The mystery of the dirty car...
The other day, on a Saturday morning, I took my car to be cleaned in one of the Kigali car ‘washes’. The motions were pretty much what you would expect in a car wash.
It was only when I told the guy cleaning the car to hurry as he had taken 50 minutes instead of the promised half an hour (sounds familiar?). He complained that the car was very dirty and that was why it was taking him a long time. I found it a curious comment. “That is why I brought it here,” I retorted. That got me thinking, the car wash guy is not alone in this line of thought. Most of us earnestly seek jobs and when we get them we complain about the workload and instead work at doing as little as possible (facebooking and all!). How else would you explain our lateness to meetings and all and our ‘punctuality’ in leaving work for home? We seem to lose touch with our productive capacity rather easily.
Let us take the image of a farmer. They must start by sowing their crop. But even before sowing, there is work to be done preparing the field and all. After sowing there is weeding and thinning to be done. Sometimes we even have to spray the crop and protect it from others who may have more than a passing interest in our treasured crop. All this happens before the harvest. Harvest is work. And there is a lot of it too before you can chew and swallow the final product. The point is we must change the way we look at and approach work.
Most of us approach work as a necessary evil, like it is the wall we must climb to get to our goal. In this approach we miss the point. And this is why we still have a customer service problem. To practice good customer service one must have a spirit of service and service means work. This brings to mind a quote by Muhammad Ali (he of dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee boxing fame). “You are as important as you are appreciated; appreciated as you are needed; needed as you are useful; useful as you are used!” The dirty car is not a problem.
There is the second approach of considering work as a bridge to where we want to be. With this school of thought, problems are opportunities. There are both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that come alongside being the problem solver. The satisfaction of being the ‘go to guy/lady’ is immense.
Externally, you will be assured a steady stream of income if you can solve a problem and solve it well and in time. What’s more you earn respect from the society as you will become a useful member of the community. Here the dirty car is a goldmine.
But this approach calls for innovative and positive thinking. If one solution does not work, you must seek another way. None other than the prominent inventor Thomas Edison epitomises this.
When working on the light bulb, he is reputed to have tried over 10,000 different ways before he got it right. Somewhere along the way someone asked him if he is not discouraged by all the failures he’d experienced (after about 8000 tries!) “I have failed,” he responded, “I have just found 8,000 ways that cannot work”. Make you wonder if it is the pedestrian approach we have towards work that stops us from invention and innovation.
Commitment to work, with its ups and downs, is beautiful. It is the uphill of life and there is no downhill without one just as without darkness light has no meaning. There is no light without darkness. No virtue without vice, no good without bad, no roses without thorns, no heaven without hell. It is called duality. Come to grips with it, it is a fact of life.
Contact email: sam.kebongo[at]gmail.com