Rule# 91: Enjoy the meal
I just left a wonderful Italian restaurant after enjoying a long meal with friends. It was a unique restaurant in New Hope, named “Italian Cucina”, where there is no printed menu and everything was presented a course at a time. We arrived for an early seating, and the owner sat with us and told us his story of how he and this restaurant came into being.
Joe told us the story of how past failures and a heart attack lead him to developing this cool experience of great food and friendship. It was a slow, lingering meal which everyone at our table loved- we will be back.
It made me realized that it took me almost 57 years to relax and enjoy a meal.. It took me that long to take the time to actually listen to an owners’ story and know his name.
I was always a fast food type of eater. Food was a means to an end, I was always in a hurry to get to the next thing, barely tasting what I was consuming. It wasn’t about what I was eating, it was about what I was going to after I was finished.
When I was in my 20’s I was always in a hurry to get where I was going. I graduated college in 3 years, doubling up on courses and going summers. I then went right into grad school first at Drexel then at St Joes finishing with a CPCU and a masters before I left my 30’s. It wasn’t so much about learning as much as passing the courses and getting to the next thing. Normally people take 4 or years or more to get the CPCU, I of course wanted to get it in 2. Not enjoying it as much as consuming it, barely tasting the experience.
I had my first house a 26, the second a 27 and the third at 29- each bigger and better than the last. Some happened so fast that I barely remember living in them. I treated everything like it was a race- checking off mile markers as I passed them. I was on my own personal race, and although to most people it looked like I was winning I wasn’t enjoying any of it because I was off to the next meal.
I made my first million about the same time I had my third child in my early 30’s ( that would you Stephen). To get there I had to work two or three jobs- doing things a diverse as working at night at tennis club and setting up new Toys R Us’ in the mid-80’s. I worked nights, weekends and traveled constantly with my businesses. I got there really fast, even though I didn’t know exactly where I was going. In fact the faster I went the more lost I became, unsure of where this was all leading.
Fortunately you kids always had a way of slowing me down, making me experience the moment- forcing me to realize that it was relationships that mattered. If it wasn’t for you guys saving me I may of missed the whole dinner. I think my obsession about family dinners and meal conversations come from the happiness I felt at those tables. It is those moments with my kids that saved me from the drive through window experience of life. You kids and those meals saved my soul.
My regrets in life at 56 now stem mostly from failures of building deeper relationships with people encountered in that race. I was offered friendships from business partners like Mike and turned them down because I did not see them for what these offers were..offers to enjoy what was happening. In the case of Mike, God gave me a second chance for this experience and I try now to spend as much time understanding his life as the business this time.
Greg my business partner invites me to his lake house often, and in 3 years I have not gotten there. Getting to that house and building relationship is now more important to me than making the next sale or closing the next deal. -(Greg warm up the pizza oven, Bobbi and I are getting there this summer)
I think I focused on the accumulation of things and accomplishments because it made me feel safe and validated. I neither attended my MBA graduation of my CPCU designation, I picked them up in a dead run and moved faster. The validation I felt was always short lived because no matter how many businesses I started/ran ( by my count 32) or raises I was given it never was enough because I wasn’t tasting them as they went into me. I charged to each new thing with the misguided thought that when I got MBA or got the next promotion things would be feel better, that I would find happiness- sadly they left me empty and confused.
God gave me in my second wife a demanding woman who has brought real joy to my life. Bobbi is a woman who does not sit in a corner well. She is constantly reminding me that the stuff we accumulate means nothing if it isn’t about the people we experience though. She forces me to slow down and chew my food of life. Without my kids and her I would have never found happiness.
Abby being born special with Asperger’s makes me learn to view the world from an entirely new perspective. She forces me to understand that sometimes a meal isn’t just about the eating. God does that to us, when we think we figure it all out, he slaps us in the head and says “slow down , that’s great sauce- enjoy it”.
I take the time to drive her to school everyday, and in each trip I have learned important lessons. She teaches me how to be happy everyday.
As a restaurant review I give this new place 5 stars, and a consumer of life I give myself only 3. My personal review is lower because it needs more heart, I need to enjoy the stories as much as the meal. My hope for you my children is that you accomplish many great things in your life, slaying many dragons. But along the way take time to celebrate the victories with the people who believe in you, and enjoy a long Italian meal with them. I recommend the scallops and a couple bottles of wine- its BYOB.