KEYSTROKE MONTHLY THE
MARCH 2020 HOW CLEANING TOILETS HELPED MY CAREER
Some of my most valuable lessons I learned in my college career weren’t necessarily from the classroom. In high school, I had a talent for playing basketball, and I was a part of a very talented team. We were one of the best teams in the state. Because the team was so good, I got a lot of exposure when it came to opportunities to play college ball. I received numerous scholarship offers, among them Oklahoma State University, where I decided to go. I was elated, and my ego was through the roof — but that wouldn’t last long. Part of my scholarship responsibility was to do 8–10 hours of work per week within the athletic department. The amount of work I had to do didn’t bother me, but the type of work absolutely did. On my first day of work, I found out I had to report to the head janitor, and my first job was cleaning the restrooms in the basketball arena. As a young, promising freshman who thought he was better than he actually was, cleaning restrooms was a huge hit to my ego. In my pride, I thought I was above doing that kind of work. For whatever reason, though, I did try my best to clean those restrooms. The head janitor would compliment me on how well I cleaned the restrooms, and we eventually became friends. I had to do a few other jobs within the athletic department. One of them was putting the flags of the Big Eight Conference schools up around the top of the stadium. Again, I thought this work was beneath me. I had to be at the stadium at 8 a.m . every Saturday and meet up with another student athlete named Bob, who played golf at OSU. Why should a basketball star like myself have to do this sort of work? It was cleaning the bathrooms all over again. One day, I was complaining to a senior friend about that job. He asked me who I was doing the job with, and I mentioned Bob, the golfer. Then my friend just laughed. I learned that Bob wasn’t just some golfer — he had apparently been an All-American in golf for the past three years! And yet, he showed up every Saturday to help with flags, just like I did. After hearing that, I figured if an All-American didn’t have a problem doing the job, then I shouldn’t either.
Years after I graduated from college, I was working in the marketing department of Humble Oil & Refining Company in Irving, Texas. Humble Oil later became Exxon, which is now ExxonMobil. As a part of my job, I did marketing for a territory of 27 service stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. One of the biggest parts of overseeing service stations is making sure they have clean restrooms — that’s one of the indicators of a successful service station. I was still pretty new to the job, and I wanted to impress my superiors. They were going to inspect all the stations in my territory, and I knew I had to get them in shipshape. So, in one weekend, I found myself in a leadership role, in the marketing department of a major corporation, cleaning restrooms with a friend of mine whom I hired to help me. After my superiors inspected my stations, they gave them some of the highest scores in the region. It made me look like one of the rising stars in the marketing department. They had no idea I personally had a part in cleaning the restrooms. Even though at that point, I had more power and responsibility than I’d ever had previously, cleaning restrooms didn’t feel like a hit to my pride — it was just something that needed to get done, and done well. I found myself grateful for those menial jobs I had once despised. It turns out they helped me more than I thought they ever would! -Doug Barnes
The point I’m making is this: Not only were those jobs not beneath me as I thought, but they were actually beneficial to me later in life.
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