In a former life, I sometimes counseled small business owners who were going through difficult times in their businesses. The circumstances would be so desperate and the prognosis so dire that the person on whom the business’s buck stopped would be close to being unable to function.
Having experienced such a state of despair myself in the past, and calling upon what I’ve learned about perspective and what really matters in life, I would begin the visit with, “How are your children?”
“What?!” they always asked, incredulously.
When I repeated the question, they would invariably respond, “They’re fine. I’m about to lose my business. Why are you asking me about my family?”
To which I would reply, “Does anything else REALLY matter?”
In 2003, the late 20th century rock star and malcontent, Warren Zevon, succumbed to lung cancer. He was 52. If poets were punctuation, Zevon was a great, big, bold, in-your-face exclamation point in a world with too many pedestrian periods.
He was also a small business owner.
Having penned songs like my favorite, “Werewolves of London,” and the now ironic, “Life’ll Kill Ya,” Zevon was an independent artist working without a net, passionately creating products in hopes of finding customers who would appreciate and pay for his wares. And we did.
In preparing for death, Zevon had one very important thing to say, especially, I think, to small business owners. In an interview with David Letterman, almost a year before he died, but with both knowing Zevon’s days were numbered, Letterman asked what he had learned about life. Looking straight through the camera lens into every soul watching, Zevon said, “Enjoy every sandwich!”
He didn’t mean life is short; go get more sales. The man whose life’s work was the definition of sardonic was saying, “Breaking News: You’re not going to get out of this alive!”
We sometimes get so wrapped up in our business that we risk losing our grip on the things that really matter: happiness, health and those who love us. Doing what you have to do to run and grow a successful business is important – but not at the expense of love. Financial security is a good thing – but it’s not more important than your health. And all the credentials in the world can’t begin to move the scales when weighed against having joy in your life.
So on the 15th anniversary of the death of one of the great rock-n-roll anarchists, allow me to channel what I’m calling “Zevon sandwich clarity.” “Enjoy every sandwich” means: Slow down enough to live in the moment! Listen to a bird! Smell a real rose – not a metaphorical one! Hug your kids till they complain! Tell someone you love them! Show someone you love them! Find a way to bless others.
Warren was lucky; he knew how much time he had left. You don’t.
Write this on a rock …
Life is short! Enjoy every sandwich! Thanks, Warren.