The Magic Of Starting

We don’t have a dishwasher at our house currently, and there isn’t really room for one in our kitchen anyway, so I’ve planted my flag and taken up arms in the ongoing Battle Against The Dishes.


Generally I stay ahead, because it’s a matter of pride at this point, though some nights I’m like “mehhh you win this time dishes, hasta mañana.” Overall I’ve really started to enjoy the daily process, and find the warm water and predictability of it calming and centering. Dirty dishes go in, clean dishes come out, a simple win for the day.


I often find myself in this meditative space thinking about gym and life-related concepts, and an interesting thing happened recently that I think is worth sharing.


There are some days when I genuinely do not want to wash dishes, yet it really needs to get done still in order for us to eat, function, and generally get on with other things.


The other day there was a mountain of clean dishes in the rack in addition to the backlog of dirty ones in the sink. Putting away clean dishes is, admittedly, a less enjoyable activity for me, as it involves a lot of small decisions that add up, and I already regularly experience “decision fatigue,” as I bet many of you are familiar with.


So I decided to half ass it. I negotiated with myself that I wasn’t going to put away any dishes, but I was going to only wash some of the dirty dishes that I could then balance precariously on the mountain of clean dishes to create a truly spectacular Dish Mountain.


So, I started with a few light items, like tupperware, which I additionally loathe because they’re hard to wash, but I figured I would start with the hard stuff and make it count, plus they can be stacked and balanced without the risk of something breaking during a fall. Hum dee dum, washing and balancing little plastic things on the mountain.


At a certain point, I was like “okay, there’s no way to make this pile any bigger without it toppling over for sure.” A few items had already fallen to the floor that I then had to rinse and re-stack. But I still had a sink full of dirty dishes, some of them soapy and partially washed even. So I decided to do a funny thing. I decided to keep washing them. Because our sink is split down the middle into two smaller sinks, I would put the soapy dishes in the right sink close to the dish rack, but with no idea how to fit them in the dish rack. I had no plan, just a stubborn disposition.


And as I kept washing and stacking soapy dishes in the right sink, I felt a bit of pressure. Like, I had to figure something out, right? I had all this momentum now, yet there was a certainty of a bottleneck looming ahead. I couldn’t stop and go back, and I couldn’t even really stop and leave things where they were. My back was against the wall, I had to find a way to finish the job.


I paused and looked more carefully at the mountain of dishes in the dish rack. At the front of it, and partially buried, were two large pans that were there at the start of this story. They were pretty wedged in there, and I had already resolved that I wasn’t putting any dishes away (perhaps my original sin), but something had to happen. I reached deep in there, grabbed the two pan handles at once, and pulled. A few tupperware things tumbled back into the sink and onto the floor, but I didn’t pay them any heed. I was decisive, and as the pans broke free of the mountainy dish grasp, they gave way to a collapsing pile of smaller items filling the void. I placed the pans on the stove. They weren’t even wet really, so I just left them there to dry. And I carried on rinsing and stacking the remaining dishes rearranging the now more malleable mountain and, eventually, successfully completed the mission.


What can be gleaned from this? Who knows! Just kidding. I think there are certainly several great metaphors in this small and somewhat silly story.


The title of this post for one. I kind of knew going in that I didn’t really have a great plan. But I knew I had to do something, and had some faith that through the process itself my thinking would be altered, and a solution would present itself. The “magic.” And if it didn’t, the stakes weren’t terribly high anyway. Probably the worst that could happen was I would break some dishes, realize what a bad idea it was, and have to reconsider my initial stubbornness about not putting anything away to start. You might call this “learning the hard way.”


But what is more interesting to me is that feeling and moment I experienced when I ran up against that bottleneck. I could feel my brain not only starting to work harder, but attempting to think in fundamentally different ways. Not willing to accept defeat, it sought alternative solutions (rather than brute force) that were only brought to light when something more tangible was on the line: my pride, and unwillingness to accept defeat. I couldn’t rationalize my way to this solution before I started, because it arose from the pressure and emotion of the moment that I had to work to get to.


And then I realized that this feeling wasn’t so strange after all. It is a familiar feeling I get all the time in small business, speaking off the cuff in front of people, when I miss a lift and have to make an adjustment for the next attempt, or when it’s coming down to the end of a difficult workout and in order to reach my goal I’m going to have to step outside of my comfort zone and what I “think” I’m capable of, and stretch toward something more.


I’m sure there are many more ways these lessons can apply to our lives, but it seems a lot of it is only possible with one thing: the resolve to start. Just start. Even if you don’t have the answers, even if you don’t feel ready, with all your imperfection and thus vulnerability. Trust in yourself, that you are a good person; that your values and reasons are good; that your will is good.

Mauricio Leal

Cypher Health & Fitness Owner


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