An Overflowing Trashcan

Oct 18, 2023

Have you ever had a moment where a seemingly insignificant detail marred an otherwise great experience? I had one of those moments this week, and it’s the basis for this week’s reflections.

I recently dined out with some friends. As usual, we were in the mood for steak and decided to try a new restaurant. This place was upscale, with neatly rolled silverware artfully placed on the bread plates. Every element of the ambiance was deliberate – muted lighting, tasteful music, well-dressed servers, and edgy décor. We all enjoyed our steak, side dishes, and vegetables. 

The entire meal was great, EXCEPT for my trip to the restroom. As I entered, a few gentlemen were already at the sinks. The trashcan was overflowing with used paper towels, spilling onto the floor. Furthermore, one of the two paper towel dispensers was empty, and one of the soap dispensers was also out. The side with soap lacked towels and vice versa, leading to a bit of a shuffle among us just to wash our hands. Back at the table, one of my friends also mentioned the state of the restroom. Driving home, I pondered how a mere overflowing trashcan had become a memorable part of a steak dinner. How often do we overlook the small details that can make or break an experience for someone else?

We all have our main responsibilities or "steaks," which we prioritize and excel at. But just as we didn't pick that restaurant for its restroom, people don't engage with us solely for our primary talents. They observe our demeanor, punctuality, attentiveness, and the small gestures we make (or miss). These interactions significantly shape their overall perception of us.

Consider this:


  • Consistency in Our Actions: In both professional and personal spheres, do we consistently bring enthusiasm, effort, and a positive attitude?
  • The Devil is in the Details: Small acts, like remembering birthdays or holding the door, can brighten someone's day. For those we regularly interact with, anticipating their needs lets us focus on those details that elevate our service.
  • Always Reflect and Improve: Periodically review your interactions. Is there room for improvement? Learn from feedback. For instance, some friends recently suggested I could benefit from being less direct. Different individuals appreciate varied approaches, and I can adapt my conversational style accordingly.
  • Educate Yourself: Embrace continuous learning. Whether it's a course, a book, or a chat, remain open to new insights. Learning is a tool, effective only when applied. As Jim Rohn stated, “Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge. Let your learning lead to action.”


As we work together, different customers look at different parts of our business as the “steak”. As a result, each of us has the opportunity to excel as the main course or the restroom (weird analogy) on any given day. Being a good teammate includes intentional excellence daily in support of each other to ensure we don’t detract from an otherwise good experience.

That leads me to this week’s challenge: Don't be an "overflowing trashcan". Whether your role that day is the “steak” or something else, be awesome on purpose. Don’t let that stop at work, give your family the same effort. They deserve it and you’ll feel better because of it. Be intentional about serving. You’ll love the way it makes you feel.