Leave It All On The Floor

Give it everything you’ve got. Leave nothing out there. Leave nothing out there – Andy Murray

Eighteen Words

Can eighteen minutes change the course of your life? Better yet, can eighteen words, taken to heart provide a different outlook on life and serve as an impetus to give your all regardless of current stimuli? Perched on my home desk is an ordinary gift handed to me years ago. A pen holder etched with eighteen words that have inspired and challenged me in different seasons of my life. Now to the words:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). 

Each time I sit down and pick up a pen, these words form not only the effort in my writing but also my approach to anything I do in life. 

Whatever You Do

The scope that covers the word whatever leaves no room for debate. This panoramic or all-encompassing word offers no excuse or excludes any job, task, or duty, regardless of how mundane or menial one considers it to be. Anything we do (of course, within the boundaries of what is legal) deals with the present, not the future. It’s not whatever we did or whatever we will do. Many wait for their dream job to give their best. In the words of leadership expert Dr. John C. Maxwell, “The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Instead of waiting for one day, flip the words by calling today, day one. Make today the first day you decide to give your all, no matter what you do. 

My First Job

When I first came to the United States, I had minimal options. I was fresh out of high school, and my resume was relatively thin (it only had a computer course I had taken right after high school), McDonald’s was my best option. To be honest, I did not enjoy what I did. For eight hours, I either cooked in a hot kitchen or wiped tables, swept, and mopped floors in the dining area. One important life lesson I learned from my parents was to work hard at whatever I have, for the time I have it. I was there on time, gave my all, and left it all on the floor. I went home dead tired and smelling like french fries and hamburgers but never in regret because I gave my best. 

My motivation to work hard was intrinsic. At the time, I made minimum wage. But I did not allow the fact that I did not like what I did to be expressed in my job performance. I realized that the job was simply a stopover and a stepping stone on my way to fulfilling my purpose. When you know where you are going, you learn to see the big picture, not just the little details. It’s been years since that first job, but from those humble beginnings, I learned two important lessons that have served me well as my range of options has increased. Here they are:

See Purpose Over Preference

There can be an erroneous expectation placed on what we do. This expectation can relegate us to poor job performance because the work we do does not bring us joy. Dr. Geoffrey Griffin, founding director of the highly-rated Starehe Boys Center and School in Kenya, spoke these final words to the boys at Starehe:

I hope that Starehe will always teach this lesson – for as long as it does so, it will remain a great school.

This world is full of people who do their duty half-heartedly, grudgingly, and poorly. Don’t be like them. Whatever is your duty, do it as fully and perfectly as you possibly can. And when you have finished your duty, go on to spare some time and talent in service for less fortunate people, not for any reward at all, but because it is the right thing to do.

Follow my advice in this and I promise you that your lives will be happy and successful.

May God bless you all.

In my experience, it is not what you do but what you bring to what you do that determines what you get out of it. Those early days at McDonald’s could have been my most miserable if I had allowed them to be. Bringing a good attitude and a work ethic to a minimum wage job showed I appreciated being able to work. I realized that preferences should never be an excuse for poor performance. Walt Disney said, “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” 

Dig deeper than your preferences and ask, “Am I giving my best in whatever I am doing right now?” It echoes this observation from Martin Luther King Jr:

“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. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth pause to say; ‘Here lives a great sweeper who did his job well.’”

Although not preferable, as you bring your best to whatever you do, your productivity will automatically rise. 

See Productivity Over Perfection

Do you ever find yourself saying, “I am waiting for _______?” Or, “When________, then I will________. Sometimes waiting for perfection can keep us locked in procrastination. Try this instead. “What can I do now as I wait for ____________. I believe waiting should be an active posture, not a passive one. This is how productivity wins over perfection. Beethoven, Michelangelo, or Shakespeare didn’t wake up and create masterpieces of music, art, or poetry. This came years after consistent action. Stop putting off what you need to do because of the excuses you have been giving. Step up and act on what you can do now because you never get back the time you waste. You can only use the time you have now. Use it well.   

Final Thought: Giving your best at whatever you are doing is a core trademark of excellence, defined as being consistently diligent over a long time. The quickest path to poor performance is comparing what you do to someone else. Stave off complacency by seeing purpose over preference and productivity over perfection. Stop wishing you could do something different. Apply enthusiasm to what you are doing.  Remember, whatever you do is “unto the Lord.” Can eighteen words change your life? Give your best in whatever you do and the discovery of this truth will be one of the greatest joys of your life.  

Keep on keeping on!

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