One of my inspirations comes from the story of the street sweeper from a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. It taught me that by putting a positive attitude and passion towards everything in my life I can change my outlook about my work and my life. That I should always strive to be the best and everything I do.
Six months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967. To this day his “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech and the story of the street sweeper has inspired many people, including myself.
Here is a quote from that speech.
And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.
Attitude and Passion
At that time a job as a street sweeper was one of low pay and hard work. It was the kind of job that most people would roll out of bed and hate to go to each day. They would drudge through their workday and could not wait to flee their misery and go home.
At home they probably complained about how they hated their job. They were unhappy at work and unhappy in their life. At that time many people held jobs like this. Today there are probably many who feel the same way about their job and this is why Dr. Kings message rings as true today as it did in 1967.
For me Dr. Kings message is one of maintaining a positive attitude about life and having a passion for your work and everything you do in life. That regardless of where you are in life and what you are doing that you should always strive to be the best there has ever been at it.
Let’s say the street sweeper took Dr. Kings message to heart and put it to work in their life.
Each day the street sweeper shows up for work on time and does his job better than anyone has ever done it before. The pay is just as low and the work is just as hard, but he now understands that at this point in his life his job is to be a street sweeper. He accepts his station in life and brings a positive attitude and a passion for his work with him each day.
When the street sweeper leaves his job he goes home with the satisfaction that not only has he done a good days work, but on that day he was the best street sweeper there has ever been. He applies that positive attitude and passion to his family, his community and in everything he does. He is happy with his job and his life.
I still believe that hard work pays off, so I believe over time his newly found attitude and passion for his job paid off. A supervisor position opened up and because of his positive attitude and his passion the street sweeper was given the job. This meant more money for his family and he was inspired even more. He continued to apply the same positive attitude and passion to his new job and years down the road when the manager retired he was promoted again.
When I look at this I see a story of two men. One man had a negative attitude and no passion for his work. He probably remained a street sweeper the rest of his life and hated every minute of it. The other man brought a positive attitude and a passion to everything he did. He was successful in work and led a full and happy life.
The Moral of The Story
The moral of the story for me is that regardless of your job, you should always strive to be the best there ever was at it. Apply this same principle to your life and to everything that you do. Bring a positive attitude and a passion to everything you do in life. To have the satisfaction that I have given my best regardless of the situation is an intrinsic value that I hold deep in my heart.
I have seen this value at work in my life and I firmly believe in myself and my capabilities. The sum of who I am and what I have to offer will lead me to success. To do less would go against the values I hold so dear.
Which man do you want to be? Regardless of your situation you outlook is by choice. You can choose to be positive or negative. To be passionate or passionless.