Saturday, August 16, 2008

Epiphany On Demand: The Exodus Begins

A few weeks ago, I invited my buddy Dustin to come to my improv show at the Upright Citizen's Brigade theatre. Dustin and I had planned to work the following day on a script called "Dustin's Flying House," a children's television show we wrote for him to star in. Prior to the show, Dustin informed me that he had to cancel our meeting to attend the funeral of his friend who tragically died by drowning in an undertow off the coast of Panama while on vacation. Now, for a guy (me) who had already been contemplating the meaning of life on a daily basis, this knowledge sparked something inside of me. I thought to myself: If I were going to die tomorrow, would I go in to work and be a man-secretary/slave? 

Answer: Absolutely not. 

And then, for reasons unbeknownst to me, a crazy little thought jumped into my head: If I knew I only had one week to live, but had to work somewhere, where would it be?

Answer: A Pacific Northwest winery.

Call me a sucker, a hopeless romantic, crazy, all of the above, or none of the above, but after two months of gradually losing all of my idealism, a rush of passion suddenly overcame my mind and body.  After a quick Google search, I realized that the harvest season was just 'round the corner.

Granted, many of my ideas never come to fruition (I have an approximately 30% Idea to Reality completion rate), but at this juncture I immediately called my high school friend Jeff Gliner. I knew that Jeff was looking to make a radical change to his successful food and beverage management career. I pitched him the idea of us going to work at a winery for an undetermined amount of time. Though Jeff was so desperate to leave his current job (as he'd reached a never-ending plateau in his daily mental stimulation) that he probably would have gone along with me suggesting that we become the first people to cross the North Pole wearing only bathing suits, he accepted my offer.

Within a couple of hours, I'd  sent the following e-mail out to dozens of wineries across California, Oregon, and Washington:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have always dreamed of working during the wine harvest season, and now, having been sucked into corporate America, I want to go back to my food and beverage roots. One of my best friends (a food and beverage manager at JP Morgan in New York) and I plan to come to the Pacific Northwest in a few weeks to learn about the winemaking process. We will surely work in the office when needed, but we really hope to be in the fields and cellars to learn all aspects of the business. Please see our attached resumes, and let me know if you have any available positions. I am strong, in good shape, energetic, and I have a great sense of humor. I am very aware of the long hours that I will have to work. I served as the food & drink editor of my college newspaper and two publications in England. I have visited wineries all over the USA, Europe, and Israel and I am passionate about wine. I am available to start immediately.

*I am not strong nor in shape, but I will be...someday.

And with that, I decided to change my fate and work the land like billions of indivudals before me. These crazy thoughts were validated in my mind 48 hours after sending out this batch of e-mails when Los Angeles was struck by a 5.4 magnitude earthquake. After this event, I thought to myself, if I were to die in this office, that would be pretty lame, and I would not have achieved any sort of fulfillment...What if the quake had been a 6.4 or a 7.4 or an 8.4? I would have been toast and had nothing to show or my 22+ years.

Needless to say, some winos who sympathized with our cause, despite our lack of formal enology experience, started calling back. Within a week, Jeff and I had two job offers: One from a winery in Oregon and one from a winery in Washington. Though living the Napa/Sonoma dream was our first choice due to its proximity to San Francisco (and thus civilization), this was an unlikely reality as the California harvest (located further South) was due to begin in less than a week. We were more than content with having even two options, as we knew that accepting us a package deal would be difficult, as many small wineries only hire one or two "harvest interns" for the season. Because we applied so late into the "staffing season,"  we were lucky to get offers at all...

Please read the following story (author unknown) to rationalize your own thoughts:

* I read this story in THE FOUR HOUR WORK WEEK, which is currently #1 on my Books You Must Read Immediately list...

An American businessman was standing on the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

"How long did it take you to catch them?" the American asked.

"Only a little while" replied the Mexican.

"Why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" the American then asked.

"I have enough to support my family's immediate needs" the Mexican said.

"But," the American then asked, "What do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, t ake a siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15-20 years."

The Mexican was puzzled. "What then, senor?"

The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions."

The Mexican replied, "Millions, senor? Then what?"

The American said slowly, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos..."

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