I grew up with my momma cleaning up most of my scattered detritus after me. I’ve never been a terribly messy person, but I certainly wasn’t clean either. I considered myself organized because I would make piles in terms of accessibility: the most recent thing that I had just used would be on top, so I would know where to find something I used frequently.
Since then I’ve learned how to maintain cleanliness and organization. Having girls as roommates for a couple of years has helped, as they would yell at me about being messy until I started cleaning up after myself. Then after working in the housekeeping department for a few years, I developed a higher level of personal standards of organization and cleanliness, because I had to tell other people how to clean, and not only how to clean well, but furthermore why they should want to clean well. I would generally approach this issue from a philosophical standpoint regarding the broader issue of why working hard and applying yourself fully to work–no matter the given task–is a definitive life-skill.
I’m going to take the argument for why working hard is an important capability for everyone to have and broaden that concept a little more to introduce the idea that how we think, act, and organize ourselves in our private lives is deeply and intimately related to how we develop and achieve our goals professionally. This might seem simple to you in concept, but in reality not many people really make that connection. So let me see what I can make of it.
Clean Up, Organize, and Maintain Your Life
Yeah, I know. This is sounding like a self-help, motivational thing all of a sudden. But sometimes hearing it from other people is refreshing, because I can tell ya, hearing it from myself is refreshing. Look, you need to clean up after yourself. And I’m not just talking about your dishes or your clothes. I’m talking about behind your couch, behind the toilet, underneath the sink, those boxes full of junk in the attic. Every inch of living space that you leave to fester unattended is representative of a space within yourself. If you have a tendency to hoard things and allow them to pile up until it overruns your living area, then guess what? Chances are quite good that you allow emotional baggage in your life, both professionally and personally, to build up until they affect and infect your everyday existence as well.
Obviously, there’s differing levels of maintenance required, dependent on high and low traffic areas. But it’s all ultimately part of a whole. You’ve got to get a handle on the whole thing in order to know that you are on top of it, and the only way you can do that is by starting now in tackling all the areas that you’ve been pushing away and allowing to sit unattended. Once you’ve done a “deep clean”, or “spring clean” or whatever you want to call it, then you can settle back into the daily routine of doing your dishes, picking up your clothes, vacuuming your carpet, etc, and simply doing semi-deeper cleans periodically. But every single space, outer and inner, top to bottom, must be accounted for if you want to get your life in order.
Don’t believe me? I don’t got no psychology degree, but I can tell you that cleaning (please only use non-toxic cleaners!) is indeed therapy. We reflect our living environments. There are some things that we can’t control, like the guy on the subway who curses us for no good reason, or the pinecone that fell on top of our head right as we walked underneath it. But in the areas of our lives that are under our control, it is imperative that we empower ourselves to organize and maintain those areas in order to allow ourselves to develop.
I’m not saying to be OCD about it. But I’m letting you know that allowing your baggage to build up and sit for years in a corner is equivalent to effectively blinding yourself to your own problems, even as they culminate to become a visible monster, visible to everyone except yourself.
This baggage, this junk, this dirt, mildew, mold, mice, and other assorted benefits of laxness will manifest itself in your life in terms of your relationships and work life as well. You will be the person who never moves upward in job responsibility, who never moves forward in a relationship. You will be the person who wants to ignore their own hand in their failure to achieve. You will be the person whose computer runs so slow that it’s basically an Apple IIe in boot time.
Present Yourself Well to Everyone
We like to think that when it comes to friends that we can let our guards down and just let it all hang out, without being judged or condemned. But in fact, it is often our friends that are our harshest critics–for the very reason that they have greater insight into our lives and how we live it. Unfortunately, our friends don’t often want to tell us straightforwardly their criticisms, and so we rarely get the feedback from the people that are best capable of giving us that feedback. Instead, we get that critical feedback from strangers or hostile acquaintances, and by then, we aren’t really positioned to listen to them.
It’s important that we present ourselves well to everyone, from strangers to family members. Everyone judges. It’s human nature. We aren’t saints–we use our brains and our eyeballs and we compare and contrast other people with ourselves. With friends and family members, we CAN let our guards down, and we know that we can always come back to open arms. But only to a certain point. You see, if you keep acting like an inconsiderate slob or snob around a loved one, at some point, they will get fed up with it. And no matter how much someone may like you for your wit and company, they will probably not recommend you to their employer when you are looking for a job if you walk around all day with the crack of your ass showing. You can’t take your friends and family for granted. In fact, you shouldn’t take anyone for granted. You should treat every single person in your day with the same respect. Because it all comes back to you.
And another point here is that appearance is related to integrity. That ties in with my overall theme, which is that your personal life ties in intimately with your professional life. The way you look, the way you talk, the way you think. How you lead your private life has repercussions on the way your interactions on the street and on the job go. Call it karma, call it do-unto-others-as-they-would-do-unto-you, call it what you like. Just recognize that everything you do is related to everyone else, and that people may not be able to see who you are in your fundamental being, being as it are that they are not saints, don’t really give a shit about you, and have enough to deal with in their own lives, BUT, even completely random strangers on the street get a vibe from you. People in your workplace get a feeling from the way you talk, the way you carry yourself. Your friends know you for certain qualities. Your family jokes about how you always did this and that as a tyke. Who you are and what you do are unimpeachably interrelated.
Take All Criticism Into Consideration
I kind of went into this point a little bit above when I talked about how even the closest of friends can be your harshest critics. But sometimes a complete stranger will criticize you. Sometimes it will be your boss at work. And you will want to say “fuck you” and disregard everything they said to you. And that’s completely understandable, and in certain situations, that is exactly what you should do. However, there are also many times when you should be listening. Criticism, especially when it occurs on the job, should be taken as constructive, even when it sounds harsh and demeaning. Some managers simply aren’t good people, aren’t good managers, and don’t know how to communicate well with different people. But they are trying to get something across. And sometimes your friends, family, and even complete strangers are as well.
Taking a criticism of yourself into consideration does not weaken you unless you feel that it is so valid that you can’t see any way of answering it. So you need to take it head on. Let yourself be challenged. Take every criticism as a lesson from a teacher, and see how you can use it to develop yourself and make yourself stronger.
It’s like on American Idol. Paula Abdul thinks she’s everyone’s friend. She’s not. Simon Cowell is the one to listen to. He is honest, to the point of being brutal. If you did a shitty job, he will tell you that you did a shitty job, while Paula blathers on about dreams and how wonderful you are. If the contestant listens to Paula, and shuts out Simon, then he/she is most likely just about to be voted off the show. Simon may be harsh, but he is attempting to provide constructive criticism that should be taken into consideration if the artist wants to develop and progress.
Sometimes people just don’t phrase it to you in the right ways so that it can slip in past your ego. So you need to just drop your ego sometimes and really listen to other people when they critique you. Let yourself be judged. Learning to wade through other people’s problems and picking out what is of use to you and what drags you down is how you grow. Often in the midst of the bricolage of someone elses’ jealousy, desire, rage, and anguish is a gem of constructive criticism that is waiting to be taken into your consideration and worked on.
Alright, so I think I am just about cleaned out on any further burning nuggets of wisdom that I feel the need to bestow on you right now. I’ll plop out any new ones as they come along. I’ve still got a lot of growing and learning to do myself, but I’ve been thinking about these particular things that I’ve learned as I’ve been coming up against extreme change in my life, both professionally, emotionally, spatially, and otherwise.