A picture of a book called Walden

I Love Shoveling Manure

Last night, I spoke with a friend who feels like a failure. He left a high-paying career for a blue-collar job and wonders if he’s sold himself short. He’s happy, but worried that he gave up the “better life.” It made me think of Henry David Thoreau shoveling manure.

The nineteenth-century philosopher left his life in Concord, Massachusetts to build a small cabin in the woods near Walden Pond so that he could live deliberately. Thoreau, a Harvard graduate and intellectual, spent his time tending to his bean fields, writing, and thinking. For money, he took on manual labor jobs from nannying Ralph Waldo Emerson’s children to shoveling manure. Why would a Harvard grad do that? He could have been a titan.

Many criticize him, calling him a loafer. Not me. Thoreau enjoyed this kind of work because it allowed him time to think. He prized freedom over money. While a well-paying career comes with a big paycheck, it also consumes your entire mental landscape. You’re trading your life for that job, and for people like Thoreau, that’s not the “better life.”

Just something to think about.

Until tomorrow, read slowly, take notes, and apply the ideas.


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