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Whose job is it? Mine!

In an earlier post (Great time management ideas from the world of improv wisdom) I shared some insights with respect to personal productivity from Patricia Ryan Madson's delightful little book Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up. Here's another thought from the book that really made an impact on me:

From her section "Act now," (one of her thirteen maxims [1]):
When I see something that needs to be done, I usually do it without debate. The improviser in me is trained to take action rather than muse over whose job it may be. It's always my job if I see it to do, and I'm able to do the task.
Put another way, Madsen says in the section "Take care of each other":
The old response "It's not my job" is never an acceptable excuse for the improviser. It's always my job, if the job needs doing and I am there to do it.
And I believe this applies to life in general. Here's a small example that I learned when my wife and I were doing a year-long course in massage therapy [2]: As a class we were discussing how to keep our school clean (it was a small place, with no budget for cleaning staff), and our teacher suggested that, when finishing washing our hands (and you do a lot of hand-washing in massage school) why don't we just take two seconds and wipe up sink for the next person? It's a great idea, and I find myself still doing this, even in our beautiful new Computer Science building, which has some wonderful full-time people helping keep it clean. It makes me feel good about the next guy, gives me a tiny little sense of reversing entropy, and helps the cleaning staff just a bit. Plus, it might motivate others to keep the bathrooms clean.

At a higher level, this concept really hit home because, as I continue my new career in personal productivity consulting (and move further out of my comfort zone), the urge comes up to question what I'm doing, and to compare myself to more established practitioners (read experienced, successful, etc.) As a result I sometimes question why I'm doing this, and why me in particular. But Madsen's idea made me realize it's my job to do it because I'm the one who discovered the job that needs doing, I'm excited about doing it, and I can. (And besides, I think I'm good at it!) In other words, I've been pulled into it, and that's enough.

So when the doubts and fears come up, I try to do what Madsen suggests: "Keep on acting, even while wondering if it's the right thing to do." Or as Susan Jeffers says in her great book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway:
The fear will never go away as long as i continue to grow. [so] The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
What jobs do you see that need doing, either at work, or in your life?

  • [1] Here are Madsen's thirteen maxims (for more info - buy the book!):

    • The First Maxim: Say Yes
    • The Second Maxim: Don't Prepare
    • The Third Maxim: Just Show Up
    • The Fourth Maxim: Start Anywhere
    • The Fifth Maxim: Be Average
    • The Sixth Maxim: Pay Attention
    • The Seventh Maxim: Face the Facts
    • The Eighth Maxim: Stay on Course
    • The Ninth Maxim: Wake Up to the Gifts
    • The Tenth Maxim: Make Mistakes, Please
    • The Eleventh Maxim: Act Now
    • The Twelfth Maxim: Take Care of Each Other
    • The Thirteenth Maxim: Enjoy the Ride

  • [2] It's now called The Stillpoint Program, and it was 1000 hours of challenge, fun, and surprise. This was in the early 90's and we needed a change from our regular jobs (nursing and programming), and we thought it would be good for us personally, and as partners. After graduating we started a practice in Holyoke, MA, which started thriving after a while (not counting the 2am phone calls asking for the other kind of "massage"!) We ended up leaving the practice and going on to other work for various reasons (we felt more at home in Amherst, the work can be very tiring). One great things about the experience was my appreciation for how much we humans need healthy touch, esp. in a digital age. Of course my six year old daughter loves getting massages before bed-time, and it really helps her get to sleep when she's frightened or worked up.

Reader Comments (4)

Hi Matt! It's been a while. You and your posts have been missed :)

August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlvin

Hey Alvin, thanks!

August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Thank you, thank you, thank you AGAIN, Matt. I am moved that you chose to mention this idea: "If you see something that needs to be done, and you are there, just do it."
This is my life philosophy.

When I was a young women whenever I went into a public rest room all I did was look at myself in the mirror and try and fix my hair or make myself look better. Now that I'm "older, and occasionally wiser . . ." whenever I go into a public rest room I check to see if someone has left papers on the floor that need to be picked up. I always try and leave a rest room better than I found it. That may seem wierd, but it seems like the right thing to do.
I appreciate your writing and for your promotion of the book.
What a thrill to know it is useful.
Have a great day.
Patricia Ryan Madson

August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia Ryan Madson

Thanks very much for your comment, Patricia, and for reading. I liked your rest room story. Cheers!

August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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