Dirt, Dreams, and Dirty Dreams
How twisting our perspective can make treasure out of nothing.
Posted December 12, 2021 | Reviewed by Tyler Woods
We sometimes hear the terrible insult of someone being called “dirt.” Let’s look at dirt. It lays there doing no one wrong. It never gossips or tells lies. It gets walked on by everyone.
And yet: It births food for the world. It gives us the beauty of flowers and trees. It may be one of our most unattractive elements on earth, and yet it gives completely of itself to yield our most beautiful and essential life elements. It’s where the lilacs grow, as well as all of the secrets and blessings that come with them.
Dirt is actually not unattractive. Several years ago, I started collecting dirt. Yes, you read that correctly. I collected dirt. I began the collection while driving across the country and noticing the amazing changes of color in different soils. After that, I thought it would be fun to collect dirt from famous landmarks around the world. Eventually, I had a beautiful display of small bottles of dirt from dozens of countries and famous locations. Even my grandmother (illegally) brought me dirt from Christ’s tomb, along with a very funny photo of her sneaking it into her purse.
A few years later, a friend in Boston decided he wanted to take my collection a step further, and he started a “Dirt Museum.” I sent him all of my samples, except for a few very personal ones, like Grandma’s.
The moral of this little story? Noting is “just” dirt. Dirty can be fascinating. What some might call “just dirt,” others see as a beautiful element worthy of a museum.
Everything can become a treasure with a little thought and creativity. Once again, what we perceive as dull, sad, or a curse, can transform into a butterfly. That first time that I stopped in Oklahoma to scoop up a little yellow dirt, I would never have dreamed it would be the beginning of a dirt museum in Boston. That little yellow bottle now sits in a frame in the reception area.
I once met a young man at a Fast Company convention who had started a corporation that had earned millions of dollars. He made fertilizer out of “worm poop.” Yes, he literally made a fortune from nothing but poop. And he took it many steps further. All of his packaging containers were pre-used soda bottles. His company paid five cents to schools for collecting and recycling each plastic bottle. It was a win-win for everyone. Even the worms got fed well. It is the perfect example of literally turning poop into opportunity.
Someone somewhere came up with the idea to take water, just normal water from a spring, put it in bottles, and sell it. We are essentially just buying the bottles. It works. Billions of dollars are spent on plain old bottled water. We’ve been brainwashed to believe we must drink healthier water. A good friend of mine always tells the story of how he used to snort cocaine off of toilet seats...but he would never drink tap water.
Who is old enough to remember “Pet Rocks?” Someone had the bright idea to take rocks, yes rocks, and sell them as pets. People bought them! They bought a rock that they could have just gone out into their yards and grabbed. They also bought the entire concept of making it a pet.
Dirt, poop, rocks, and water. All free if we choose. Yet they are the perfect example of taking absolutely nothing and creating an exciting and rewarding life by simply twisting our perspective.
The lesson of all of this is that when you are given lemons, don’t make something as boring as lemonade. Make something ingenious and uniquely you. A lemon museum? A lemon skincare product? A million lemon pets to sell to the world?
Just stare at a lemon and think of what you might do with it.
That is a perfect metaphor for looking at your life.