When I was just out of high school I worked through a temp agency doing light industrial and clerical work. I think that is a great first job since you get to do a lot of different types of work with a lot of different kinds of people. Some of the assignments were short, some were long. Some were fun, others were miserable. Generally I always learned something though, and I think that is really what is important.
On one of my assignments I worked with a guy named Dave, and he was magic. Dave had long red hair that was kind of wavy, and a beard and mustache that was also red. He looked kind of like a wizard and he most always wore a hat. Not a wizards hat, but a baseball cap. I actually got a chance to learn some magic from Dave too.
Now if you never took the time to get to know Dave, you would have never expected him to be magic. In fact, most people may never meet him as he spends most of his time on another plane or even in a different dimension them most of humanity. Luckily for me, this otherworldliness didn’t scare me off. In fact, I had been to this realm before — I had worked the graveyard shift.
That’s right, Dave worked the graveyard shift. What did he do on during the middle of the night? Well, he cleaned your floors. Maybe not yours personally, but he cleaned the floors of a number of businesses around town. He had a schedule he rotated through. Typically showing up after everyone had gone home for the day. He had a key, and his own equipment. We would come in, sweep the floors, empty the trash, and then he would work his magic as he polished the floors.
Dave took a lot of pride in his work, and he did his best to teach me how to do a good job too. Unfortunately I never got a chance to run the big equipment, which was when Dave performed his serious magic. When he was done polishing those floors, he would always look at them and smile. He knew he had gotten those floors as clean and shiny as they could. I remember a few times he imparted bits of magical wisdom to me.
He would say things like “They aren’t scheduled to have a deep waxing this week, but I really think this floor needs it now, and since I have the time, I am going to do it anyway.”
Or other times, after he got a floor polished to an amazing shine, and he was showing me how brilliant it was he would say “Most likely no one will notice tomorrow, and after the first few customers come in with dirty shoes you won’t be able to tell, but doesn’t that just look amazing right now?”
So why take so much pride in cleaning floors? Why put that extra effort into polishing them just right, putting down that extra coat of wax, or running the buffer over the floors one more time? Especially when no one will notice, and people will just scuff them up in a matter of minutes as soon as they get the chance? Well, that was because Dave is magic, and he wanted to use his magic to do the absolutely best he could.
He probably could have gotten away with doing less then his best, and no one would have known, well, no one but Dave. I think that is what it really comes down to. Many us may consider cleaning floors to be brainless work that we never really give any thought too, unless we notice that our floors need cleaning. But when I was working with Dave, I realized that it makes no difference what you are doing, it is how you do it. You can bring passion, commitment and depth of skill to anything you do, and you can even bring your magic.
So what is this magic? I still don’t know that I completely understand it honestly. Dawn and I just finished watching Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Our whole family really enjoyed it. In the end Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman) had to finally believe that she has magic in herself to save the store. I think that is really it. We all have magic in us, if we are willing to believe and use that magic.
So we all really have two choices:
- Are we going to believe in and use our magic?
- When we do, what will we use it for?
While not everyone can be fabulous at everything, I do believe we have a number of opportunities to express our magic. We can choose from one or more of those opportunities and create magic and wonder, or keep our magic bottled up and never brighten the world.
I am glad there are people like Dave who enjoy cleaning floors, that isn’t something I enjoy, but I don’t discount someone who does. A lot of people probably wouldn’t enjoy what I do. I know people who think they might enjoy what someone else does, because it looks easy or glamorous – grass is always greener and all – but often times when they get a chance they find the ease boring and the glamor over powering. Other times it is the person who is doing it who makes it look easy, or they bring the glamor to what they do.
Sometimes believing in ourselves, and then tapping into that magic can be scary. That would seem counter intuitive that we be scared to accomplish our potential, but that has been my experience, that I worry I am not ready, or what might happen when I do. This is why it is often easier for those around us to see our potential and encourage us, and while that helps, I don’t think that is ever enough. To truly tap into our magic and our potential we must discover it ourselves.
I sincerely hope Dave is still out there working his magic. I actually saw him years later. I was out late one night, and riding my bike through a shopping center parking lot that was closed, and I saw him busy cleaning the floor, making sure it looked marvelous. When I think about him, I take a moment to look at the floors where I am and wonder if maybe he cleaned them, or maybe it was someone else just as magic as him, who took the time to make sure that floor looked great.
Believe in yourself, take pride in what you do, and what ever it is your are doing, do it well. Focus on what you are doing and leave everything else to someone else.