Trash Can vs. Trash Can’t

At the beginning of our latest mastermind meeting, a friend and I grilled our third member about his trip to Japan. He mentioned that while Tokyo was one of the cleanest places he’d ever visited, he found it annoying — and ironic — that there were almost no trash cans anywhere. We made a joke that perhaps in Tokyo, it is called “trash can’t,” and that’s why you end up lugging around your litter.

As part of the actual session, where we help each other solve problems in our businesses, one friend said he struggled to find the time to start his e-commerce podcast. I suggested he make the task seem less daunting. “Make it smaller. Easier. How can you do it in 15, 20, 30 minutes a day? That still adds up meaningfully over time.” Our recent Japan-returnee threw in a great question from Tim Ferriss: “What would this look like if it were easy?” As it turns out, it’s a question Ferriss originally applied to his podcast too, and shortly after the end of the session, our friend had a template he could use to get cracking.

That night, I returned home from work, and when I looked at the massive pile of cardboard waste in our living room, which my girlfriend and I had postponed cleaning up after assembling the bed that had emerged from it, lightning struck: “What would this look like if it were easy? Well, I’d just take it all to the trash room one piece at a time.” I carried away the first piece then, another the next morning, and when I again returned from work, I felt so motivated, I took care of all the rest. I guess it’s called trash “can” after all.

Ferriss’ focusing question is great for many reasons, and it often ends up giving you a familiar-feeling answer: If you can’t put in a big effort, put in a small one, and wait for it to add up — because it will, in the long run, always add up. Sometimes, the run isn’t all that long, and on day three, you’ll clean up an entire pile of trash. At other times, the run will take years until your podcast takes off. But it’s the fact that you keep running that matters.

Whether in Tokyo or in LA, don’t litter — and don’t let big piles of work keep you from carrying away small tasks.