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"Wax On, Wax Off"

There is a famous scene from the 1980's cult classic film, The Karate Kid where Mr Miyagi, a karate master teaches a teenage apprentice, Daniel San.  In one of the scenes Mr Miyagi teaches Daniel how to wax and clean his deck by simply commanding Daniel "to wax on and wax off."   After months of doing this Daniel San grows impatient and begins to suspect that Mr. Miyagi has different motives. After pestering Mr. Miyagi,, Mr Miyagi finally admits that in order to be a karate master one needs to master the small things first.   Only after conquering this seemingly mundane task of waxing the deck can Daniel San begin to master the art of karate.

I remember feeling very much like Daniel San at my first job.

I was a dishwasher at a restaurant.  Every weekend I would go to work and see endless piles of dishes which towered like skyscrapers above me. It was all so overwhelming.  I was expected to clean hundreds of dishes well and in a very rapid manner.  If I didn't finish the task I would have to stay later and endure the scorn of my coworkers. So I grew frustrated and I wanted to quit this outwardly pointless job.  

But something inside of me changed one day when I went to work...

When I came in to work that day nothing was different than any time before. I had stacks of dishes about 6 feet high and I felt overwhelmed and angry.  Then it dawned on me that the best way to finish these dishes was to begin one dish at a time.  Instead of thinking in terms of doing everything at once I would start with one dish at a time. Once I adopted this mindset I instantly became better at my job and I actually began to enjoy it. This imperceptible shift changed how I did my job dramatically. I realized then that every life circumstance no matter how humble can be used as a teachable moment. Through washing dishes I learned prioritization, diligence, and patience; skills that I still try to use everyday even now.

Years later as I have worked numerous jobs I still fondly remember my dish washing days. Instead of looking at those years as lost ones I am grateful instead for the life lessons it taught me. I will end with these words from St. Josemaria Escriva which fit perfectly in doing small tasks well:


"Will-power. A very important quality. Don’t despise little things, for by the continual practice of denying yourself again and again in such things — which are never futile or trivial — with God’s grace you will add strength and resilience to your character. In that way you will first become master of yourself, and then a guide, a chief, a leader: to compel and to urge and to inspire others, with your word, with your example, with your knowledge and with your power. (The Way 19)

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