"Just a plumber?!" Unfortunately, trades people have demonstrated their skills so deftly and with such ease that their accomplishments are grossly undervalued.

I adore a man who can work with his hands. I admire a woman who knows how to handle a Channelocks. I appreciate a well laid-out mechanical room. I'm a huge fan of trades people.

Trades people are more in touch with the truth than other people are. They are a no-nonsense group. They know that the electrical current is there, or it's not. The burner fires up, or it doesn't. It's plumb, or it's not. Trades people have remarkable "baloney" detectors. They identify quality by performance. They know that actions, not words, are the true measure of a person. Trades people understand the material universe and the way things work. That understanding is becoming increasingly rare.

Dear trades people, dear craftsmen and craftswomen of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling industry, do you have any idea how amazing you are? Have I told you lately that I'm grateful? Have I told you lately that I love you?

All hail the electricians! Dear electricians, you are lightning wranglers! You channel raw energy into orderly lines of controlled power, from just enough to energize a night light to more than enough to illuminate New York City. The Internet is an amazing feat of technology, and it's driven by electricity. Even the wireless world is sparked by finely tuned connecting dots of electricity. Electricians routinely handle enough power to blast a man into outer space, or into the next life, and deliver it in just-right doses.

Three cheers for heating and cooling professionals. My friends, you create weather! You deliver cool breezes inside when the temperatures soar outside. You keep folks roasty-toasty in the winter. You screen the air to remove dust and pollen to keep us from sneezing. Too much moisture in the air? Not enough? You can fix that!

Within the PHC world, there are the radiant panel experts. Stand up and take a bow. Instead of heating and cooling the air, you wizards heat and cool objects - from floors and ceilings to football fields to concrete dogs. Previously, only the sun could create radiant warmth. Ahhh, the pleasure of lying down on a sun-kissed beach, and feeling the heat of the sand ooze into you. You radiant heating pros use boilers, circulators and the right measure of pipe to create that delightful experience. In fact, your work is more reliable than the sun's system, and can be delivered on command.

Hurray for the plumbers! Consider our collective daily contributions to the plumbing system. Where does it all go? Plumbers make it disappear! Isn't that incredible?

I'm especially fond of plumbers. Dear plumbers, you are heroes. And not just for clearing the inevitably clogged pipes on the day after Thanksgiving. In the aftermath of a natural or manmade disaster, what is the No. 1 necessity? Water. Water to drink. Water to wash away the threat of disease. After an earthquake, tornado or even after a flood, you restore the water and waste systems.

I'm so fond of plumbers that I married one! Hot Rod, like most plumbers, has common sense and a clear concept of right and wrong. I find these traits very attractive.

Close your eyes for a moment. Picture the city in which you live. See it in your mind's eye. Now, strip away the walls and floors and furniture. Take away everything except the complex network of plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical systems. Picture the lines and pipes and wires and pumps and various components of these systems, like the circulatory system and nervous system of our society. Orderly lines, coming and going, offering incredibly accurate delivery of power, water and weather. How well it all works! If not for them, we would be wallowing around in muck, in the dark, and struggling to keep warm. Thank goodness for the professionals of the PHC trades!

Grossly Undervalued

Alas, trades people have demonstrated their skills so deftly and with such ease that their accomplishments are grossly undervalued. In First World societies, most people consider indoor plumbing, heating and electrical services as their God-given, Constitution-protected rights. Trades people themselves undervalue their contributions, mistakenly believing that because these skills come easily to them, they are not worth very much.

How many times I have heard someone introduce himself as, "just a plumber!" That's like saying, "I'm just an astronaut" or "I'm just a miracle worker." I'm in awe of the skills and talents you possess. I'm dazzled by the good work that you perform. How few people can do what you can do! That's why I am such a pest when it comes to your selling prices!

You deserve to make a lot of money. How much? Well, let's compare your skills to those of other professionals.

It's true that plumbers have prevented more disease than doctors have ever cured. Compared to what you do, how hard would it be to be a doctor? Take the most elite of doctors, the surgeon, and consider that every time he opens up a human being, the body's systems always have the same basic layout. How tough would that be to figure out? Not much compared to what PHC professionals have to deal with?

You deserve to make more money than doctors. You deserve to make more money than lawyers! In the wake of a PHC professional, there is solid production. Problems are fixed. Buildings are built. Homes are cooled. Floors are warmed. Water is purified. Waste is removed. In the wake of lawyers, there are lawsuits - and layers of lawyers.

Certainly, doctors and lawyers and other professionals can provide beneficial services to people. But, based on your contributions to society, based on your positive impact on the survivability of mankind on this planet, you deserve to make more money than doctors and lawyers. Certainly, you deserve to make more than movie stars, pro athletes and real estate brokers . . . most of whom make a lot more money than most of you.

What will it take to elevate trades people to the level of success enjoyed by other professionals? Mark Victor Hansen says you can raise your rates as often as you raise your self-esteem. How can we raise the self-esteem of this entire industry? By recognizing and honoring the people in it, for who they are and what they do.

Here's an assignment for every PHC professional: Have you told yourself how wonderful you are? Start keeping a journal. Write down your goals and dreams. Jot down stories about yourself, your family and your co-workers. Make a list of things for which you are grateful. Keep a list of things you want to do and places you want to go.

Document your jobs. Keep a running commentary on particularly challenging projects. Describe your troubleshooting techniques. Draw pictures of your great inventions. Take the journal with you to classes and record the most interesting and useful pieces of information.

And every now and then, flip back to the beginning page of your journal and read forward. You will be amazed at how much you've learned and accomplished. It's easy to lose sight of accomplishments when you are focused on how much there is still to do. As you look back, acknowledge yourself for what you have achieved. Tell yourself you love you.

And what have you told others lately? Chances are you are working with other professionals in your industry - apprentices, journeymen, masters - people of all skill levels, all ages. Take a moment and recognize them for the great work that they do. Point out the ways that they are making life better for all of us. When a job is well done, look him or her in the eye, and say so. Tell them you love them.

Finally, here's an assignment for the rest of us. Tell the PHC professionals how much we love them. And say, "Thank you."

(This article was born from my speech at the RPA convention in May in Salt Lake City, Utah.)