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!



Comfort or Success?

Maintaining  an average lifestyle is a lot of work.  A life lived well beyond average, is, well, beyond a lot of work.  I recently spoke with a colleague of mine about money and the ongoing attempt to make sense of how we earn and spend and spend and spend.  She was astonished by how much money she had recently made on a nice bonus check, and how little she had left after not doing much with it.  Pay tax bill.  Pay daycare. Pay this. Pay that.  She was asking my advice in regard to splitting the cost of annual Disneyland passes for her two kids with her ex husband (and purchasing one for herself).  She said after paying her share, she would have about five-hundred dollars left of that seemingly “windfalll-ish” bonus check.  Five hundred dollars is not chump change, but hardly life changing.

What I told her was something that is becoming clear more and more on a daily basis, and something that I have yet to capture for myself.  While we both make a good living, in fact very good when based on national averages, we simply cannot get ahead far enough economically on a  normal salary type job.  This is not universal, as CEOs, and celebrities are doing just fine on salaries.
Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of F...

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of Falling (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Who is buying the million dollar homes near the beach? That is a seven thousand dollar payment.: Entrepreneurs, risk takers, and insanely hard-working people with a lot of skill, luck, and tenacity. Relative success, such as mine and my colleague’s is a blessing and a curse.  I am grateful for my work, enjoy and find fulfillment.
I will never amass any tangible wealth beyond years of pecking away toward a 401k, without stepping beyond my current state of comfort.
It’s easy ( in a sense) to wake up everyday and do my job and cash my paycheck every two weeks.  I work hard and smart and have some success. On my computer, I have written goals and have written dreams.  They are separate for a reason. My dreams are only  dreams in my current reality.  Beach house, mountain get-away, European trips, Ivy league colleagues for the kids, and so on.
My “dreams” cannot become “goals” until there is a realistic road to achievement, a paradigm shift in how I approach my life and the effort and energy I give everyday.
This conversation with my colleague opened my eyes and recharged the energy I started this blog on.  I asked her, really asking myself,  a profound question.  Do we except our  [fair ] role in life,  enjoying the comforts of a fun and “not-terribly” stressful job?  I could be a coal miner after all.  Well, if that’s the case, the treadmill of life will leave us with Sundays at Disneyland at least seven times a year (that’s the amount of visits per year she figured she needs to make it worth paying for the passes),  and a budget drive through meal on the way home.  We can opt for hard work and risk.  Not the hard work we are all used to.  Not hustling  to switch planes in Salt Lake.  Not the risk we are used to.  Not worrying about a buy out, or hitting quota.  The hard work involved is waking up early, staying up late, answering calls, driving business, bleeding for your work,  and being energized  24/7.  The risk is that it will fail and you won’t have healthcare, a company car, or electricity (that takes money).  The pay-off however, can be amazing.
Comfort does not equal lazy, and success does not equal misery.  Where is your happiness in this equation?

Driven people find happiness in success if they know what fuels

their passions.

What is your choice?

Intentional Perspective

Perspective is a valuable gift.  It is also a skill you can and must develop.

You have a purpose much greater than making more money.

Perspective (graphical)

Perspective (graphical) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That may be a goal, a side effect of your achievement.  As you inch toward awesomeness, or maybe just defining what your awesome looks like, you may hear whispers of self-doubt.  I wrote a post on this very subject.   One tool you must sharpen is perspective.  This morning, I received an invitation to attend an urgent conference call with my team.   Immediately I focused on myself. Who is on the call? Layoffs? Is this going to affect ME? It turns out a colleague tragically lost her husband in a car accident and that message needed to be properly delivered to the team.  Beyond the crushing sorrow I feel for my colleague, I was given the gift of perspective. While I balance the natural tendency to think of how things impact me first, I desire to be more outwardly focused. That will lead me to my awesome and will lead you to yours. Anytime I realize I have a weakness, I get intentional about working on it.  I have put together a small list to help develop the skill of perspective.  Start with these 3 things and move forward:

1. What truly matters:  For most of us, this is family, NOT work.  Family loves you, work doesn’t. Do something positive today with your family. A great side effect of achieving awesomeness and realizing purpose, is this perspective becomes much more clear as you approach your goal . If your “success” distorts this perspective, you are moving in the wrong direction.
2. God’s unconditional love: God loves you no matter what you do.  He suffered and died for you and would have done the same thing if you were to be the only person to ever exist. He wants you to be happy and has given you skills and desires to achieve great things.  God is a pretty connected kind of guy, so don’t ever doubt the power of prayer and his ability to partner with you for fulfillment.

The ultimate goal, after all, is does not have a zip code and as of yet has no LTE or wifi.

3. You have grown: I always enjoy looking at old pictures.  The ones of me as a kid are cool, but the ones that really make me cringe are the ones that are about 8 to 10 years old.  They aren’t too old to be a “lifetime ago”, but they are old enough to remind me of changes (good and bad) that I have made.  Look through some old pictures and identify 3 positive changes (lost weight, better haircut, prettier girlfriend now, etc).  Make sure you focus at least 2 to 1 on positive verses negative changes.  Make sure you celebrate the positive changes and decide if the negative changes need attention.

Unwrap the gift of perspective and realize your potential.  How has your perspective changed in the last year?

Rocco De Leo