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Disrupt Yourself Podcast with Whitney Johnson

Aug 31, 2021

TV host, author, and podcaster Mike Rowe would have been a construction worker if not for advice from his grandfather: "Find a different toolbox."

Turns out, Mike wasn't great with his hands, but his grandfather and other mentors recognized different skills. They pushed him out of his comfort zone and in front of microphones and cameras.

Today, Mike's wildly popular "Dirty Jobs" TV series has shown millions of viewers what it takes to do extraordinary jobs that don’t get talked about on “Career Day,” but are critical to a well-functioning society. And Rowe credits a lot of his success to multiple failures. The show itself was born out of a TV news segment gone wrong.

In this episode, Mike and Whitney discuss the unusual mindset of his early career: He sought out bad ideas and was happy to get paid to work on projects that were doomed to fail. Removing the stakes freed him up to experiment and take risks, which led to much more interesting projects.

Mike also discusses the importance of music in his life, and how a conclave of war veterans singing sad barbershop songs changed his perspective. "It was so uncool I was fascinated by it."

What did you learn from this conversation with Mike? What risks are you taking these days, and what are your fears about them? Email Whitney Johnson at for a chance to receive a signed copy of Mike's book, "The Way I Heard It."