There are many idioms we hear as kids that we continue to use without stopping to think, “What does this mean?” The expression “throw everything at it except the kitchen sink” is no exception. If we try to dissect the phrase without context, it becomes misleading; the word “except” adds a negative connotation. But that is not the case.
To understand what it means to “throw everything at it except the kitchen sink,” we must first examine the origins of the phrase. It became commonly used during World War II when everything of value in the United States went to the war effort – especially anything metal. Metal objects were recycled to build tanks, jeeps, ammunition and all kinds of things that were necessary to fight the war against fascism across Europe and Asia. During this time the government began manufacturing pennies from steel instead of copper because copper and copper wiring was valuable to the war effort. One material that was not needed: porcelain. I’ll let you guess what material kitchen sinks were made of during this period.
Today we are not pressed to recycle everyday items for a war effort, but this phrase is no less relevant. If we merely pivot from the war and instead consider the concept on a bigger scale, this becomes clear. “Throw everything at it except the kitchen sink” can relate to personal growth and giving the most to any obstacle that may arise. No matter the situation, whether a business opportunity or another sort of difficult venture, it warrants all of your attention and effort.
How you choose to deal with difficulties determines your success. As we see the struggles of some of the great companies of today surface in the headlines, I argue it is more important to watch for their response to hardships than to focus on the hardship in isolation. Facebook is facing difficulties with the scandals around the release of users’ personal information to Cambridge Analytica and others. Google and the European Union are at odds about copyrighted information presented in search results. Even Amazon, whose CEO is the wealthiest man of all time, faces challenges and failures. For example, when was the last time you heard about Amazon Fire? What matters is what these companies do when the going gets tough: They get going.
When you are introduced to a new opportunity, whether in your personal or professional life, be willing to go all in. It takes that level of commitment to succeed in business. Be honest with yourself and ask if you’re really doing everything possible to reach your goals. What can you do to go the extra mile? What will make you stand out? Start by reviewing your daily to-do list and identify ways to elevate each task, even if it’s just a “baby step.” Instead of sending out a generic follow-up email to your sales leads, try spending an extra few minutes tailoring each one to catch the reader’s attention. Making a routine client visit? Bring a small gift to show your appreciation for their business. Looking to catch the attention of a busy executive? Find their social media profiles, then retweet and share posts so they can see who’s following along. Those extra steps could be the difference between closing a big sale or getting a promotion. No one wins an award for almost making it to the finish line. Similarly, you likely won’t receive recognition for giving something 75 percent of your attention. For your endeavors to be worthwhile, you must be willing to throw everything at them and give your all. Don’t wait until 10 minutes before a meeting to prepare; fully immerse yourself in the subject and be ready to make well informed recommendations. Go above and beyond. If you are genuinely throwing everything at the challenge except the kitchen sink, you should have nothing left when you cross the finish line.
Be diligent and continue to give whatever it takes for as long as it takes to succeed. Remember, the truly successful among us are the ones who recognize that work is never complete. There are always next steps and new ideas to implement. Stay the course and stay all in, even when the going gets tough.
If you are feeling overwhelmed as you read this, here’s a final thought that motivates me during hardship. My father often said, “there are only two things that you can control in your life: your attitude and your effort. Your attitude should be positive and your effort exemplary.” Life will frequently throw you curve balls, and many obstacles are out of your control. However, when you’re facing one of the inevitable setbacks, persevere and reconsider how this hurdle might become a favorable situation for you or your business. By pivoting your mindset, you instill a positive attitude in yourself and others and find the motivation for even more effort. Throw everything at it except the kitchen sink.