Recently, I was working on a huge project that was consuming so much of my time and energy. In fact, for a week or so, I talked myself out of starting it!
I knew it was going to be tough! I didn’t even know how to plan it. There were many moving parts, and I would need help from subject matter experts (SMEs). I noticed that the more days I failed to start, the more anxiety it caused in me. I tried to focus on other work, some of it pressing, but in the back of my mind, I knew if I did not start the project, no one else would.
The pressure was weighing on me … I’m the one person that would have to explain it to the customer. I was nervous, concerned, and somewhat overwhelmed.
But … I knew that it had to be completed, and there was a looming deadline!
The Cleaning Lady
What inspired me to finally start? One day, while working out on my elliptical, I recalled a conversation I had with a hotel housekeeper. I struck up a cordial chat with her in Spanish asking her about how she was doing and where she was from.
I mentioned to her that I always put my towels in a corner and do my best to leave the hotel room somewhat clean.
She exclaimed: “No! I love to see the dirtiest rooms! That is what motivates me the most!”
We ended the conversation with a laugh, and I walked away thinking, “Who in the world would want the dirtiest rooms to clean? Not me! For sure!”
Back to My Project
As I started working on my project, what I suspected was real. The darn thing was too complex. There were so many loose ends, and some of the “ends” were frayed.
It felt like I was walking in a dark tunnel, alone, with a flashlight that had just lost its battery power. I couldn’t see the sides to help orient me, and I didn’t know if the light at the far end of the tunnel was near or very far away. In fact, this tunnel was missing a walkway which was causing me to bump into rocks along the way.
It was unchartered territory … no doubt.
After a week or so, I started to put some of the pieces of the puzzle together. I also hired a few people to aid with some aspects of the work where my skills were lacking or non-existent. The work was still tough, but it started getting fun.
In fact, it seemed to me that I was happiest when we overcame the “dirtiest” work … the type that is hard to define, difficult to understand, and requires non-stop energy and concentration.
The cleaning lady’s comment now made clear sense to me! She loved the dirtiest rooms because she could use her skills and energy to make it look near perfect. I had a vision of walking into a super-messy hotel room, but 15 minutes later, the room looked impeccable.
This is what drove her! This sense of accomplishment created meaning in her work.
I get it!
Over the years, I’ve known many people who settle for the easy work. It doesn’t pay well, but it’s a JOB! “Just Over Broke!”
Most of us are not going to settle for what is easy. We want challenges. We desire work that is hard to define and a solution that is difficult to pinpoint. We appreciate a moving target to use even more of our skills.
We may even have to learn something new along the way … and that commitment is what keeps separating successful people from those who walk the easy road.
In the end, this commitment to meeting the “dirtiest” and most difficult challenges provides a deep sense of pride in the work accomplished.