Be good at something, anything!
Your superpowers may come from being a kick ass pizzeria dishwasher
A lot of decent people spend their days screaming at the clouds for their misfortune and lack of success.
Life is unfair, yes. Dirtbags get ahead for often no reason other than their last name, yes. But what are you doing to change the game? Over at DailyWire+ I’ve been spinning the latest trio of lectures by Jordan Peterson called Dragons, Monsters & Men. In the first chapter, Peterson made an observation about his background that reminded me of my own.
Peterson leads the lecture by asking a question and quickly providing an answer.
Not the man or woman you want to be? Be good at something. Anything. Develop a competency, he says (in essence). Why?
Because “What do I want to do with my life?” is an impossibly broad and spacious question. That’s not a headspace you want to be in. Instead, you zero in on “What can I do today?” This is very similar in spirit to the ruminations of the Greek slave & philosopher, Epictetus, whose writings directed his followers to consider that their main task in this world is to separate the things over which they have no control (actions of others, reputation, climate, war) from the things where they do have control (thoughts, words, deeds).
The observation Peterson made which reminded me of my own journey was the shared experience of being a dishwasher at a restaurant.
My craft of frantically cleansing every inch of plates, cups, knives, and bowls (with a purposeful & gentle touch of course) was honed at PieWorks of Greensboro, North Carolina. I was very good at it. Sure I had a college degree in Political Science and I thought myself quite clever and worthy of “better” things, but I also was a new father and needed money like yesterday. Waiting for the job that my college education trained me for to fall from the sky was not a luxury I had at the time. I washed dishes, and I did it far better than the other two guys with that title at PieWorks. If they bothered to show up on time, put on deodorant, be nice to the waitresses, or be sober upon arrival…they might have had decent days at the gourmet pizzeria off of Battleground Avenue. But this almost never happened.
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When you develop mastery in a small arena, the boss very well might assign you to other things. Also like Peterson, that got me moved up to short order cook and actually making pizzas. A slightly better role only in that it was more stimulating and got me out of the dreary solitude of the dish room. Socializing with foul-mouthed cooks can be exhausting but it was more fun to talk shit with cooks than to talk to myself while organizing forks.
I still enjoy washing dishes and cleaning out a full sink. It’s kinda like Anakin in Star Wars: Episode II when after his mother dies tragically he takes immediately to fiddling with droid parts and repairing farm equipment.
“I like fixing things. Life is so much simpler when you’re fixing things.”
- Anakin Skywalker
Maybe I fu***** up my annual taxes again, or screwed up a client meeting at work again, or got in a fender bender down the street…but I really can without any mistakes washing some dishes. Okay, maybe I’ve broken a wine glass two or three times. Whatever!!!
But this point isn’t about proving to others around you that you’re competent. No. It’s about proving it to yourself.
Because being a profoundly good dishwasher is likely not the end goal. I hope it’s not! The goal is big stuff. World-changing stuff! I called my book How The Force Can Fix The World, after all. We’re shooting for big things.
But how can you reasonably fix the world, solve climate change, win a mayoral race, or be elected town dog catcher…if you can’t be a great, efficient and impressive dishwasher? This is why Peterson beat the drum for years about cleaning your room.
Start small. Kick ass. Then aim upward.
After you’ve done this. You’ll see doors open. Maybe not the door you were waiting on, but a door will open. This gives you more choices. When you have choices, that’s its own form of power.
Not the man or woman you want to be? Pick something new and become good at it. And that’s just the beginning.
This is the way.