Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: The Orange Juice Principle

Russ Pitts | 14 Apr 2008 17:00
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Let's review: In order to enjoy a glass of orange juice I would have to make a pitcher of juice from concentrate. In order to do that, I'd need a clean pitcher, which I did not have. Mine was dirty. So I would have to clean it, but to do that, I'd need a sink, which I did not have access to, buried, as it was under a pile of dirty dishes. So to get to the sink to wash the pitcher to make orange juice, I'd have to tackle the mound of dirty dishes, hand-washing them one dish at a time. I couldn't believe how complicated things had suddenly become. And yet, crying never got any dishes washed, so I had work to do.

Sleeves rolled up further, that's what I set out to do and 45 orange juice-less minutes later, the dishes were clean, the sink was scrubbed, the pitcher had been rinsed and I was stirring a lump of half-frozen orange juice concentrate around inside of the pitcher, adding water and waiting for it to thaw. A few minutes later I drank my first glass of orange juice of the day. Elapsed time: over one hour.

Pouring a glass of orange juice is a relatively simple affair. One needs only a glass, some orange juice, and about a minute of actual time. But because the general upkeep of the kitchen space had been neglected for who knows how long, the activity of pouring a glass of orange juice that morning required a herculean effort, to the point where it would have made perfect sense to give up, leave the mess and walk to the store. And while this would have solved the orange juice problem, the underlying causes of the dilemma would have remained - and worsened. I call this The Orange Juice Principle.

Since that morning I've managed projects as small as putting on a middle school play and as large as renovating professional performance spaces, overseeing dozens of workers and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of other people's money. Along the way, I've employed the Orange Juice Principle to increase productivity, enhance workflow and generally make everyone's lives a little easier, from the crew who suddenly find they can clock out after only eight hours on the job, to the client, whose production budget suddenly goes a just a bit further. The Orange Juice Principle served me well as operational mantra for over a decade. I even taught it to university students.

So when I came back from Jamaica last month, flush with joy over the experience of sailing a small catamaran around the island, I knew I had to have one of my own, and I felt confident I'd be able to make that happen. I found a boat I wanted for a price I could afford, and set a date on which I'd go pick it up. And yes, it was almost that simple. Almost.

The first obstacle between me and boat ownership was the fact I'd been neglecting my truck for a good six months. I hadn't been driving it, really, considering I live less than a mile from the office, and so I'd let a great many things slide. And like dishes stacking in the sink, each one would combine to prevent me from accomplishing my goals. The tires were bald, the registration, inspection and insurance had lapsed, and I'd never gotten around to installing the trailer towing apparatus. In hindsight, this all should have given me much more pause, but I felt confident I could take care of it. I had a week. A lot can happen in a week.

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