A Slice of Humble Pie
Sooooo, I recently wrote a piece on Minimizing Mediocrity and Minimalism. When I wrote that I thought I’d recognized all the major areas where that was present and had taken action to address and hopefully lessen if not eliminate them. Over the past few weeks I was shown another area where that was not the case and was forced to eat a large piece of humble pie. Let me tell you, it tasted like shit!
A few weeks ago I waited on a table and this guy wrote a terrible review about my service. I am called into the office where I am informed that the chef wanted me fired because of this review. I’m taken aback by this because I take a tremendous amount of pride in the service I provide my tables. I had worked there for seven months with no issues so this isolated incident warranting such a drastic recourse seemed fairly excessive.
Specifically stated in the review was my lack of menu knowledge, the example given was that I didn’t know what a side was that came with a dish. The side changed from day to day or week to week and at that time I was a part time employee so this was true, I didn’t know what it was. I found out the side and informed him. The other thing was my casual demeanor with his table. I kinda knew his date so I’ll admit, I was casual with the table but not unprofessional to the point that warranted a written bashing. I was instructed to dial back some of my personality with my tables. The instruction was given tactfully but all I heard was ‘don’t be myself.’ I could look past the review but I had this massive chip on my shoulder with regards to my job being on the line because of it.
Oh how quickly self-righteous indignation can present itself as justified when one feels attacked.
The very next day I was on the hunt for new employment and it only took the next day to line up an interview. “Everything about growth and progress” I shot for the moon at an extremely fine dining establishment. A week later I show up at the interview and the first thing the man says to me, “Looking at your resume, you are exactly what we are looking for.” This set me at ease as I slayed the interview and the job is offered to me. I just had to do a second interview a week later with the head chef and if that went half as well as my first, I was primed to move on.
In the interim, I dreaded going to work. I’m feeling under appreciated, restricted and bitter. If I’m being totally honest, my feelings were hurt. I actually really liked my job and the people I worked for. I got along fine with everyone and my superiors were hella cool as people and cool to work for. I thought I was giving that job the best version of myself, so when you add the fact that I know the head chef wants me gone, how can I feel comfortable there? This showed in my demeanor, now much more subdued in my interaction with my coworkers and inauthentic and excessive professionalism with my tables. “I’m just doing the job as I’ve been instructed.” I’d say when asked what was wrong with me. I was just trying to stay under the radar waiting for the opportunity to get the heck out of dodge.
Interview two comes up. I sit down with this guy and we get to chatting. I tell him about my personal and service history and all is going perfectly well until he goes into wine knowledge. I have a basic understanding of wine and that understanding is tailored to the wine list of the restaurant I am currently working at that time. He delves into regions and the grapes produced there as well as countries and the wines they’re most known for...I’m at a total loss. Question after question and I have nothing but guesses, I can physically feel this job, my freedom, my future slipping through my fingers. Toward the end of the interview he very cavalierly says, “I’m just shocked with your work history that you know so little about wine.” That truth cut me SO deep. I wish he was an asshole, that way I could blame this missed opportunity on that, but he wasn’t. He was just extremely passionate about wine and required the same of the people he employed. I wasn’t that.
I walked away from that interview feeling dejected and completely embarrassed. I have never once interviewed for a job that I didn’t get. I definitely have never walked away from an interview feeling quite so justifiably and undeniably inadequate. I questioned everything about myself as a server. Was I just terrible at the job? Was my value to every past job strictly ‘The Ben Show’ (as it was affectionately referenced at all my prior jobs)? I prided myself on how great I was at this job, nominal as it may be, I knew I was great at it and all of that was brought into question.
The cherry on top was that I had to go to work shortly after that.
I get to work and I’m just broken internally. I talk to a friend about it and, as per usual, she pulls no punches in telling me like it is. “You don’t need another job, you need to do this one better.” She was right. I’m still in processing mode and a problem arises at work. Another server botched something that really (no, like really) had nothing to do with me. Somehow I’m lumped into the error. We both get sent home and I’m just like, “What the actual fuck is my life right now?!” In sobriety, I just assumed certain things would never happen. If I’d ever been in trouble or had a job on the line, it was directly associated with drinking so this compilation of negative situations and outcomes left me completely baffled.
The next day, I called and asked for the evening off because I needed to check myself. The manager that sent me home granted my request but asked me to come in and speak with him. At the very least, I know to address frustration and conflict head on, so I came in. He acknowledges his potential misassessment of last nights situation. Holding that grudge served no one so I let that go immediately. He goes on to address my lack of actual presence at the restaurant. He pointed out that I’d only been part time since he’d started there but my lack of attendance and my rush to volunteer to leave if anyone was privy to go home early rubbed him and others the wrong way. Furthermore, how I seemed to keep everyone at arm’s reach and never really acted a part of the team. The humility and lack of condemnation in his sentiments made everything he was saying easily receivable. I took it to heart and went home.
When I am in internal disarray, meditation, prayer, and meetings typically work to balance and align me. I did just that and what was shown to me was how everything I was dealing with was of my own doing. My arrogance.
The truth was that I did bring the best self I had available to work everyday but that wasn’t my best possible self. “Good isn’t good enough if it can be better and better isn’t good enough if it can be best.”- Rick Rigsby from Make An Impact. Because that job started as a few days a week gig for human interaction and extra money, I didn’t give it my all. I was conditioned to rely on my personality with service because it had gotten me by for so long. A Minimalist Mentality. I never thought to re-evaluate this when it became my full-time job because “I could wait tables in my sleep.” I specifically referenced this in the Minimizing Mediocrity and Minimalism piece about my being a server. Irrelevant is the fact that serving is not my planned endgame; relevant is the fact that it is my current game thus requiring me to give it a total and genuine effort.
I brushed the chip off my shoulder and decided to exercise some true gratitude. Not thankfulness but gratitude. Being thankful is a feeling, feelings are fleeting. Gratitude is an action. Actions are sustainable and much more internally and externally affirming. When you’re thankful for your partner you tell them you love them all the time, this makes them feel good. When you’re grateful for your partner, you show them you love them. In the time you give, the help you offer, the affection you show etc. If I am actually grateful for my job I not only show up, I show up with every intention to kick ass at it...in all aspects.
I did the work over the next couple of days and when I came into work that Friday I came adorned in a brand new attitude; to be the best version of myself. Thankfully so because my first table proved to be the test.
First timers with allergies, a servers dream lol! They quizzed me on an easy 85% of the menu! I honestly thought it was a hoax they asked so many questions. With none of my typical distractive banter I just answered their questions and constructed a three-course meal that accommodated their dietary restrictions with wine pairings! We quickly developed a rapport and chatted for extended periods between courses. Throughout the meal I learn that the gentleman is a chef at a local 5-star establishment. We wound up talking about everything from life outside of the restaurant to spiritual practices. At that point I couldn’t not tell them about how they were the culmination of two and half weeks of growth and enlightenment. By the end of the meal we exchanged websites and they thanked me for the experience. He even hugged me before left.
“Complacency is a cancer.” Like any cancer, if it goes untreated it WILL kill you. When I stop growing, I start dying. This is applicable in every single aspect of life. I rested on my laurels and never thought to seek out the places I could improve because I thought I was doing ‘good enough.’ It took many years and in those years I bought into my own bullshit but inevitably, I was exposed.
I consistently pray for growth, total growth in all aspects of my being. What started with this dude and his lame ass and embellished review sent me through a series of experiences that turned out to be a huge and necessary lesson in humility. Humility, seeing myself exactly as I am, no greater no less. I can’t be the best version of myself if don’t a) want to be that b) consistently check with myself to see where improvement can happen and c) always do my best (the fourth agreement in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz).
Humble pie is like liver, it tastes terrible but is super good for me. If better health were paramount, I’d learn to appreciate the value of liver over my loath for the taste of it. The more I hunger for growth and progress, the more I value the outcome of the process over the pain in the process.