Productivity: Working on Purpose

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to more fully recognize the dignity in routine work.

       It was 11:30 pm. Only one tired and very frustrated office worker remained in the building: Me.

       I  was bored with my routine, unfulfilling,  long day at work. I  heard the janitor cheerfully humming and whistling while he dumped waste paper baskets in an adjacent conference room.  He wasn’t listening to any music. No iPod. No Mp3 player. His  happy tune, beaming straight from his heart and soul, irked me even more until I couldn’t stand it any more and I unleashed my frustration on Frank, the janitor.

     “Frank, how can you be so happy doing a routine job like that? Don’t you ever get frustrated? Don’t you ever just hate your job like I hate my job tonight?”

     The janitor looked deep into the tired eyes of the office worker and responded: “Nope. Can’t. I have too important a job to get frustrated by it.”

    My face flared. I could feel myself getting even more hot under the collar.  ”Dumping waste baskets is too important a job? You’re kidding, right?”I challenged, Frank. The happy, humming  janitor, politely responded:

“I do have an important job. It’s so important that if I don’t do my job tonight, you can’t do your job tomorrow.”

       Frank- the-janitor had discovered a purpose to his work, a purpose that generated fortitude in the face of frustration, a purpose that turned the ho-hum into the gung-ho, a purpose that turned the blah into a-HA!. Frank, the-janitor was right, of course. No office worker could work in an environment where dust blankets the furniture, where dirt dances on the floors, and where waste paper baskets brim with banana peels, milk cartons and half-eaten sandwiches.

“When you work, you are like a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.”

     Frank, the janitor, turned the routine into the pristine; the habitual into a ritual and the mechanical into the magical. Martin Luther King Jr., whose leadership we honor on this federal holiday today, must have had someone like Frank, the janitor, in mind when he spoke of the dignity in all work and the pride in all workers. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry,” Rev. King said.

    I still think of Frank whenever I am having a lousy day at the office. I still hear his humming cheerful voice in my mind more than 30 years later. Having met Frank, I now know the  love of labor — more than simply the labor of love — that poet Kahlil Gibran felt when he observed: “When you work, you are like a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.” Frank- the-janitor personified that flute. He played his mop as if it were a flute. On key. On target. On Purpose.

Today’s ImproveMINT
Recognize your linchpin role to helping others do their jobs to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

You might also like these previous Leadership Mints on Productivity:

Sole-Searching for Optimum Success

Wisely Spending the Ultimate Treasure

Let your Competition Work for you

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2 thoughts on “Productivity: Working on Purpose

  1. Pingback: Productivity: Becoming the Chairman of the Bored « LEADERSHIP MINTS

  2. Pingback: Customer Leadership Mint #4: Bare Feat « LEADERSHIP MINTS

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