Archive for February, 2016

Life is Full of Shit

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Growing up I had a dog. My responsibilities to this dog were pretty minimal. I basically needed to toss a ball for a few minutes in the backyard and clean up after her. This was all well and good when we first got her. I was about twelve years old and didn’t really have much to do as a junior high school kid.

When high school came along, the classes got harder. I picked up competitive sport and I found myself spending three hours at practice running my body into a wall then coming home to study or do homework until 1am and then waking up at 6 to do do it all over again. Unsurprisingly, playing fetch with my dog fell down the priority ladder. As did picking up poop.

So, one day I come home from practice–tired, sweaty and exhausted–put my gear down and plop down on the couch. And, with little fanfare and no regard for my tired state of being, in the special way my mom had of picking the worst time to ask for something, literally no sooner does my ass hit the sweet plushness of the sofa cushion, when my mom says “go scoop up the dog poop.”

Obviously not in the mood and in the most angsty teenage voice I ask “can’t it wait?” The answer, a simple “no.”

Of course it couldn’t.

Discontent, but accepting of my fate, I haul myself off the couch, grab a bag and shovel and head out to the backyard. Five minutes later (literally, I have no idea why this was such a big deal for me back then), poop is scooped up and in the garbage can.

“Happy?” I asked my mother when I returned to the house.

“No.”

“Why not?!?”

“Because you didn’t put your heart into it.”

At this point, my teenage temper explodes. What the in the world is my mom talking about? What do you mean by didn’t put my heart into it? Why would anyone put their heart into picking up dog poop? It didn’t make sense. And, for a long time I’ve held this story in my head as a joke. An example of irrational expectations.

But now it’s twenty years later. I’m less of a teenager, and I think I’ve finally been able to attach some meaning to this. And that meaning may not be exactly what my mom had in mind, but it goes something like this:

Life is full of shit.

Look all around you and you’ll see it. There’s the litter on the street. The bills that need paying. The dishes that need washing. That legacy code that breaks in some way every month. That new person that no one likes. That new company policy that everyone hates. The shit is all around us. And we have two options. We can tippy toe around the shit, or we can pick it up.

It is perfectly ok to tippy toe around the shit. If that is your choice, just please be quiet while you’re doing it. Don’t criticize the people picking up the shit. Don’t point it out when we did not fully pick up the shit–it is not helpful.

Sometimes you will volunteer to pick up the shit. You’ll take a look around and realize that, damn, there’s a lot of shit in this world, and you’re sick and tired of it. Welcome to leadership. Pick up that shovel and join the party.

And, sometimes you will be assigned to pick up shit when you really don’t want to. Agreeing to do this is called being an adult. No one is asking you to like it. No one is telling you that it will be an enjoyable experience. But, shit has to get picked up, and this time your number was called. As an adult, put a little thought into it. Put a little heart and care into it. The people who are picking up shit everyday will appreciate it. It’s probably going to suck, but not for too long, and, twenty years from now, you might look back on it and be able to divine some lesson that would make for a good blog post.