“If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” 

That’s the motto of a lot of workaholics, perfectionists, and mothers who still can’t get their sons to make their beds correctly. (Mom, if he doesn’t have it down by now, when he’s 32, he probably never will.)

That may have also been the motto of Josephine Cochrane.

Who around here enjoys washing dishes? Yeah, me neither. I thought that’s why we had a dog, but apparently, some people want the dishes washed with soap. A few men in the 1800s tried to do a favor for their wives and made mechanical dishwashers—but it turns out the family dog was more effective.

Enter Josephine Cochrane. She was a wealthy socialite in Shelbyville, Illinois. She didn’t have to wash dishes. She had servants to do the manual labor, but … DOGGONE IT, I’M TIRED OF THEM CHIPPING MY FINE CHINA!”

That’s when, in 1886, Josephine Cochrane, proclaimed, “If nobody else is going to invent a dish washing machine, I’ll do it myself.” She came up with her solution in 30 minutes. Josephine then stepped outside to the shed behind her house and got to work. She invented the first practical dishwasher. Yes, she physically built it herself.

(Warning: the next paragraph reflects the mindset of the average 19th-century American male, not the forward-thinking 21sr-century male that I am.)

“WAIT, WHAT? A female invented this??”

A woman indeed. But not to worry. Men were there to … well, you know … do it correctly. Josephine said years later:

“I couldn’t get men to do the things I wanted in my way until they had tried and failed in their own. And that was costly for me. They knew I knew nothing, academically, about mechanics, and they insisted on having their own way with my invention until they convinced themselves my way was the better, no matter how I had arrived at it.”

I’m thankful for people like Josephine Cochrane who persisted in spite of the mindset that assumed she couldn’t do it … in spite of the mindset that assumed she wasn’t educated enough … in spite of the mindset that said she didn’t have the training or experience needed.

Embrace the same mindset Josephine had. If you see something you want to accomplish, go for it. Want to do something for the kingdom of God? Don’t let the small minds of others hold you back.

I place great value on education. I want to learn all I can. I value sitting at the feet of those with far more experience. So grab those learning opportunities—but don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t serve until you get all the education and training you need.

  • Irving Berlin and Paul McCartney can’t read a note of music.
  • John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones were incredibly gifted preachers who never went to seminary.
  • Many gifted teachers have nothing more than a love for the subject and a love for their students.

Don’t use these examples as a reason not to learn and equip yourself, but don’t let other people’s expectations of you keep you from making a difference in the lives of others. I’m reminded of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy:

“Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make an incredible difference for the kingdom of God.

So help me give a shout out to Josephine Cochrane. March 8 is her birthday. In her honor, I plan to enjoy some birthday cake, let the dog lick the plate, and then place it in the dishwasher.

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