There’s a reason I take a shower every day – I collect and produce things that really don’t need to stay with me. Some things are so bad, I can’t wait for a shower and decide to wash in the sink instead.
Work is a lot like that – at least the part about collecting things that really don’t need to stay with us. That rude email from someone on the 2nd floor, or that knife twist in our back at the staff meeting sticks with us for a long time.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, you can count to ten or maybe take a walk around the park at lunch to try and help shake it off, but you haven’t taken a shower. You’ve only moved the dirt from your head and heart to a part of your body that is less affected. You are still dirty.
To really come clean we need to replace the dirt with something else, something of equal value. For me, the opposite of criticism is a compliment. If I am going to hear something bad, I want to her something good to wash it away.
Unfortunately, compliments rarely come at a time you when you need them most. That’s why I collect them. Anytime I get an email that says thank you, or in some way makes me feel better about myself or what I do, I stick it in an email folder called !Inspiration. Then, whenever I get the email that pushes me over the edge at work, I just head to the !Inspiration folder and realize that there are people that think otherwise.
The “!” as the first character in the name is important. It ensures this folder will be above all of the others in my folder stack. Just casually seeing it there reassures me that I can take a work shower anytime I want. I take immediate comfort in knowing there are people that love what I do.
In a previous column, I mentioned the mantra from Steve Farber that I use to guide my work choices:
in the service of others,
who love what you do.”
The Radical Leap
If you find your !Inspiration folder is empty after several months, maybe the “who love what you do” part is not happening. In other words if nothing comes out of the work shower, time to either fix it or find a new home.
But, if you are like most people I work with, you have an ample source of water. You just need a way to store it for on-demand occasions. Now is the best time to build that shower. It only takes a few minutes. Who knows, you may need it come Monday.
Finally, keep in mind that you are also a potential water source for every person you work with. That was last week.