I’m not big on never-ever-always: the absolutes. Life’s too complicated for blanket statements. But here\’s one absolute that’s absolutely essential to growth and success:
To begin again, To begin anywhere, To begin anyhow. Begin by doing the dishes. I speak from personal experience and from the stories of others.
Growth and Fulfillment Always Require Work We’d Rather Not Do
Whether personal or professional, growth and fulfillment always take us to places we\’d rather not go. Like the school superintendent, who said that he began his career working a second job as a grocery store manager. Just before closing, several of his elderly lady customers would cheerfully arrive with their grocery list, and ask him to gather the items for them.
Which, of course, he did. Which meant he never closed on time. Which meant his long day always got longer.
In the same conversation, a teacher shared that when her children were young, she taught at a local school while her husband commuted 90 minutes to his teaching and soccer coaching job. After a long (and sweaty) day, he continued to his evening job at a private country club, doing the dishes.
My Early Years of Doing the Dishes
In my first company, my business partner, Alesia and I did a lot of overtime duties – including dishes.
In the morning, we sold our vision of an all-natural frozen food company to investors. In the afternoon and evening, we cleaned houses (and most memorably, toilets) and cleared tables at a private club.
The long hours stretched and pulled us like taffy to deepen and sweeten our commitment and character.
We were hungry to realize our dream. And we did, with a staff of 15 and a growing company for 11 years. And since dishwashers are hard to come by, many nights we were scrubbing huge pots until 11:00 pm, only to resume scrubbing the floors by 6:00 am the next morning.
There Are Always More Dishes to Do
Now 25 years after closing this business, I kinda thought I was done doing the dishes.
But no. The stuff that’s now in the sink is called administrative and IT duties, and even though I’m neither interested in nor good at detailed tasks, it\’s part of my daily job.
The Holy Grail of Business
However, I take my inspiration from Joe, the owner of Spoleto’s in Northampton MA, a favorite restaurant where my husband and I meet friends for dinner. I’ve never met Joe but I’ve watched him: running the food, filling the water glasses and generally making himself useful everywhere and to everyone.
Turns out Joe’s been running his restaurant for 30 years and spends a lot of time in the front of the house, moving tables, clearing plates, talking to customers.
However, one day a week, he’s in the back of the house, in the dish pit as he calls it because he wants to “see what food is coming back and why.”
He calls this the ‘holy grail” of the business. The dish pit is where he learns everything he needs to know about what is working on the menu. And what isn’t.
What\’s Your Dish Pit?
So where’s your dish pit? Your holy grail? Where’s that unglamorous, uncomfortable, and yet radically illuminating place that’s calling you right now?
Because here’s what I know:
If you want to begin anything, again, anew, anywhere or anytime—if you want to clearly see the next step forward—it’s right there in the dish pit.