Personally, I think we all need a pork chop, at least once in our lives, that is worth driving 4, 6, 10 hours, or maybe even further to get. And the greater the obstacle, the more delicious that first, savoury, delicious bite is going to be.
Stepping back a bit I want to talk about how, all things being equal, there are two things with really no suitable substitute: hard work and genuine experience. This post touches on the former but is primarily focused on the latter. In an age of high-volume speed networking and constant change, the people who place a premium on these two criteria are most likely to contribute to and benefit from a satisfying life. And sometimes, will even benefit from a random dining experience they can talk about for years.
Free Pass Weekend (yay!)
Just over 3 years ago, my wife and I had our second child. A baby girl we named Carlin. A few months into the day and night feedings, diaper changes, consoling, and sleep aversion, my wife gave me a free weekend pass to go out to our trailer for the weekend and catch up on some sleep (isn't she fantastic). So, I went. I spent the first night getting used to the deafening and beautiful sound of silence and caught up on a bit of sleep. The next day, I decided it was time for a little solo road trip. I headed off in no general direction at first and ended up driving along the shore of Lake Erie toward the U.S. border. Once there, I decided to continue on to Buffalo, New York and see if there was anything I could get into trouble with there. No such luck. Note to reader: I may need some advice on ways I can get into some trouble in Buffalo for the next road trip. Anyhow... sitting in my car in a convenience store parking lot in Buffalo, I commenced with that inner dialogue we are all familiar with at one point or another. The conversation that goes a bit like this:
"Well, it's getting late. I should really be getting back." or - "Not really sure where I am. Maybe I should head back." or the all-to-common lack of imagination that prevents us from even entertaining the idea of "what lies ahead" in the first place.
Steer Clear of Missed Opportunities
So, you're at a crossroads and Robert Johnson just isn't there to show you the way. What do you do? Well, you could play it safe and fall into a completely benign non-event; or, you could take the path less travelled and add another exciting and worthwhile chapter to your biography. Shy of running blindly into a dangerous or criminal situation, there really is no good reason to turn your back on the wonderful opportunities that random experiences bring to your life.
Stepping back about 6 months prior to this crossroads, I find myself on a road trip out to Cleveland with my boss. After our meetings are done for the day, we solicit the person working at the hotel reception counter for advice on where to eat. They direct us to the famous East 4th Street Market downtown. So we head out. When we get to the market, we find what looks like a scene right out of a movie, with cobblestone walkways, lights strung up overhead in rows, and a vibrant crowd of young professionals and trend-setters. After taking it all in and scouting out a few places, we end up deciding on The Greenhouse Tavern. This place is great. It has the distinct feel of a slick, professional artisan eatery, with just enough edge to make you feel like you're eating somewhere eclectic. We are greeted by the maitre d' who (somehow) quickly recognizes the obscure band shirt that is barely peeking out from behind the borderline hipster-ish plaid shirt I'm wearing. Now it's on. We get seated and are promptly greeted with a massive plate of gourmet poutine that put this north of the border to shame (sorry Canada). From there, my boss and I place our orders. My meal, though delicious, was not outside my standard fare and really not very adventurous. My boss, on the other hand, orders a pork chop. A pork chop? Who orders a pork chop out at a restaurant anymore? Well, this was my oversight for sure. Soon after the plates hit our table and the food hits our palettes, I was informed that the pork chop was, in fact, a fantastically shoulder-dropping choice. Figures.
High Shoulders are Overrated
Fast-forward to the parking lot of the Buffalo convenience store with Robert Johnson dressed in a red jumpsuit with a tail and a pitchfork telling me to go right (Cleveland) instead of left (back home). Well, you know what happens next.
So, 3 hours later I arrive in Cleveland. A quick drop-in to the R&R Hall of Fame to pick up t-shirts for the kids, I make my way to 4th Street at GHT. "I'll have the pork chop please." I sip my local craft beer as I wait patiently for the pot of gold at the end of my culinary rainbow. And it comes. I take my first bite and my shoulders drop right through the rustic floor accompanied by a satisfying sigh of accomplishment that is echoed the whole drive home later that night. I finish my meal, restrain myself from licking my plate like a 3-year-old trying to get every drop of ice-cream from the bottom of the bowl, and head home with a calm and centred mindset that had eluded me for the last several months since my daughter had been born.
So. Incredibly. Worth it!
The Power of Unusual
So, what did I walk away with here? A story about driving 4 hours for a pork chop that leads most people to believe that I'm a nutcase. Well, am I? Yes. Absolutely. But in that moment, and every time that I recall that trip, I am reminded of the effect that extenuating circumstances, great lengths, or obstacles you have overcome can have on intensifying the impact of the simplest of experiences. And further to that, how those intensified experiences continue to shape the decisions and personal impressions you make in the world.
Hard work and genuine experience aren't difficult to accumulate if you're open to making choices to promote them in your life. In fact, they could be as easy as driving a little further down the road to make up for a previously missed opportunity; or, being adventurous enough to not miss that opportunity in the first place.
Now, that's a powerful pork chop!
TAKEAWAY: There is great potential benefit in asking yourself if you would prefer to go through life with experiential ambiguity or if it's worth it to make a few random changes in order to build a better more unique roster of experiences along the way. And as we all know from the Live an Interesting Life article, you can prove to yourself that you are worthwhile through "rewarding yourself with new experiences by making small and simple changes in your routine." And, in the immortal words of Canadian musician Kim Mitchell "Might as well go for a soda, nobody hurts and nobody cries". Maybe that'll make up for my poutine sacrilege earlier.
Thanks for connecting!