The Importance of Laundry

One thing that I have learned is that no matter where you are, eventually you have to do your laundry.

One evening I went for drinks with a friend of mine whom I had not seen for a number of years. In course of discussing his travels and work life (which had taken him to China, Japan and France) he rather uncharitably summarized my life to date for me. He said: “you were born in Winnipeg; live in Winnipeg; married a girl from Winnipeg; went to school in Winnipeg and you work in Winnipeg”. Now, I don’t recall the point he was trying to make, but certainly I took his meaning: I have not really “lived” my life. I recently read a very entertaining blog post, which tried to make a (less personal but) similar point: if you are living a predictable life then you are not living.

Humbug.

The facts of my friend’s argument are true: while I have worked out of the city for a few summers, I am, was and very likely will be a life-long Winnipeg resident, and I feel no need to defend that or make any arguments to “prove” that I have indeed lived a life, (and a rather enjoyable one, thank you very much!).

What struck me about my reaction to my friend’s comments and the blog post was that I immediately thought about laundry…and shopping, cleaning, cooking, bathing…the sundry logistics of living. My point: no matter how glamorous or sexy the place where you are, you don’t want to smell!

So what do observations in laundry have to do with commercial credit or the price of tea in China? Strictly speaking, nothing, except for this: no matter how big the organization, or how high or influential your position, to succeed, you’ve always got to do the basics of your job – your professional laundry – and do them well – if you want to stay at your job.

In his book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”, author Marshall Goldsmith argues that you need to make some changes to yourself in order to move ahead. He does not say that you have to reinvent yourself, but rather just change some annoying habits. He outlines 20 habits that you need to break. Take note: not one of the items in that list says to work less diligently, let your professional development lapse, or travel the world!

Both my friend and that blogger defined success in life as having moved on or “broken free” of some of the ties that bind. I guess I define success differently, maybe I have relationships that I want to hang onto, or perhaps I do not have anything to run away from. But I know my friend did laundry because his clothes didn’t smell.

My only point and observation here is that as a professional we need to keep our focus and not forget why we are here. If you are “stuck” in a job where you do the same thing day in and day out, well, you are luckier than those who have no job and you have some flexibility to look for other work. If you are happy with your work (and your life) then you are luckier than many. Don’t let someone else’s definition of success bring you down…they are essentially tricking you out of your enjoyment of your life by telling you that the “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.

It is true that a change is as good as a rest: you can take a week off to volunteer in a totally different environment; join a gym; go on crazy holiday; paint your living room; get a pet…do anything you want, but don’t forget to be the professional you always intended that you would be. And don’t forget to be the person that the important people in your life love…that is something to hang onto!

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