Things That Really Matter

Jim Blasingame

"I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's; His hair was perfect."

This is one of my favorite lyrics by one of my favorite songwriters. It's from the 1975 song, Werewolves of London, co-written and performed by that great 20th century poet, sage, and malcontent, Warren Zevon.

If poets were punctuation, Warren Zevon was a great big bold, in-your-face exclamation point, in a world where most of his kind were pedestrian periods and conventional commas. Sadly, this important punctuation recently passed from our prosaic world at the age of only 56, taken from us by lung cancer.

Having penned the never more ironic songs, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead and Life'll Kill Ya, it's difficult to connect Zevon's life to the world of small business - with one exception: He was an independent artist who, like all small business owners, worked without a net, passionately creating product and service in hopes of finding customers who would appreciate and pay for his wares.

But in preparing for death, Zevon had one very important thing to say, especially to small business owners.

Being interviewed by another big fan, David Letterman, both knowing Zevon's days were numbered, Letterman asked him what he had learned about life as he contemplated death. With only a couple of seconds of reflection, looking straight through the camera lens into every soul watching, Zevon said simply, "Enjoy every sandwich!"

In case this metaphor went over your hard-charging entrepreneurial head in a Mach 2 fly-by, Zevon didn't mean life is short, so get more sales, improve your bottom line, or acquire another company. With songs like, Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner, the man whose life's work could be the definition of sardonic was saying, "This just in: You're not going to live forever!!"

"Enjoy every sandwich" was Zevonese for "Slow down to the speed of life!! Hug your kids!! Listen to a bird!! Contemplate a cloud!!"

Small business owners - call your children!

During the same interview, Letterman asked Zevon what he would have done differently in his life. Again, in classic Zevon style, he answered, "Well, I now realize that not going to the doctor for 20 years was probably a strategic error."

Entrepreneurs - call your physician!

As a consultant in a former life, I counseled many small business owners who were going through a difficult time in the life of their business. Often the circumstances would be so desperate and the prognosis so dire that the person on whom this business's buck stopped would be consumed by the stress and unable to function because of the emotional toll.

Having been there myself, and calling upon what I had learned about what's really important in life, I started asking this question: "How are your children?"

With a look that screamed, "Haven't you been listening to me? I'm about to lose everything I've worked for!," they would invariably say, "What?!"

When I asked the same question the second time, they would just as invariably say, "They're fine. Why are you asking me that?"

To which I would respond, "Does anything else really matter?"

Small business owners can get so wrapped up in their work that they lose their grip on the things that really matter in life: health, happiness, relationships with family and friends who love them, and sometimes, even their own soul.

Professional success is important - but not at the expense of love. Financial security is a good thing - but it's not more important than health. And all the credentials in the world can't begin to move the scales when weighed against having joy in your life.

Write this on a rock... Life is short - enjoy every sandwich! Thanks, Warren.

Jim Blasingame
Small Business Expert and host of The Small Business Advocate Show
©2008 All Rights Reserved

Print page