Finding Philosophy in a Fulfillment Center

So since November 2nd, I’ve been working at an Amazon Fulfillment Center, mainly as a Stower. A Stower is basically someone who grabs a cart full of items that needs to be put away in bins for further purposes. The Fulfillment Center is a building that’s as large as 27 football fields, and it’s full of thousands of other employees and yet, with so many people I’ve found time to reflect on how certain aspects of this job can mirror aspects of life.

  1. “There is always space out there.” – the Stower’s Mantra. There are miles of aisles out there and stuff you would not believe fills them to the brim, but it’s the Stower’s job to take that cart and find a space for each and every individual item on it, regardless of it’s size and shape nor how far you have to travel to get to that space. That last line always makes me smile about this, because it can be directly translated into philosophy. In life, there are lots of people who have no idea where they’re going to go in life, nor who they’ll become, or someone will come across a mid-life crisis and completely question their entire universe. This is something that rings true though no matter where you are in your path of Life; no matter how hectic/packed life is, no matter how distant the goal is, or how far you have to go to find it, I believe that everyone and everything in your life will have it’s place, sometimes it’ll be immediate, and sometimes it’ll take a long while before you realize why it’s still in your life. But in the end, everything will have a space in your life, and believe it or not, there is always space out there for it.
  2. “Let it drop” – The first thing they tell you when something goes wrong. People are the most valuable possession a company has, and they’d prefer a random object break than an employee, after all, things always seem to have a way of working themselves out, if an item breaks, it can always be replaced, by another item from another location. It’s interesting how in the end, each cart is expected to be empty, and every item that comes in will eventually find a place, somewhere. Life has a way of doing the exact same thing. No matter how much time has passed, eventually, the dust will settle and things, either good or bad will be resolved, it’s only a matter of time. Another way to view this, is sometimes it’s good to let things go, and walk away. I’ve found my OCD being triggered by messy things, and I’m wasting time cleaning them up, it’s not even my responsibility, but I’m putting the effort towards something pointless. It’s often the philosophy of many to let things come, stay, and go as they please: “If you love something let it go…” “Whatever comes, let it come…” and so on. Let it drop echos that, there are just some things that are just beyond our control, my friend.
  3. “One Team, One Dream” – This, among other phrases, are chanted to inspire the workers, and it’s interesting, Looking beyond race, religion, politics, even flesh, we are all the same underneath. We all breathe the same air, live on the same planet, and circle the same sun. We are one species. Bruce Lee once said, “Under the sky, under the heavens, we are but one family.” and he’s right! If we all tried to realize this, this world would definitely be a much better place to live in. The problem is, in a team, one (as in an individual) needs to put effort towards the dream. In order to accomplish a large dream, there has to be a LOT of effort put in towards that dream, and gargantuan risk towards making it happen. The more people who pitch in the effort, the easier it’ll be, however, until that happens, the workload is labeled “Extraordinarily difficult” for those trying to make the world a better place. But at the very least, we can do little things here and there to make life livable if only for a little while longer. But this phrase can also work for said individual. In order to achieve a singular dream, you can’t go at it alone, you need support, resources, a plan, a path, and a plethora of things that keep you motivated and moving… Also so that the customer can get their products on time.
  4. A Stower’s Solitude – The Fulfillment Center is roughly the equivalent of 27 Football fields put together. Needless to say, you’re going to find yourself alone a lot. So I find myself trying to preoccupy my mentality by singing to myself or admiring all of the interesting things that are around me, but 90% of the time, my mind is off, running scenarios of things that apparently are still present in the back of my consciousness. And I have to admit, that a lot of the times, it’s a memory long forgotten, that has a negative connection to my mind. Scars, I had thought long faded, resurfaced and it surprized me how much emotion and reaction followed them. It was as if, it happened minutes ago, rage and anger coursed my mind and I imagined the would-be endings to each of them, endings that were brought about by my own hands. However, that’s not how things are supposed to end. I must learn to give these things to go, and also that I must be careful with what I keep at the front of my mind and what lies at the back of it. You have to learn to live with your self first, otherwise you’ll be surprized at what makes your blood boils and what brings you to tears. In this life, you’ll always have many companions: your shadow, your reflection, your thoughts, your soul, your habits, and your self in the middle of all of that. Just make sure you can stand them.
  5. Stower, Water Spider, Bin Runner – Most of my time, I’m a Stower, but there will be random days when I’m requested to stop what I’m doing and work somewhere else, where different demands will be made of me. Some more arduous than others. Adaptability is the name of this game in life, and if you cannot adapt to something new, you’ll find yourself having a very difficult time. I know plenty of people who dislike change with a passion, but only find it too late, that change is inevitable. Change is a part of life, that’s just it, it might even cause you to work differently, for a short while or for the rest of your life, the idea is that you have to allow yourself to be susceptible to that change, otherwise you’re going to have a very difficult time trying to stay the same. Life is full of surprizes and if you don’t let yourself experience them fully, by adapting to the change that they bring, you can miss out on some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
  6. Shower, Shave & Rehydration – Branching off of the Solitude philosophy, you’re going to find yourself alone a lot if you don’t give yourself time to properly take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. In life you’ll be covered in dirt and dust and grime, and sometimes to get rid of it, all you have to do is simply wash it off, other times, it’ll require a lot more. But the idea is to always put the effort into getting rid of as much of the dirt as possible because people will eventually see it, there are only questions of who will see it and how much of it can be seen. But if you leave it on, all of the years of filth caked upon layers and layers on yourself then even you won’t want to be alone with you. By making small changes, like combing your hair or learning to let things go as they come, you’ll obtain a discipline that others will see and admire. In my eyes, Discipline is consistent of two things: Conduct and Presentation. Think of the demonstrations that the Marines and Army does, with the rifle twirling and their synchronizations, all of this is irrelevant towards the actual job of said soldiers, but what it does is teaches discipline to the soldier. They have to learn to remain expressionless and to perfect their movements to the point that they make the only movements that they are commanded to make and nothing else, add on timing one soldier to another to another to the rest of the company/platoon/squad and that’s a lot of demands on one person, soldier or otherwise. How does one answer to it? Discipline. Even showering and shaving every day, is a sign of discipline all it takes is just the effort put in to obtain it.
  7. Seasonal Employee – All things must come to an end. But there’s something to be taken from that. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and for me to work in the same position as someone who just came right out of high school, is a sign that something is wrong. I should be working somewhere where my field of expertise is, not a general labor job, not saying that it’s a bad thing to work at it, nor knocking it, my point is that I didn’t get a University degree just to work at a job where it’ll be of no use to me. I can’t forget where I am going, and what it will take to get there. This job is great, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t end my life as an Amazonion Stower, I have to keep moving forward.

So there you have it, The philosophy I’ve learned while working at this job. Man, it took me several days to finally finish this entry. Heh, and it’s on New Years Day.