Be the Best Street Sweeper

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June 18, 2013 by Wayne Desbarres

“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 will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” – Martin Luther King, Jr.  

I feel a story coming on…

I live my life by this theory. If you choose to do something do it to the best of your ability. If you are thrown into a job or situation that you didn’t choose, do it to the best of your ability. Only good things can happen if you do this.

I remember a young boy who graduated college and decided to tackle the world. He took a good job that paid him well and had future opportunity. However he wanted more out of life and knew a friend that worked for an international company. He pleaded that his friend let him know when a good job came up.

The friend calls on a Friday and says a position has come open. Was it a good job? Well it was in the mail-room. The young boy thought about the job over the weekend and what it meant to start at the lowest position in the company.

On Sunday night, he sent his resume to his friend. He got the “glorious” job of being the “mail-room guy” and had to sign a contract stating he must stay in this role for at least a year before applying for other internal jobs.

Over the course of that year, the young boy worked hard making the mail-room run the best it could. People were amazed at how quickly things were delivered, sent and organized. He set up processes to make things easier for all 6 Canadian facilities and several U.S. offices.

He also made sure he spoke to everyone from the top to almost the bottom of the company (remember he was the bottom!). He volunteered (no pay) his services to other departments during off hours. He made sure that everyone in the company knew who he was and understood his willingness to succeed.

After the year was up, the young boy had department heads coming to him asking if he would join their team. Was working in the mail-room his dream job and did it have all the glory that he wanted? No. But he took it serious and did it to the absolute best of his ability. He spent almost 11 years at that company and worked his way up to a manager of his own team.

Be the best street sweeper there ever was.



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