How Dishwashing Can Save Your Career
This is a diatribe on how dishwashing can save your mind. Your career. Your venture or business. Well, according to The Chidi anyways.
Take that as you want. I’m the one wiith the mic here, which may or may not be a good thing. This may not be for you.
But. Hang with me for a bit.
So, this Sunday morning, I had an important “come to Jesus” conversation with myself and later with my partner, Zain. This was not a church convo. My family went to church and I stayed behind at home, as I am wont to do these days. Don’t even start. I’ll address that in my upcoming book. The one I’ve been working on for the past ten years. Don’t even start, I’ll address that...never mind.
As I was saying, we talked about our business aKoma and the challenges we've had this quarter. To say this has been a tough quarter is probably as understated as the people of Italy denying their absence in this year’s World Cup is not akin to the Apocalypse. We were getting our behinds handed to us...add in our thighs, calves and feet added just in case we were deluded about how crazy things were. We talked about the way forward. How to keep the team motivated. Keeping the lights on. At home and at aKoma. The deals that eluded us. The promises and verbals that dissipated into the ether right after the phone hung up or the Zoom video went off.
We also talked about the opportunities we still have. The gratitude for the experience and impact we have made, even as a bootstrapped startup attempting to solve a humongous problem in Africa. It was a short yet intense Sunday morning convo. Ngozi asked me if I was alright, right before rolling to church with her cousin Franca and the kids. I said I was good. Just drop a whisper or two in the chapel for a brother, that would be cool.
I went downstairs and noticed the kitchen sink was full of stuff. Pots from the last night's manifestation of Ngozi’s magnificent Egusi soup, a Nigerian delicacy that may be solely responsible for keeping that country in one piece. Dishes and utensils from an aggressively hungry clan of Afulezis the day before. Pans from Twin 1B’s pancake adventure this morning. As a consummate opportunist, I decided to use my time alone and the huge pile in the sink to do some strategizing and meditation.
My goal here was not to do a lot of thinking. Just thinking for thinking sake is how stuff goes to hell. How stupid s*** happens. Alan Watts, the British philosopher, said it best (some paraphrasing on my part):
“A person who thinks all the time, has nothing to think about but just thoughts. So (s)he loses touch with reality, and lives in a world of illusion. Like everything else, thinking is useful in moderation. A good servant but a bad master. We confuse signs, symbols, words, numbers, ideas with the real world...driving ourselves crazy and self-destructive thru excessive thinking.”
My thinking had serious fundamentals backing it. For the past couple of years, I have been immersing myself in Stoic Philosophy, spurred by a talk I heard Tim Ferris give on how he lives via Stoicism. He described it as “an operating system for thriving in high-stress environments.” An operating system for decision making. For being comfortable with failure. For staying in reality, as opposed to creating stories that trap you in a fantasy bubble. Seeing wealth as wanting what I have, as opposed to going after and getting everything I want. For me, getting in with Marcus Aurelius (Meditations), Seneca (Letters) and Epictetus (Discourses) is reorienting how I go about separating what I can control from what I cannot, and constantly practicing using logic and ethics to focus exclusively only on what I can control. Finding mental clarity by controlling my perceptions of things. Practically, it has saved my life. As in, kept me here on planet earth. If you are down with this kind of gra-gra, there are plenty resources on how to get in with the Stoics. Powerful stuff.
So, I pulled up the Mellow Beats playlist on Spotify (awesomeness), cranked up my portable JBL speaker (do not EVER put on noise canceling headphones when you are alone in the house, i shouldn't explain why), rolled up my sleeves and dug into the pile. It took me about thirty minutes to handle. And the conversations I had with myself while washing those dishes as Jazzy Jeff, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and others jammed on the 1s and 2s in the background—the clarity of thought, the reflections on what my actions would be today to advance my family, aKoma and redKola (my product consulting outfit), being at peace with the struggle and adversity—the internal convos were mind widening. Well ordered. Renewing. Even as I battled the one pot with crust that must have been undiluted and unfiltered vibranium from the depths of Wakanda, the freedom in retreating into myself and just letting things flow was calming and rejuvenating. I finished up those dishes and looked around for more, I was not done yet. I grabbed the vacuum and went to town on both floors of the Afulezi abode.
Listen, I know for a fact that we are all going thru some craziness. Rich, poor, married, single, exec, staffer, black, brown, white. It doesn’t matter. We are all going thru stuff that many would drop their jaws at. As an entrepreneur that is doing a business with lenses on Africa, I have experienced more frustration than is warranted, taken financial hits that “a man of my caliber” should not be taking, gotten more rejections and disappointments that would make Hillary Clinton go, “Well, damn, Chidi!”
And I have developed my ChidiOS, the operating system that has kept me staying in reality and with the right perspective in handling all this crap. With daily meditation, active practice of my Stoic learnings, taking time to retreat inside. The ChidiOS is in constant tweak mode, the code being groomed and updated everyday, keeping things lean and mean.
And of course, there's the dishwashing and vacuuming.
My missive is that we make sure we stay even-keeled. Anchored in reality, not fantasy or mythology. Get the weapons and toolkits that will prepare us for the inevitable adversity that will challenge us, attempt to and many times bring us to our knees. And also have the psychic dynamiteto handle prosperity that can delude, deceive, and even impair us. Denzel Washington was powerful when he said:
“Keep working, keep striving. Never give up. Fall down seven times, get up eight. Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. So, keep moving, keep growing, keep learning. See you at work.”
Here’s to you developing your OS. And getting those dishes washed...by hand. No AI machine things o, abeg. You will be better for it.
See you at work.