It is all about the people, stoopid

I try to live my life so that I will have no regrets. I have followed a non-conventional path since leaving MGS, first by spending a gap year working in a professional setting, then by choosing to study at a relatively small undergraduate business school in The Bronx, and then by choosing to leave a professional career to open a coffee shop/restaurant in Bogota, Colombia. To date I have no regrets about any of those decisions.

But what I have learned this year is that the most important choices we make in life, the choices that determine the success of our career and the quality of our life, are all about which people we choose to spend our time with.

The most important choices in life are all about which people we choose to spend our time with.

It sounds so obvious when written down on a page, but it’s crazy how unappreciated it can be, especially by me. Over the past couple of months, however, it has made itself  very apparent through various lenses:

  • The ongoing success of Mesa Salvaje will be determined by the team we have working with us. It’s not just about how good they are at their jobs during a busy rush – in those moments the team gets into a flow and we are all hustling to make everything happen as efficiently as possible – but more importantly how we interact with each other during the down time. The team culture is such an important part to being motivated to go to work everyday, and KC and I have sometimes struggled to find the balance between being bosses to our employees and being friends with them. There are members of our team who are great at their jobs but can be difficult to talk to, and there are members of our team who have wonderful personalities and characters but need to do their job better. We are definitely a family, but like all families we can be a bit dysfunctional. Additionally, the realities of the job mean that members of the team will come and go based on their career opportunities, even if they absolutely adore working for us. We’re currently in the process of losing the 2nd team member since we opened due to finding an opportunity elsewhere that we couldn’t match economically. It’s not an easy part of the job and it remains to be seen if we are able to replace the team member with someone equally dynamic and humorous. That said, once we have come to terms with the fact that we need to find a new team member, it becomes an opportunity for the team culture to grow and evolve, and it is up to KC and me to ensure that happens.
  • Since moving to Bogota we have met and become friends with a ton of great people, both Colombians, other Latin Americans, and American/European ex-pats. But whereas in NYC and the UK I tended to be the one who left the group of established friends, here I’ve experienced multiple departures of people we had grown close to – Americans and Brits heading back home after their stint in Colombia, friends moving to other parts of the city were it is tricky to see them etc… It is easy for us to become good friends with ex-pats here pretty quickly, given that there is usually an overlap in the types of people who would choose to move to and live in Colombia, but the other side of the coin is that many ex-pats aren’t planning on being here forever. We’re endeavoring to spend more time with people who will be here indefinitely, which means getting closer to Colombians in a non-Mesa Salvaje context.
  • Working with KC all day everyday is one of the best decisions of my life. I love her more today than at any point in my life, and working with her fulfills me and gives me purpose unlike any other relationship. I have recently held conversations with other friends who are going through existential anxiety of their own, and they have told me that it comes through loud and clear how important it is for me to be working with KC, whether I state it explicitly or not – that I am not as dependent on work itself to provide meaning to my life, given that during my work I am with KC. I know she loves working with me, too,  but I have noted that I’m not mentally equipped to be the person to whom she can vent in order to blow off steam. In NYC she had a number of female colleagues she could split a bottle of wine with and let out all her frustrations; in Bogota she has a couple of friends she can do the same with, but given the hours we work and the varied jobs her friends have, it’s not as easy as it was in NYC. Similarly, I have been hosting a poker night with some guy friends to engage with guys in a fun way that I can’t with KC. I love spending more time with KC, and she loves spending more time with me, but we need to recognize when we need space to interact with other people.
  • Partially due to the point below, I have recently had some long overdue catch ups with a number of close friends from the UK and US, and am blown away at how much has happened in my friends’ lives that I didn’t know about. Given the unconventional nature of my move, and my relatively public persona via instagram/newsletters etc… most of my friends know about the big changes in my own life, but I am just finding out about career changes, new boyfriends/girlfriends, property purchases and more. Of some of the people I consider to be my among my very best friends I hadn’t (and in many cases still haven’t) heard their voice in literal years. I don’t know exactly how I will change this (other than just getting on the phone and making it happen) but I want to change it.
  • If we want to spend time and make memories with friends, it has to be in the present, not the distant future. Rose Acton is  one of my best friends in the world, and 4 weeks ago she was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. I had always imagined that at some point in life KC and I would spend buckets of time with Tom and Rose, and some of our other best friends, whether it be through living near to them or going on holidays together or whatever it may be. But in my mind there was no rush to make this happen – we’re in our mid-20’s and this felt like the time to be taking career risks and setting the stage for what we want our life to ultimately look like. But life can sometimes come at you hard and fast, and planning for the future only gets you so far – at some point you need to live in the present. I’m very good in living in the present in my immediate surroundings, and feel that I am capable of enjoying the life we’ve created on a day-to-day basis, but ultimately I want my life to include spending quality time with my best friends, and I have neglected that to date in favor of career/business opportunities. If there is any silver lining for this tragedy (that I believe Rose is capable of overcoming), it is that it has served as a wake up call, and I’m going to commit to spending real time with my best friends at some point every year for the rest of my life.

I’m realizing that it doesn’t matter what job you do, where you live, how much you earn or any of that nonsense. It’s about the people you choose to be with. I’m learning that I have made an amazing decision to spend more time with KC, but that running a successful business and living a satisfying life both boil down to spending more time with people you respect, admire, and love.

I haven’t regretted my decisions to date, but I know that if I don’t now spend more time with the friends and family I care the most about I will regret it later on. I am acting now so that that regret doesn’t come to fruition.

See you in England in 2 weeks!



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