Monday, August 13, 2012

Adjusting the Sails

By Chris Dwyer
I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.
-Jimmy Dean

I may not always be the proverbial king of my castle, but I am certainly the king of my kitchen. Even so, when the Lady of the Castle (my lovely wife) asks me to do the dishes, I'm totally cool with that. If I'm in the act of doing them, as I often am, and she has a helpful hint, that's fine, too. But heaven forbid, if she tells me to do the dishes and THEN tells me how to do them, I go completely berserk. Dishes almost get tossed against the wall and the wife. This is because telling me what to do plus telling me how to do it somehow hacks into my psychology's circuitry and unleashes my hellspawn-husband virus. I’m sorry-- it's terrible. I hate it. But I don't hate myself, because it's just the way God made me.
I'm not shifting blame here. In fact, I take full responsibility for having some responsibility. 

My wife and I have been working on doing a better job seeing things at a BIG-picture level. Before we blame each other, or other people, we try to see if there is a better way to design "the system". The larger system so often implicitly coerces people into doing crazy things they don't want to do. And systems usually obey very predictable behavior. So really, what I've decided to do is take full responsibility for not being in harmony with the system around me. I can either work to change myself, or I can work to change the system, or both. This strategy has helped save us (me) from countless Catherine Kieu Becker (the woman who cut off her husband's penis and threw it in the garbage disposal). 

I used to do infrared inspections for a large manufacturing facility called Bicycle Playing Cards. Un-scheduled equipment breakdowns are every plant manager's worst nightmare, so the accountants and engineers are big proponents of preventative maintenance strategies like infrared. My mandate was to keep the motors alive or else know exactly when they would die. 
Of the thousands of motors that I inspected in the plant, there was one tiny motor that was far and away more important than every other motor. It was the lynchpin of the whole factory. If it failed, the whole plant shut down. It was the vacuum motor! Without the vacuum motor, all the junk accumulated in the factory and effed-up the whole process. Las Vegas herself depended on that vacuum motor.
Our kitchen has a figurative vacuum motor-- the lynchpin of the system that could unfasten bliss at any moment. Working the system backwards, we figured out that my dishes only needed her special cleaning advice because I didn't soak them first. But I didn't soak mine first because the sink was full of her dishes because the dishwasher wasn't emptied. But I couldn't empty the dishwasher because there were too many cycling water bottles drying out on the limited countertop real estate. Water bottles were the lynchpin! 

What we needed, therefore, was a better drying mechanism and storage system for our water bottles. But that would require a larger system change upstream. Next, Susie and I sat down at the drawing board to see if we could map out a better system for our household. Here is the plan we came up within reverse order.

GOAL = Have more free time and stay married
Step 6) Stop buying (or accepting) junk into our house
Step 5) Deeply, quickly, and even impulsively get rid of the junk we already have
Step 4) Get rid of our TV from TV cabinet 
Step 3) Retrofit TV cabinet into a "recreation locker"
Step 2) Find home for water bottles
Step 1) Empty dishwasher in the morning and load/run it at night

All the crap that's normally spews across the floor after a workout has a proper home now

Water bottle clutter almost ruined our marriage until they found a home

No comments:

Post a Comment