“I’m going to scrub this nasty toilet so clean, you’ll be able to eat off it!” I thought to myself, before attacking the public bathroom with the feverish intensity of Pollock dripping a painting.
From the outset of landing my job as a sign-spinner, I knew I had an opportunity on my hands and I wanted to maximize its value to me. Specifically:
- I had steady income from an easy job, which I wanted to keep
- I had the opportunity to learn and grow while completing my job, effectively getting paid to better myself
- I had opportunities, that most people wouldn’t recognize, to directly make strides in my meditations and business
I’ll cover these in order. The first is simple: I wanted to keep my job. I was paranoid I’d be tossed out like trash due to the expendable nature of my position. This happened to dozens and dozens of my co-workers. But not to me. In fact (and I’ll get into this later)…
I was figuratively and quite literally one of the “last men standing” during the company’s lifespan
There were many reasons for this, but I believe it started with a simple one:
The number of times I showed up late, I can count on one hand. Keep in mind, I worked at this place for years. I performed every little responsibility (taking out the trash, cleaning the windows, mopping the break room floor) to a greater degree than expected.
Sometimes I messed up, like adding way too much window cleaner to the bucket. But I never knowingly neglected things. In fact, my first day, I didn’t know how to properly dispose of the trash bag (the buyer had already left)… so I simply took it home with me (and then threw it out at my apartment complex. I didn’t, like, set it up on my mantelpiece or anything).
Anyway, this sort of follow-through made it much easier for me to make myself heard when I wanted to advance my career.
To my second point about learning and growing, I showed up my first day with headphones and an MP3 player already loaded with audiobooks. Very soon, my biggest problem was not enough material for all the hours I spent outside (a good problem to have, I surmised). I picked out audios on business, marketing, self-development, that sort of thing. Also some biographies. Steve Jobs was a biggie. So was George Washington.
I still remember one day, while listening to the story of George Washington marching his troops through the woods in winter, I stood outside in the middle of a blizzard
I was like, “Yeah! I’m George Washington baby!”
In order to show up for my shift virtually always on time, I came early and read a book while waiting for the store to open. Later, I’d just spend time breathing and quieting my mind.
To my third point:
I had 30 minutes for lunch. To maximize the time allocated, I’d first arrange my meal on the table in the breakroom, and then do a relaxing, seated meditation for the first half of my break. Then I’d use the remaining time to eat. I virtually never missed a lunchtime meditation doing this.
Because my job involved standing for hours five days per week, I figured I wouldn’t be able to do standing meditations at home due to physical exhaustion. For the first week or so, I held back doing them. Later, I experimented and realized I could indeed do stances. So, after a day of working outside in a standing position, I’d come home and almost immediately settle into an hour of standing meditations. It’s amazing what the human body is capable of, if you just do it.
At a certain point, I bought a pair of big ceramic magnets and would bring them outside with me, whenever I was working a store that didn’t require a lot of changing my physical position. And if it did, I still used the magnets in the breakroom for breaks and lunch. I also stretched regularly, but not every workday.
Often, I’d use one of my 10-minute breaks to call a media company about an advertising campaign I was arranging for my business.
Sometimes I’d smile…
Wondering what the person on the other end of the line would think, if they saw the person they were chatting with was sitting in a dingy breakroom wearing a 100-dollar bill costume dripping with melting snow
Sometimes, the amount I was spending on these advertising campaigns exceeded my monthly income from the job. This did not stop me (well…until I ran out of money. That stopped me. Until I saved up more…then I started again).
Also, throughout this time (and for most of my adult life) I’ve kept a regular journal of my daily experiences. So I have a detailed recounting of all the weird stuff I went through. I’m going to go through it to start pulling specifics I can write about. That was another advantage of this job:
My daily routine was so repetitive, it became a backdrop of sameness I could test new ideas against, to see how they affected me physically, mentally, financially, spiritually, etc. My sparse, routine, simple life became a wall I could throw stuff against, to see what would stick. My lack of responsibility and attention became an advantage.
Earlier in life, I often pondered how being stuck in a prison cell could confer certain advantages in terms of focus…
Later, my life took on those aspects as I cancelled my cable TV and devoted my non-working hours to working on my business.
Anyhoo, this post doesn’t have as many amusing anecdotes and actual stories as I’d like to include, but I’ll make up for that. This sets the stage of what my average day was like, as context for more specific events. Like when I called 911 for the first time in my life… stood in awe of a beatific cloud of dandelion seeds blowing through the spring air… and, in the summer, sweltered deliriously in 100-degree heat…