Nina Spencer

Japanese toilet-cleaning superstition

Back on March 13, 2007 the Globe and Mail newspaper ran a little ditty on its fun and quirky Social Studies page that revealed, "In Japan, fortune tellers are advising those who want to be successful in life (and at work) to start by scrubbing the bathroom (reported by Reuters). Apparently a recently published Japanese book entitled, Cleaning the Toilet to Attract Luck, is the latest in a series advising readers on how to attract good fortune with a brush and has been keenly covered in magazines and television programs. Linking a clean toilet to good fortune, and perhaps even greater beauty, has existed in Japan for many years, so says book editor Yuka Soma.

"Hmm", I thought, "...sounds like a manipulative plot to get the bathroom spick and spanned more often, if you ask me!" Still, like buying a lottery ticket when you hear the pot's a really big one, I found that come that very night, I couldn't resist getting out the Mr. Clean and giving my toilet a good swish around the ole bowl before lights out. And whaddaya think happened the very next day? Even before I arrived at my desk, I'd received two emails and one voice mail wishing to book my services!

Now I know what you're thinking--coincidence...serendipity...spring's a predictable time of year for booking a lot of engagements; all true. Still...it was kind of fun to think that scrubbing the toilet--and doing so with pleasure rather than pain--had something to do with this good fortune. And so I did it the next night; and the following day...another firmly booked keynote engagement seemingly fell in my lap. No kidding! Needless to say, like a ballplayer who won't change his socks when on a lucky streak, I've been scrubbing away nightly now. And, although that same rhythm of booking hasn't quite kept up with the number of scrubs I've completed, I guess my luck has continued because my toilet bowl has never been cleaner! J

You know, quiet meditation and contemplation can happen when you perform--in joyful and purposeful ways--activities you would otherwise call boring, dreaded or undesirable chores (and, trust me, until recently, I've always considered cleaning the toilet bowl as an undesirable chore!). It reminds me of a poignant scene from the movie Gandhi, in which the Mahatma (played by Ben Kingsley) berates his wife and threatens to throw her out of the commune if she will not do her dutiful rotation of cleaning the latrine. She insists this work is beneath her and is only fit for the "untouchables". Gandhi sternly educates his wife in the necessities of a healthy and fully functioning "team" (my word not his), declaring that all of the commune's members must perform all of the necessary jobs and chores, and must do so with joy and appreciation of the contribution that each role offers. With new awareness, Mrs. Gandhi gladly, then, accepts and participates in cleaning the latrine, thanks to this split-second moment of enlightenment prompted by her wise husband's clear vision and deep understanding of the bigger picture of a fully functioning and loving unit.

In today's workplace--especially in the largest of organizations--it may not be feasible for each member of any given team to know how to perform all of the unit's functions. Fair enough. But, if you can't perform all of the various roles, at least you can have conscious and periodically articulated appreciation of those functions and the people who perform them. Such is the case with administrative professionals and support staff. Now I'm not saying that the administrative professional's' job is likened to "cleaning the latrine"--a job no one else wants to perform--but I am saying that, often times, the administrative professionals' important function seems to go unnoticed (just like a clean latrine often goes unnoticed and, let's face it...it's sometimes a "dirty" job, but someone's gotta do it"!).

Now is the time--right now, during Administrative Professionals' Week, April 23rd - 27th, and Admin Professionals' Day on Wednesday, April 25th--to stop taking these values members of our workplace teams for granted and give them the praise and metaphoric (and even literal) standing ovations they so well deserve. Who knows, by sincerely and authentically doing so--just like the earlier mentioned and recently reported Japanese toilet-cleaning superstition--your luck may very well improve; and even if it doesn't, you've done a good turn in acknowledging valued and often unsung members of your team. So, go on...praise and scrub away!

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was. -- Author unknown, but probably an Administrative Professional!

No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude. -- Author Unknown

I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks. -- William Shakespeare

Next to excellence is the appreciation of it. -- William Makepeace

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. -- William Arthur Ward

Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. -- Voltaire

Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free and worth a fortune. -- Author Unknown