Out with the old…

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My wife and I recently embarked on one of those “January projects” – you know the kind… clean out the basement.  This should not have been a terrible project because we just moved into our home a few years ago.  However, this time, we went through every box and tried to ask the question, “Someday, when we are gone, is this something anyone else would use or even care about?”  When you look at your junk treasures that way, it is amazing how more likely you are to throw them out.

Here are some of the things we finally threw out or gave away this time:  

  • A box of 15 worn out pairs of shoes – these were all the same brand/model of shoes that I have been wearing for the last 20+ years.  Somehow, I was holding out hope that the company would offer a free refurbishment deal that restored every pair to like-new shape.  It was either that or I thought when times got hard, I might have to cycle back to some of these that might have a few more wearings in them.
  • A box of Halloween costumes dating back to the 1970’s – there were some great old costumes in that box.  For example, there was part of an old clown costume – checkered vest, crazy pants, fake ears, and a goofy hat.  However, these were pretty worn out and besides, clown costumes are not really in vogue right now.  The box also had some of those old masks that attached to your face with the rubber band.  A hula skirt was also in the box.  Some of those costumes brought back good memories… others made me wonder exactly what we were thinking.
  • A few old college textbooks and other reference materials – Other than the material being completely obsolete, everything anyone would ever need to know could be found in 15 seconds on Google anyway.  It was beyond time to pitch these!
  • A few more of those “important documents” from your kids (e.g., coloring book pages, home-made/broken Christmas ornaments, etc.) – None of these met the “…would anyone else care about these” criteria.
  • A large box of old company-logo giveaway items – We probably gave away a dozen old soft-sided bags, briefcases, carryon bags, etc. with the names of old companies (some of which no longer even exist) proudly displayed on their sides.  I’m sure the charity we hauled these to were giddy when they opened that box of joy!

Keep in mind, these were just a few examples of things that had to go this time.  Let’s just say that our basement now has room to actually walk around without tripping.

So, what is the point in this?  Why does this matter to anyone else?  I think this particular effort to get rid of these old, obsolete, or worthless items is something we all need to do in our home or work lives from time-to-time.  This might especially be true when it comes to our careers.  Here are a few analogies that come to mind:

  1. Some experiences from our past might actually limit our career growth – There are things and experiences from our careers that tend to taint our thinking or our approach.  For example, if you tried something in the past that didn’t work, you might avoid a similar risk in the future.  Thus, your career is limited by those negative experiences of the past.  Now might be a good time to cast those negative experiences away.  Why not ceremoniously throw out those things that you know might be impacting you after all these years?  But, to throw them out, you might need to go back through a few old boxes that you’ve been holding.  Get rid of those things that are holding you back!
  2. There is a time to stop believing that old, worn out practices might still work – Some of us might be stuck in the past regarding what worked then and how we used to do things.  It is time to move on.  I remember when individuals didn’t even type their own documents.  And, before voicemail, messages were recorded on pink message pads.  It is time that we embrace today’s technology.  Even better, we need to anticipate what technology will be used and what business processes will be in place in the next decade and get ahead of that curve now.  What “old practices” are you still tied to?  Believe me, they won’t come back.  That ship has already sailed.
  3. Some of our past experiences might benefit others, so we need to give them away – In our recent clean out project, we accumulated a large pile of items that we knew would be useful to others.  We gave them to a charity that helps those going through life’s challenges.  Career-wise, we have all gained knowledge and experience that we need to pass along.  We need to be helping to develop those less experienced.  We need to be mentoring others and preparing them for future significant roles.  Think about what experiences you have gained that you should be passing along today… then, do it!
  4. Many things we are holding onto won’t matter to anyone in five or ten years – We all tend to get caught up in the chaos and stress of today.  We try juggling too many balls and, as a result, often drop a ball or two.  The reality is that many of the things that tie us up in knots today won’t matter next month, or next year, or in 5-10 years.  When you think of things in terms of the long-haul, it tends to help us focus on those things that are truly important.  Are you still holding onto things or projects or stress that really won’t matter for long?  How can you clean up that mess?
  5. A fresh start might help you look to the future with optimism – Sometimes, a significant clean up can give us a totally new perspective.  Our basement now conveys a totally different vibe when you walk through it.  Getting rid of the old and obsolete things that clutter up our lives automatically promotes a fresh approach… an optimism that cannot come otherwise.  Think about what you can do to create a fresh start and a new optimism in your own life or career.

Out with the old, in with the new…  That statement is more than words when it comes to your life or your career.  It can set an entirely new direction for your future.  And, it can turn around your thinking from regrets from your past to excitement about what comes next.  Think about how you can apply this to your own situation.  It just might make a difference that seemed impossible just a few days ago.

Have a great day!  Do something to make a difference for someone else today.  We each have the power to turn a bad day into a good day for someone else.  Give it a try!

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