What’s Your Personal Leadership Garbage Disposal?

by Alli Polin on January 16, 2018

My entire life, I’ve lived in houses with garbage disposals. In fact, I assumed that it was something everyone had and only in adulthood learned that was not the case. Here, in Australia, most people I’ve met in my town have never seen a garbage disposal let alone had one in their home. 

If you don’t know what a garbage disposal is, it’s a device that you attach under your sink, and it grinds up all of your food waste and washes it away down the drain. 

Recently, we bought a house and the first thing we did, before we even moved our things into the house, was to put in a garbage disposal. Other than a dryer (which seem to be equally rare in our town) it was the one thing I couldn’t live without. 

I would not, could not live in a house without a garbage disposal. A few vacation houses I’d visited didn’t have one, and it made life, well, inconvenient. Scraping plates, smelly trash and composting were not for me. 

On the flip side, a friend recently came to dinner in my new home and watched as I shoved our remains down the drain. She wondered if there were any disposals that chopped up the food waste and caught it below the sink to make composting even easier and more effective. Not a thought that would ever cross my mind. Ever. 

I’m a garbage disposal person; she is a compost person. She would not live in a house with a disposal and if she did, wouldn’t use it. I’ve decided I don’t want to live without it. 

That’s the key, you know. Don’t want to. It’s not that I can’t live without it, of course, I can, I’d just be annoyed every time I had to clean up from dinner. 

Ask Yourself: What do you consider mandatory that others consider optional or even detrimental? The answer will point you to your personal leadership garbage disposal.

As far as housing goes, it’s my garbage disposal (and that dryer that I invested countless hours figuring out how we’d squeeze it into our laundry area. I don’t care how charming a Hills Hoist is; I don’t want to use it.)

When I was working for a company as an employee, it was vacation days. Ever since my first job out of college, I had a minimum of four weeks vacation and often also could flex my time. 

I interviewed for a senior leadership position in a start-up, and when they made the offer, the salary package was good, but they included only two weeks of vacation. No way. The negations started. They insisted that nobody except a small few who had been there since Day One had more than two weeks. I didn’t care what the story was but knew that if they wanted me, two weeks vacation wasn’t going to cut it. 

My client, a project manager was well connected in the local area and had many friends who were senior executives in their organizations. The sales team often asked her to make an introduction and come to every single sales meeting. If and when they engaged the company, they wanted her to maintain and expand the relationship too. 

The sales team had sales incentives that she did not. She found the prospect, made the introduction, went to all the sales meetings and maintained the relationship, but they got the commission – she did not. Her garbage disposal? Compensation. If they wanted her to pinch-hit for the sales team and stay in the game, why were they getting the commissions?

Not too soon after, she left the company. Before she left, the company leaders reminded her that she had an easy commute and her new company would be much more painful. Commute didn’t bother her, not getting paid for the sales work and watching others get paid for her effort mattered more. 

How to Uncover Your Personal Leadership Garbage Disposal

Recognize the Difference Between Don’t Want to and Can’t

When are you using the word can’t and that’s not completely true? You can and don’t want to do it. Notice when you use the two phrases interchangeably. 

Separate Your Wish List from Your Must-Have List

Anyone who’s ever looked for a house, or watched Love It or List It, knows that you build a list of “wants” and in the end, you may get most of them but not all of them. You can lose a few from the wish list and still make the leap. 

Know your Line in the Sand

Some people think that you can have 27 lines in the sand all at once, but that’s not useful to you or anyone else. Take the time to figure out what you really want and what matters most. It doesn’t have to be where anyone else would draw their line – this one is all yours. 

Review the Best of Times and the Worst of Times

Take the time to think about what made your experiences exceptional and awful. What was present? What was missing? Grab your journal or favorite device and write it down. You may be surprised what makes the list. 

Stand Strong but Also Look for a Way Forward

My new house didn’t have the disposal, so I bought one and had it installed. Yes, it cost money and time when both were tight, but it was worth it. Are you walking away from opportunities where a little bravery and creativity could make a close to ideal situation into the perfect one? (or at least close)

I’m curious, what’s your garbage disposal? That thing personally or professionally that you choose to never be without?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Gruber January 16, 2018 at 8:18 am

I may have to think about this for awhile rather than just respond without very much thought. I agree with you about “vacation” time, at least when I was working full time, and I usually had 6 weeks. I can tell you how I got it, how I worked that into a contract and that’s a story for another time. Another item I worked into a contract was the ability to also do some “outside” work and we agreed on how much was reasonable and acceptable to both sides. I suppose because I was in the role of a CEO it was a little easier and I had some leverage that others didn’t. Regardless, “benefits” are often overlooked as negotiable and often they are. I have a couple of other must have or strongly desire and a garbage disposal is not one of them.


Alli Polin January 17, 2018 at 1:15 am

When we lived in the USA, we took all of the vacation time we had available. Now, overseas, we have a little more and are sure to use all of that too. It’s adventure, travel, relaxation and family. Things I’m not willing to skimp on…

Also, you’re right. Benefits are negotiable. People may assume that only salary is negotiable but it’s the entire package that’s up for negotiation.

PS. HA! on the garbage disposal 🙂



Terri Klass January 16, 2018 at 9:42 am

I couldn’t stop laughing about your garbage disposal need Alli! Let me just say that I have had to replace a main drain in my house because of a garbage disposal backup. Now I use it infrequently because I never want to go through a drain replacement again. Yuck!

The thing I can’t live without is working with people because interactions with others energize me.

Thanks for this wonderful post and I will share!


Alli Polin January 17, 2018 at 1:16 am

Yikes! Sounds like a nasty backup! Fingers crossed all goes well here.

Training is definitely where you’re meant to be – you give so much to others and get so much too. It can be hard working solo when you crave that interaction. So wonderful you get to work in your sweet spot!



John Bennett January 16, 2018 at 5:57 pm

For sure, it’s really important to Consider situations in terms of “the level of can’t” associated with situations or things.

My thinking is that, though MY Considerations were far from consistent, they showed more situations were far from “can’t” – more I and maybe most people would have expected.

Without Considering the situations, too many people ‘automatically’ put situations into the garbage disposal.

Don’t get me wrong. We all use the garbage disposal. But by Considering most situations, I’m at least knowingly using it; even more important to me, hopefully I’m not using it as much. I do know that my life as an Emeritus professor is much more fulfilling addressing these hypothetical “can’t” situations.


Alli Polin January 17, 2018 at 1:20 am

People DO put situations into the garbage disposal – you’re right! They see the can’t and decimate opportunities. Love how you refer to them as “hypothetical” situations because for most of us, despite the stories we like to tell ourselves, that’s all they are.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights!



LaRae Quy January 16, 2018 at 11:45 pm

This post is a great reminder of the importance of stepping back and evaluating what is, and what is not, significant to us. So many things we think we need, but in fact, it is nothing but garbage and doesn’t add anything of value to our lives. Thanks for the reminder and the kick in the butt to ask those hard questions!

What a great analogy! I always look forward to your wisdom 🙂


Alli Polin January 17, 2018 at 1:21 am

We do hang onto a lot of garbage and tell ourselves that it’s treasure. Love the way you put it here, LaRae. Thanks!



Brian Smith January 18, 2018 at 5:53 am

When I worked in the corporate world my “garbage disposal” was how my bonus was calculated. I’ve been burned when my bonus was calculated by a percentage of net profit. (let’s call that creative accounting. You can make numbers say whatever you want them to say). When the opportunity to renegotiate my contract came along – my bonus was calculated by a percentage of total retail sales.


Alli Polin January 18, 2018 at 9:07 am

I hear you! I learned the hard way that some comp plans sound great but if you take a close enough look, getting to the numbers was more a game of manipulation than based on my success. Thank goodness you had the opportunity to renegotiate! Thanks for sharing your experience her, Brian!



Alli Polin January 18, 2018 at 9:07 am

I hear you! I learned the hard way that some comp plans sound great but if you take a close enough look, getting to the numbers was more a game of manipulation than based on my success. Thank goodness you had the opportunity to renegotiate! Thanks for sharing your experience here, Brian!



Leave a Comment