There I was, standing at the opening reception of a global education conference in the Netherlands, surrounded by some of the most influential movers and shakers in the field, yet struggling to keep my eyes open after a long day of traveling.
The reception hall was buzzing with business conversations and networking opportunities, but contrary to what I expected, that’s not where I ended up having the most interesting encounter.
At one point, I noticed that guests were gravitating, in turn, towards the restroom. There was nothing wrong with the food — I had already had a full plate by then. The venue’s interior decor was minimalistic; I didn’t imagine the restroom would feature exquisite decor either.
“So what was it about that restroom,” I wondered?
I had to check it out myself!
And there she was…
The star of the evening — a lady that I would’ve guessed to be in her late sixties, dressed in a blue apron over a white dress and yellow, rubber cleaning gloves!
She welcomed me into the restroom with a tiny curtsy. She then picked up a Magic-8-Ball off a long table, covered with a white tablecloth, and lined with toiletries, candy, and other knick-knacks.
“Care to play?”: she asked.
I can’t recall playing, but I do remember declining her other offer to entertain me with a story, while I was in there taking care of ‘business’... ehem!
After handing me a paper towel to dry my hands, she asked if I’d like some hand lotion or a piece of candy. This time I accepted her gestures because I can’t say no to candy.
I remember thinking to myself as I pulled out a few paper notes from my purse to hand her:
“ 1) this woman is bananas 2) she’s going many extra miles to get a tip.”
But to my surprise, she firmly refused to accept anything from me or from anyone else queueing to use the restroom.
I never found out if that show was something the event organizers had asked her to do. Call me a hopeless romantic if you wish, but I’d like to think that she was going above and beyond out of passion and determination to create a purpose out of her job, instead of dying a slow death doing it.
So what’s the point that I’m trying to make here?
Well, I’m certainly not suggesting you put on a magic show at work. Although having a drawer full of confetti is highly recommended by Swiss designer, Tina Roth Eisenberg!
Many of us spend loads of time focusing on the dreaded parts of our day jobs and lives, and the filtered, Insta-worthy moments in the lives of others.
We’re fixated on the big things, the next steps and the moments of instant satisfaction!
And where does that leave us?
Miserable and unsatisfied of course.
But ever since I met that peculiar restroom magician, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we were to embrace her mindset or apply her approach towards our jobs and daily lives in general?
Now some of you might argue that a ‘toilet cleaner’ in the Netherlands might have much better living conditions than a lot of white-collar workers in other parts of the world.
And while that might be true, most of us out here don’t have to scrub toilets for a living!
And yet, and yet.
Many of us are unfulfilled and are doing a lousy job at a pretty decent position in an office.
We’re obsessed with ‘finding’ our passion. As if it’s something outside of ourselves and we have to travel searching for it.
As Maria Forleo, Life and Business Coach puts it in her book:
“We forget that passion is with us all along, that we can bring it to every single mundane moment in our life... passion is a muscle that we need to exercise.”
Or to put it in the words of Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO:
“Take every piece of your ordinary day and make it extraordinary.”
I used to have that quote by Tim Brown written down on a Post-It note in my former office cubicle. It served to remind me to push the envelope in my work whenever possible.
I learned that:
When you embrace a mindset of purposefulness, you become acutely aware of the possibility of creating a lasting impression or a great impact in every interaction.
Whether it’s writing that internal newsletter or rearranging that file cabinet — you can always find a way to make your work shine. You might not always get praised for it, but it wouldn’t matter because that’s the way you roll— with passion and purpose all the way through. And it’ll make all the difference in your life!
Marie Kondo made an empire out of folding t-shirts (WITH LOVE) for heaven’s sake!!!
Now over to you, what are some dull tasks that you’ve tried to spice up or approach differently? Did it make any difference to your enjoyment of the process or the overall outcome? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
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