Three Words That Might Change Your Life – Really!

Jim Blasingame

For most of my half-century-plus career, I have consulted with small business owners about their current situation and future plans. Alas, the reality of operating on Main Street is that often the issue on the table could take them down. In fact, the circumstances might be so desperate and the prognosis so dire that the person upon whom the business’s buck stopped – or crashed – might be close to being unable to function.

During one such session, sitting in front of a client who looked like he was about to be eaten by an alligator, and having experienced a similar state of affairs myself in the past, I called upon what I’d learned about perspective and what really matters in life with this question: “How’re your children?”

“What the … ?!” he exclaimed incredulously and not a little irritated.

When I repeated the question more slowly, his next response was delivered with a level stare: “They’re fine. My business is going down the tube and you’re asking me about my kids?

To which I channeled Yoda and replied, “Take a deep breath and answer this question: Does – anything – else – REALLY – matter?”

Whereupon he sighed deeply, settled into my wingback, and we proceeded to save his business.

In 2003, the late 20th-century rock star and malcontent, Warren Zevon, succumbed to lung cancer at the way-too-young age of 56. If poets were punctuation, Zevon was a great, big, bold, in-your-face exclamation point living in a world with too many sissy semicolons and pedestrian periods. 

He was also a small business owner.

Having manufactured and delivered songs like the immortal, “Werewolves of London,” and the now ironic, “Life’ll Kill Ya,” and “I’ll Sleep when I’m Dead,” 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. How could you not love a man who imagined songs like, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” and “Send Lawyers, Guns and Money”?

In an interview on David Letterman’s show while staring down death, Zevon had one very important thing to say, especially, I think, to small business owners. This was only months before he died, with both knowing his days were numbered, Letterman asked Zevon what he had learned about life. Sitting up on the edge of his chair and looking straight through the camera lens into every soul watching, the man said:

“Enjoy every sandwich!”

Of the thousands of excellent books authored by really smart and wise people about slicing and dicing the perspectives of life, Zevon handed us the Cliff’s Notes on all of them with three everyday words. He didn’t say life is short: get more sales, drive gross profit, or miss your kid’s game. The man whose life’s work is the definition of sardonic redefined cut-to-the-chase with:

“Enjoy every sandwich!”

Operating out here on Main Street, we get so wrapped up in slaying the dragon that we risk losing our grip on what really matters: happiness, health, and the people 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 an excellent goal – but it’s not more important than your health. And all the credentials in the world can’t begin to balance the scales against having joy in your life.

So on the 20th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest rock-n-roll anarchists of all time, allow me to add a little specificity to what I’ve named Zevon’s Razor, “Enjoy every sandwich.” It means: Slow down enough to live in the moment – this one – now! Listen to a bird – outside! Smell the roses – real ones! Don’t just tell someone you love them – show them! Find the quiet and peaceful joy in being a blessing to others – anonymously. And if your kids don’t complain when you hug them, you’re not doing it right.

Zevon was lucky – he knew how much time he had left. We don’t.

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

Jim Blasingame is the author of The 3rd Ingredient, the Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.

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