“If you cook in a mess, you’ll produce a mess” — Gordon Ramsay
The lesson of this article is simple. Clean up your mess before you start doing anything else.
I remember a couple of years ago, when I still was a beer brewer and I had all the beer in the world I could drink (not necessarily a good thing), my partner and I got up really early to brew the delicious Weizen beer everyone liked so much, including ourselves!
We learned the hard way (spoiling thousands of liters of beer) that the brewery needed to be the cleanest place, otherwise, our deadly enemies, the dreaded bacteria, would come and spoil our beer, as they did so many times.
We had tons and tons and tons of work to do, physical and mental. Numbers, marketing, crushing the grain, you name it.
There were times we had so much to do we didn’t even know where to begin. So my partner, on automatic mode, began cleaning. That was his answer to stress, I thought it was dumb, having so many other (more important in my mind) things to do. But the years have passed now, and I copied him. First thing that I do when I don’t know what to do is cleaning, ordering and organizing.
I’ve learned now that what cleaning does is that it gives your mind space to think. If you cook in a mess, you’ll produce a mess.
If you don’t know what to do, clean up first, think about the other things later.
Even when, and especially, when you find yourself in a big mess…
The Stencil Mess
That glorious “Peace Tank” you can see on the picture above, was made by two close friends of mine, Nat and Hector. They painted it in an old house downtown that belongs to my family and that is sadly falling apart. They asked if I could ask for permission to paint it, I gladly approved. I offered to drive them there as well.
Now, when I went to pick them up, they were already walking to the site, with the stencil they had just spent the whole day cutting and making. If you’ve never done a stencil before, it’s fairly easy. You just need to cut the shape that you want on a piece of paper, put it against a wall, and then spray paint through it at the wall and voila! Just like Banksy.
Now, in principle, making a stencil is easy. But if the image is large and complex, it gets harder. My friend’s tank was enormous, so the stencil they had to make was really big and full of tiny holes and super delicate.
Back to the story.
I went in my car to pick them up and it was a super, super windy day. They were walking, Uber hadn’t arrived in my city yet and it’s hard to find Taxis. They were struggling hard to keep the stencil from destroying itself with the wind. Haha, sorry, now that I remember it, it was quite comical. But back then, it wasn’t comical for them. Especially for Nat, I could see how she had lost all hope on the stencil they had been working so hard on throughout the entire day. Hector, on the other hand, looked fucking determined.
Anyways I picked them up and took them to the place, wrecked stencil and all. When they got down, it was all a huge mess. Watching the stencil finished on the picture, it’s easy to imagine how you need to place the stencil to do the painting. But at the time, the wind had done a lot of damage. Nat didn’t even know where to begin and seemed to want to throw it all away and call it a day.
Hector got off the car and began to work on the stencil, calmly. It took him about an hour, but he put it back in place. Honestly, everybody else had just given up, shit happens I guess.
But more than that, is that none had the mind as collected as my friend had. He had a huge mess in front of him, and so he began to fix it, calmy.
As I said, I wasn’t sure if he was going to pull it through, but he did, and it was awesome, and Nat and I and all my friends were fascinated by the tank.
There was a huge mess, but he decided to clean it and to organize it, the results spoke for themselves.
The mess we are in right now
The entire world assimilates right now to the picture of a kitchen that hasn’t been cleaned, in a, absolutely never.
It happens, sometimes you don’t have time and you need to get to work or whatever. Sometimes you’re just depressed and you don’t feel like doing the big pile of dishes and so they accumulate, making it harder and harder.
I feel like something like it is happening right now, but worldwide, and we need to begin cleaning right now.
Sometimes, messes seem so big that you don’t even know where to begin to clean.
It is in those moments that you need to fix something first, your mind. I didn’t tell you the stories of my friends just because. I wanted to tell you particularly about how Hector acted in that situation. The situation was a huge mess, but he stayed calm (first rule), took it one thing at a time, and he managed to finish the stencil tank.
That was a Stoicism 101 lesson for me.
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
The mess you find yourself in might be big and scary. But there is no use running, plus, a dirty kitchen feels horrible to be in.
One dish at a time, you’ll eventually finish.
Today I told you two stories. The first one was about cleaning first so that you can clear up your mind. The second one was about the mindset you need to begin to clean up the mess.
Right now, the entire world might be an entire mess, but that shouldn’t stop you from cleaning your part first. Do what you can, the little things matter.
Let’s clean up our mess, clear our minds, have a lemonade of course when we finish, and then think about where we want to go, shall we?
Thanks for reading,
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