The Color of Your Collar

Richard Van Staten published in CEO World Magazine.  The blue collar/white collar dichotomy has come to define the working world: two hemispheres in opposition, each necessary in their own way but completely different in all respects. We’ve even got a diametrically opposed image for each: the gritty, oil-stained blue collar grunt and the pristine, starched-shirt white collar desk jockey. It seems to most like these two imaginary workers couldn’t be any more different when it comes to motivation, tasks, and personality.

Too Much to Ask: The Color of Your Collar

In truth, the two worlds aren’t as different as many people imagine. As someone who’s spent time in both, I can tell you there are plenty of lessons I picked up from my more physical, hands on blue-collar background that came in handy once I entered the corporate world. I don’t mean wrestling with toner, either: the fundamental takeaways from each job sphere are remarkably similar. It was hard to see these similarities when I was breaking my back on a construction site, but once I made it to that corner office, I realized how well working with my hands prepared me to thrive in the button-down world.

Results are Paramount 

Any working situation is all about results: whether they’re ones you can hold in your hands or a readout on a computer screen. For a blue collar laborer, the quality of the day’s work is usually a little more tangible: a strongly built structure, ready to stand in any weather or conditions. If the effort wasn’t there, the results could be disastrous, and responsibility belonged to the hands that built it.

That level of accountability was a great motivator during my days doing manual labor. I’ve always held onto the knowledge that every project I work on has my signature on it, a fact that goes for white collar work as well. Even a well-crafted email gives a measure of pride, when it’s done without spilling your coffee. No matter where your work happens, you’re only as good as your results.

Punch In, Punch Out 

Another thing I learned in the blue-collar world is that your work, while crucial, can never define you entirely. You punch your card, you do what you’re there to do as best as you can do it, then when it’s time to punch out, you leave it behind. The best kind of worker is one that’s well-rounded–they can compartmentalize their lives so that personal and professional obligations don’t bleed into each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I live for my work. But having outside interests keeps one balanced, and ever prepared to walk into the office (or building site) fresh and ready every morning. Burnout is a real, measured effect of overworking, so it’s best to know when it’s time to punch out and regroup.

Money Matters – Especially Yours

Another thing you learn when working construction: every penny counts. Some blue collar jobs don’t have the pay security you get with a desk job, so needing to miss time might mean missing a paycheck as well. When that’s the case, you need to budget to survive. Living within your means is something everyone needs to do, but when those means don’t come reliably, you learn to make the most of what you have.

Maximizing my own personal budget as a laborer turned out to be great preparation for working within project budgets as a white-collar manager. Wearing wingtips to work rather than work boots didn’t make the money move any differently. Learning to manage funds when overruns simply weren’t an option keeps you in line, even when the money isn’t coming out of your pocket. That ability has proven to be one of the strongest assets in my white collar life, and it came straight from my blue collar background.

Building a Team

A blue collar worksite looks a lot different from a white collar one, and I’m not just talking about the level of dirt and grime. When the main qualifications for the job are two able hands and a solid spine, not advanced degrees, you find people from all walks of life. When it’s time to deliver, though, that array of people needs to come together and execute, sometimes in extremely dangerous conditions. Working in a situation where miscommunication can mean severe injury or death, the importance of coming together as a team, no matter who you were, was hammered into all of our heads.

White collar jobs are no different. You might not have your physical well-being on the line, but the need to execute on an big initiative is crucial all the same. It takes teamwork to bring a major idea to life, whether raising a building or rolling out a new software system. Every job requires team members to communicate, collaborate, and leave their fears behind. Coalescing a team of often highly differentiated people all around one common task is the lifeblood of a successful job, no matter where it’s happening.

It might not have been a prestigious business school, but climbing actual ladders in the blue collar world taught me a lot more about ascending the corporate ladder than some might assume. Making your way in the corporate world takes a lot of the same attributes you find on a construction site: results, responsibility, and teamwork. At the end of the day, our work goals aren’t so different. If you’re the kind of person who wants to do a good job, you can hit that mark no matter the color of your collar.

The Hypnic Jerk Life

Wake Up

You could make any number of assumptions as to what this is about given it’s plurality in meaning. We will avoid the obvious in this case and know that it also means someone who is distracted or wasting time, or basically an insult to someone vaguely implying that they are clueless.

Falling From the Tree

When you are going to sleep do your muscles ever involuntarily twitch or “jerk”? They can also feel like jumps or jolts, even have the feeling of electric shock or even being startled. Most people do experience this phenomenon regularly when going to sleep – up to 70% in fact, and even more on occasion. I won’t make light of the all-encompassing myoclonus, which refers to nervous system disorders that are related to multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s diseases, and many other serious disorders.

No need to worry as these jerks are most common in healthy humans and occur more frequently that you may realize, even after you are asleep, but generally before the deeper state of Rapid Eye Movement (REM). Not much more scientific explanation other than arbitrary and spontaneous muscle contractions or spasms or that of neurotransmitters in the brain that carry messages to the muscles having chemical imbalances or miscalculations during sleep starts. There is not concrete evidence that suggest exactly why these twitches or jerks occur, and no paragon has been found during scientific study.

Theoretically, some would suggest that it your body going into a relaxation transition and the brain is misunderstanding and firing off signals. Others suggest that your body thinks it is dying and attempting to wake you up as your breathing begins to become comparatively faint during sleep. A more archaic thought is that it may come from our distant ancestry of primates that feel as if they are falling out of a tree and the muscle spasm is an instrument of warning. Surely as science investigates, there is much more to it than that, and likely a sophisticated reasoning if I was a betting man.


A hypnagogic jerk is essentially a subset of myoclonus, also known as hypnic jerks – which sounds like a British punk band name to me – “The Hypnic Jerks”. They generally occur as a person is drifting off to sleep, sometimes in patterns, other times none at all. It is so named in reference the transitional period between wakefulness and sleep or sleep starts. The other most common form of a myoclonic jerk is the common hiccup. In this case it is simply occurring in the diaphragm while fully awake, rather than when going to sleep. As a side, just about every time I or others have experienced hiccups, a spoonful of peanut butter will make it go away immediately. I am not a physician, consult your doctor, disclaimer, disclaimer, etc.


It would be suggested to stay in the purview and businesses my titles suggest – Chief Executive Officer of a Business Information Technology (IT) company, Chairman of Consulting Firm, Founder of a software company. To the contrary, I am in the business of understanding the mind, psychology, human nature, animalistic and primitive behaviors, humanity, politics, and many more principal topics and applying them to business and technology. Hence the tagline “It’s All in Your Head”. The businesses I operate are simply outcomes of these studies and understandings and I happen to thoroughly enjoy them.

Why are we talking about this? First of all, it’s just interesting to know. More importantly I find it applicable as a reasonable equivalence to what many people are now doing while seemingly awake. Eyes are open, they are breathing, things appear to be functioning, but not much is going on in there, or maybe too much is going on in there. Yes, they are awake, but I find and meet many people that appear to be in a hypnotic state of life and work akin to the start sleep state when you go to bed and similar to paralysis analysis. It’s not a purified proposal of laziness, but more suspect of confusion, burden, anxiety, pressure and other adjuvant factors decidedly contributing to this state of polarization for many people.

We can talk all we want, complain all we want, seek out useless therapies and remedies, and attempt to adjust to life accordingly with any variety of non-accountable fixes.  Until one makes a conscious decision to leave this state of hypnosis, this state of sleep start while actually awake, and permit your mind to misfire, to misinterpret, to hiccup, to give yourself an awakening, a self-imposed hypnic jerk – you will continue to deteriorate in a stagnant lifeless pond, dying in the most methodical and unnecessary way possible. Sound attractive? Not at all.


Newton’s laws of physics. Life is a perpetual state of actions and reactions. The degree to which those are either elevated or drowned is entirely up to the person. Forces are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction, yet the least massive object receives the greatest acceleration. It’s understandably challenging in today’s unrelenting environment. But don’t fall asleep in life. Be accountable, be responsible, and most importantly be confident and competent. Position yourself as the larger object, start with something small, and watch your life accelerate.