Washing My Car Makes Me a Better Person: cleanliness and effectiveness

Cars used to be more than transportation to me.  They were a sign of my freedom.  A 4000 pound representation of my identity.  My identity when I was 17 was hard working and nearly broke (at least by today’s standards).  I was driving a used Honda civic I had souped up with rims, loud exhaust, and a very loud stereo system.  My little red Honda was fast, fun, and sometimes furious. On days I wanted to push the limits, I made sure to vacuum and wash her.  She simply seemed to run better when clean.

If you know me personally, at least personally enough to ride in my car, you know that my car is not always a picture of show-room perfection.  Having a job that involves driving from customer to customer all day, and coming home to lots of stuff to do with a big family doesn’t always give me a chance to clean.  Just like the days of my little red Honda, though, a quick cleaning of my car seems to make things run a little smoother.

The value of simplicity is lost on many of us.

Busy-ness creates tight schedules, pressure, and “space” for thought.  Living a cluttered lifestyle hampers creativity for most people I know.  Steven Pressfields infamous “resistance” lays in the midst of all that clutter. Whether it be creativity or simple productivity, clutter, busy-ness, dirty-ness, or disorganization, when we don’t control our “stuff”,  controls us. The good news is you have a choice.  You can choose to change this.  I write incessantly about living intentionally.  Create some time in your life, maybe one multi hour block per month to check in with neatness and organization.  Having a clean inbox, desk, car, kitchen, etc will NEVER happen automatically.  Give yourself a goal around organization and neatness. Your month may seem like a slow unwinding of your cleanliness, but that’s ok.  If you build time into your week or month to RESET it, you don’t have to stress.

Beautiful Garden and Palace

Beautiful Garden and Palace (Photo credit: Daniel Petzold Photography – http://www.danielpetzold.de)

My best work comes in a clean car, clean office, and freshly polished shoes.  Reward your efforts with a small deliverable after you have cleaned your office.  Cook something exciting after you’ve cleaned and organized your kitchen.  Oh boy is it fun to cook when you can find the basil and oregano. Take your spouse out for some Froyo in that shinny clean car.

This post isn’t about cleaning or organizing.  Notice how I don’t give a 5 step how-to?  This is about control.  You are Mission Control. You decide how you want to live and work. You don’t need a new book deal, or a raise, or even a job at all to make these adjustments.  You just need intentionality and some action.

What is the most important CLEAN space for your life?  How do you maintain your sanity while maintaining your commitments?  Please Share!



5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You React

Jamie and I used to fight a lot more than we do now.  Sure, Jamie is a woman, and I am a man and well, sometimes that is like water and oil, but there is something different at play here. No matter how many times you mix the water and the oil, they react the exact same way.  The water does not “adapt”, the oil does not “seek to understand”.  The water does not realize if he (or she) would just open up a little, they could create a something great together.  That’s the thing about people, we can change how we react to people.  Whether it be a romantic/spousal relationship, a professional relationship, or with your children, you get to learn from your reactions and change.  We all bring “baggage” into relationships.

Los Angeles (vicinity), California. Baggage of...

Los Angeles (vicinity), California. Baggage of Japanese-Americans evacuated from certain West coast areas under United States Army war emergency order, who have arrived at a reception center at a racetrack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divorces, past business failures, and children who repeatedly make mistakes, and much more “luggage” clutter our psyche.  It’s a challenge to check that baggage at the door and change.  We make ourselves vulnerable to “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”.  But without that vulnerability, we are doomed to fail or at the very least stop growing (which I consider failure).  Here is a list of 5 questions to ask yourself before you react to a situation.  While the cliché reminds us that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, let’s not forget the road to heaven is paved with the same stones.

 1.  How do I want the other person to feel by what I am going to do or say?  Is it Love, trust, happiness, fulfillment?  Or am I trying to “teach her a lesson” and prove that she was wrong? Do I want her to feel bad or do I want her to feel loved?
2.  Am I ok if this person doesn’t realize I fixed his/her mistake?  Sometimes a person’s mistake warrants a lesson in order for him/her to grow from it.  Sometimes, your wife simply left the dome light on in the car and you should quietly turn it off. Make it about the other person, and not your own ego.  You don’t always need “credit”.
3.  Is this something that I can learn to love, or in a business situation can I find endearing and even helpful?  Being chronically late to meetings is not an endearing professional trait.  Your wife, however chronically late because she is doing wardrobe for your 5 children most certainly is.  Choose your reactions.  Be 10 minutes late to church with a beautiful family covered in smiles, or be on time in a fit of frustration with messy hair and frowns…the choice is yours.  A co-worker may be a dreamer and you may be Mr Practical.  Find the symbiosis and make it work rather than fight.
4. What’s the upside to what I am going to say or do?  This should be a question you constantly ask yourself.  In personal relationships, it’s the key to success.  Walking into a dinner party with your wife is not the time to tell her that her blouse clashes with her pants.  What POSSIBLE good can come from that?  Asking for feedback from a colleague (or offering) at the wrong time (such as 4:59pm on a Friday) has no real upside, unless you are trying to get out of a Saturday trip to the in-laws.

Everything and every action has some inherent risk to it, make sure your “upside” is worth that risk.

5.  Am I doing this with a spirit of giving and love?  I am not always positive or optimistic in my thinking.  Sometimes I/we must check in to uncover our true motives.  If something has a hint of negativity built in the  intentions, take a break and re think your actions.
Print these questions out and try for a week.  Comment to me how your interactions change for the positive.


God Doesn’t Care How You Finish

This is the season for the SAT test.  As I sipped my cofee Saturday morning waiting for my 17 year old daughter to finish getting ready for her second round with the SAT, I openned up Feedly to read Seth Godin’s post, Measuring without Measuring.  In his witty, and for the moment “timely” manner, he states that the SAT is the best measure to see how a person will do on the SAT.   In two weeks we will have results showing kids who showed up and “fell” into great scores, kids who showed tremendous effort and growth to get “average scores” and very smart kids who struggle through tests only to get bad scores.  What are we hoping to gain from making hundres of thousands of kids take this test?  Colleges want results. They want to stack the odds in their favor that accepting more freshman with higher SAT scores will provide better results (ie, grades, student involvement, graduation).  The measuring stick of our life is results.  This is not one of those egalitarian posts about giving every kid a trophy or the self esteem movement anyone in thier 30s can remember.  We must measure results because we are not God.  We get paid to deliver results.  God is all knowing and measures something greater because he is reading the entire story.  He measures intentions.  He knows your heart. He paid the price on Calvary 2000 years ago to guarentee the results. All he asks for is you to love him, to have faith like a child (Luke 18:17)

Praise God

Praise God (Photo credit: GlacierTim)

What God gives us that the rest of life doesn’t, is a place to put our heart where we are guarenteed success.

We can put our efforts on sales numbers, amount of blog posts, and the soccer score. Yet It doesn’t matter. The results don’t change the core of who we are. In a world that will accept results regardless of intentions, we will never accept intentions without results. Only God will do that. True purpose is aligning your results with your intentions. In other words, you are not only good at something, but you want to be good at it as well. As I push through the self doubt about my writing ( I am not good enough, not writing enough, etc. ) and my parenting (who am I to raise these kids?) and my work results (numbers are down again?), I am comforted by the true measure of who I am by my heart.  This fuels my ambition to take on the self doubt through intentionality and  consistently “showing up”.

Only you and God know your true heart.  What’s your intention with him?
Rocco De Leo