Savor the Sandwich

On October 30, 2002, David Letterman hosted the last appearance of Warren Zevon, an American rock singer-songwriter and musician. You may remember a couple of his most notable hits – Werewolves of London and Lawyers, Guns & Money. Zevon had appeared numerous times on Letterman’s show and the two had become fast friends. Recently, Zevon had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and Letterman spent an entire hour talking openly and frankly with Zevon about his plight. I watched the YouTube video of the show and was amazed at the humor and grace that Zevon displayed. One of the most simple of things he said was so profound, “You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich.” Of course he went on to talk about enjoying every minute of playing in his band and playing with his kids. But the notion of enjoying something so mundane as a sandwich struck a chord with me. Tragically Zevon died on September 7, 2003 at the age of 56.

We entrepreneurs are in a constant state of hyper-drive. We all know that we should stop and smell the roses. We also know that we need to maintain work-life balance. And yet we can often find it difficult to carve time out of a packed schedule to do these things . . . or so we think. Part of the problem is the fact that we are so passionate about what we do. We’re obsessed with building our business. And I know for a fact that any entrepreneur who doesn’t have this obsession will either fail or be only marginally successful. But the passion and obsession does not mean that we can’t “savor the sandwich.”

What if we treated every interaction we have with others as though it would be the last time we would see them? What if every activity – professional or personal – was treated in similar fashion? The thought of this may seem somewhat morbid and maybe even hard to comprehend. But, what if . . . ? We all have a terminal diagnosis. We just don’t know whether it’s far into the future or right around the corner.

While this has been a difficult subject for me to get my head around, I’ve thought about it quite a bit the older I’ve become. I find that I prioritize differently. I want to make absolutely certain that the most important things on my to-do list are always finished. And at the same time, I have become more and more thankful for the little things in life. I revel in the warm sunshine and find moments of wonder gazing at a full moon. An early morning walk is no longer just exercise, but now a time for inspiration. Dinner at a favorite restaurant with my bride has become less about checking e-mail and social media, and more about the pinch-me feeling that is the result of nearly five decades together. No longer do I quickly scan through photos of my grandkids, but instead take in the twinkle in their eyes and the look of pure joy on their faces. During a meeting, I look around the room and think about how proud I am of the team we have assembled and what they are accomplishing. Of course there are obstacles that are faced every single day – but the endorphins are going full blast with the anticipation of how we will creatively overcome them together.

Savoring the sandwich means being present in every moment of every day. It means eliminating the “taking things for granted” syndrome that plagues each one of us to some degree. I have worked hard to develop the ability to compartmentalize the challenges we face in our enterprise. In so doing, I’m able to have greater appreciation for the little things that are happening around me. I am more obsessed than ever with scaling our various business initiatives. But I’m equally obsessed with seeing all of life in color. There’s no question that both can be done at the same time. Lending a helping hand to others, and expressing appreciation and gratitude to them is also part of the equation.

We have the ability to savor each sandwich as though it will be our last. And it doesn’t have to take the diagnosis of a terminal illness to unlock this ability.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 5 – Now What?

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Death, Taxes and . . .

We’ve always been told that there are no guarantees in life except death and taxes. I submit that there is one more guarantee that’s much more pleasant. We can be guaranteed that every day will be a good day . . . if we make it so. How? Read on.

Whether our day is good or bad depends upon our state of mind. By extension, we make the choice as to whether or not we will generally be happy in life. Being an entrepreneur is a tough gig. There are plenty of obstacles – way too many to list here. We can allow these obstacles to eventually overwhelm us, or we can look at them as opportunities for growth and success. But how do we get our mind right to look at our challenges this way? Here are some ideas that work for me in guaranteeing that every day is going to be a good day and that I’m able to be happy about my life overall.

Smile before answering or making a phone call. Smiling helps to release neuropeptides that counteract stress. Also, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin all go to work when we smile. So there is a positive physiological reaction to smiling that can’t be ignored. And no doubt the conversation will be more pleasant and may result in a positive outcome – all because of a smile.

You know all those e-mails we send every day? We probably send too many because it’s such an efficient way to communicate. Yet, I find life can be pretty dull if we just keep to ourselves. I like to convert some of my e-mail conversations into face-to-face meetings or phone calls. I also find it hard to build relationships exclusively via e-mail. Thus, I build stronger relationships with the personal touch and it makes me feel good to have human interaction throughout the day.

Express gratitude every single day. We have so much for which to be thankful. My day is more fulfilling when I tell someone how much I appreciate them and what they are doing. Gratitude helps me to feel more optimistic and contributes to building stronger interpersonal relationships.

Become centered. Life moves at warp speed for most of us. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and all of a sudden things can spin out of control. Spending a few moments from time-to-time with deep breathing and visualization exercises helps to ground me and restores my calm.

I was a Boy Scout and we committed to doing a good deed every day. I know it’s going to be a good day when I do something for someone else and am rewarded with their smile. This can be as little as holding the door for another person or helping someone put their bag in the overhead compartment on an airplane.

If exercise isn’t part of your daily routine it’s certainly worthy of consideration. A good morning workout and long walk set a pattern for the day. I feel great after sweating and burning calories. I’m able to control my weight as well as ward off stress through physical activity.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. One of the healthiest things we can do – multiple times each day – is to laugh. And if we can laugh at ourselves, that’s even better. As with smiling, laughing offers innumerable health benefits and it’s usually the result of something funny. When we take ourselves too seriously we may become self-conscious and begin to doubt ourselves.

Do at least one creative thing every day. But I’m not a creative person you say. That’s beside the point. We all have the ability to be creative at some level. Find something large or small where we can stretch our minds in a creative fashion. And guess what, you’ll find a nugget of good somewhere in the process.

Finally, be present. This can be very hard for us as entrepreneurs when we’re caught up in the fast-paced life we lead. It’s been my experience that I make fewer mistakes (that can erode the feelings of a good day) when I focus on the moment. Maybe that’s concentrating on a task at hand or something as simple as giving my full attention to someone with whom I’m meeting.

Yes, every day is guaranteed to be a good day if we take the necessary steps to make it happen. I can’t wait for my feet to hit the floor each morning because I’m stacking the deck in favor of this guarantee!

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 41 – To Proposition or Not to Proposition?

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.