How we found meaning in life by
systematizing our damn dishes.
Stuck in Life
It would be great to do something meaningful in life, right? To get up everyday and have a purpose and passion that makes a real difference in the world. In 2010 we were stuck in life and becoming toxic. Life felt like a never ending groundhogs day that was only getting worse. Every morning we would get up exhausted from a night of tossing and turning. There was nothing healthy to eat so we would just have another bowl of cereal. Then it's off to the Chinese prison we called work.
Every workday was filled with soul crushing tasks. Life had become more about just trying to "put out fires" rather than anything constructive. At the end of a long draining day of work we had another 8 hours of chores waiting for us. Our lives and house were a complete disaster zone. We had to work literally around the clock with no days off just to try and keep this house of cards from totally collapsing. Many nights we would not get to bed until 5am. By 9am it started all over again. We felt absolutely trapped.
Dying over Dishes
The laundry, vacuuming, bills, house, car, and computer repairs all stacked up. Even our health started to fail because we could never have just a few minutes to take care of ourselves. Every day or so something new would finally give out and die. No matter how fast we worked we were still always late to the next disaster. You might be able to relate to this.
The damn dishes became the most constant breaking point of our household. The one time you just want to sit down and have a break and a nice meal with your loved ones, was ruined by a giant sink full of dirty dishes. Everyone would give an excuse why they had a larger problem they had to work on and couldn't do the dishes right now. How could we ever win at something meaningful in life if we couldn't win at dishes?
Kill or be Killed
Fights and drama filled our house every night. When we needed the help of each other the most, we were tearing each other apart. Things got so bad, it was like we were living in a never ending hostage situation. "You better come over here and give this your full attention right now or else you're going to pay later!" The choice became clear, either stay being the slave to all these problems or fucking fight back. "I don't care what it takes, we are not going to live like this anymore."
What happened to us over the next 7 years was a transformation. We finally found where all the problems were coming from... they were coming from inside ourselves. It was like there was an unconscious demon inside that was determined to keep us in this prison forever. We declared war on the old unconscious self that was causing all these life problems. We could not trust ourselves anymore, we had to find, follow and listen to people who have built something in their lives. We were the enemy and the enemy had to die for a new life to be reborn.
"Until you make the unconscious conscious,
it will direct your life, and you will call it fate."
4 Stages (Weasels, Whiners, Workers, Warriors)
There was a book I read years ago by Tim O'Leary that talked about these 4 identities in the workplace. There was the weasel, who was always complaining and tearing down those around them. Then there was the whiners, that were never happy with what they had. The workers were settled and were getting stuff done for everyone else. And then there were the warriors, the people who could lead and scale the company.
We went through these stages or identities over the years. It's so hard because you have to now be the "bad boss" that is beating your dumb, lazy, selfish ass to keep moving. You don't get to go from "zero to perfect". You don't get to go from loser in your bedroom, to warrior on your mission. You will never find your meaning in life from your cozy bed. You find your meaning in life in the trenches of war and death.
You start off in the darkness and inch by inch over the years the path start to become clear.
"People will do anything, no matter how absurd,
in order to avoid facing their own souls."
The weasel stage is where you see alot of trolls on the internet today. They don't have anything of value they are producing and are tearing down those who do. They demand that their point of view is followed or else they are going to burn everyone down. They cause fights and then blame everyone else for them. They punch people repeatedly and once you put your hands up to defend yourself, they scream that they are the victim. They are coming from a very unsettled state and demand the world "should not be" this way. Like a rebellious teenager, they are in a "me vs the world" phase in life.
As bad as these people are... we had to accept that we were them too. We had to see and know that we were in fact the worst of the worst. They can't see how bad they are... so does that mean I can't see how bad I am? We changed one little phrase that made a huge difference. We went from saying, "Look how bad they are, I'm glad I'm not that bad." To... "How and where am I doing something just as psycho as they are in my life?" Funny thing is, when you ask these questions, you start to get the answers.
Progress is slow with lots of ups and downs, which really stresses the whiners out. Think of the person who watches the news shows all day and then vomits out all that toxic energy. When we see these types of people come through we refer to them as those who are, "forever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth." They are always loaded with alot of energy and have a long list of improvements that "should be done right away".
We use to sit around and complain for hours, even days. As the years went by we started to really track how many hours we were wasting complaining. This was so incredibly painful as we would see we had a problem and then we were making it worse by over analyzing it. We pushed ourselves to take just one hour off the next drama session so we could put that time into actually working on the problem instead. Seems simple enough right? It's so painful to retrain that tantruming monster inside you to grow up and just do the right thing even when it doesn't feel like it.
"A man who is unconscious of himself
acts in a blind, instinctive way."
This is where things get really exciting as you start to cross the 51% mark. As you are putting in the work to get stuff done, you start to build up momentum. Once you get those damn dishes conquered you start looking at what else you can kill. Laundry, groceries, cleaning, all go from 20 hours a week down to 45 minutes a week total! Ok, now things are feeling good! These systems are starting to actually work. The more you put in the work, the more things get solved, the more you want to take on.
Our favorite people to talk to and work with are in the worker stage in life. They are humble enough to know that their problems are coming from them, yet confident enough to take on the responsibility to do something about it. They are happy with what they have in life and are looking to make the best with it. They have a growing grateful spirit about life that is energizing to be around. Life is still hard for them everyday, but they are chipping away each day moving forward inch by inch.
The warrior is the person who has dominated the battlefield. They have more things in control, than out of control. No warrior started out on their mission from the comfort of their cozy bed. They all had to wander the wilderness of life for years, often decades. They have settled the light and the darkness, the saviors and the demons. They don't need anything from anyone else. They are coming from a state of abundance and can now give freely to others.
We started to get little glimmers of this over the years. It's funny how fast you start to realize how simple the meaning of life really is. It's just about growing yourself slowly over time, and then helping someone else. The warrior compares themselves to their own self and seeks to improve just 1% over time. They don't have their meaning tied up in their awards or job. They know meaning comes from truly helping others. The warrior sees growth and meaning all around them and is filled with gratitude and positive energy.
"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures
of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
7 Years Later
Today, even though our lives have more demands than ever, we are completely calm and have more free time than ever. What started out as just building a system for our dishes has grown into systematizing everything in our house and business. What use to take 40 hours a week now only takes 4 hours a week. It was hard to believe when we were going through it, but it does end. The pain, fear, and anger has all settled. We now can live our lives with love, gratefulness, positivity, and peace. The problems of the outside world all seem so small and solvable once the internal war has been won.
We found meaning and we found an unlimited amount of it. Here is the weird thing... it's not our job. If everything was taken from us tomorrow, we'd still have just as much meaning working at a homeless shelter. For us, the meaning of life is to grow ourselves just a little more each year. The meaning of life for us is to simply take some of that abundance and give it freely to others. That's it, we don't overthink it. We had to go through hell and back to find that meaning was right here the whole time. We were just too blinded by our demons to see it.
You will end up like everyone else if you keep trying to work harder, do it all yourself, and hope for better days. You can not beat your demons, only systems can. The demons scream and die when you hit them with discipline, routines, teamwork, accountability, numbers, standards, priorities, and consequences. Do what objectively works in reality, not what makes sense to you in your unconscious head. Yes, all your friends and family will hate you for it along the way. I promise you... it gets so much worse before it gets better.
Start with Dishes
Looking back it seems so crazy yet makes perfect sense how we found meaning in life by systematizing our dishes first. The dishes just ignited a long process of learning how to break down and conquer never ending "impossible" problems. Setting these small goals forced the demons out so we could address them in the light. Once the core problems were in the light, we could write them down and go to work building systems to solve them. You can get out of your hell, one step at a time, over a long period of time. The books E-Myth and the 4 Hour Work Week became our bibles on our journey.
~ Dave and Shan