer value the dirty jobs. "We're disconnected to who those people are," he says. "I don't think we really have a genuine appreciation for the world we'd be in if not for them."

Despite popular belief, Mike says these jobs aren't easy. Mike has cracked ribs, broken knuckles and worse. While working with a blacksmith, he sustained his most serious injury when a blast furnace melted his contact lenses to his eyes. "When you pick the little bits of plastic out of your retina, it's a certain gut check, and you realize, 'Oh, you should probably not do that,'" he says. "And when you blink, it makes a clicking sound that you don't want to hear."


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