This post could have been titled many different things. “My secret to happiness” and “23 years of training” were other considerations. Let’s talk about the title i did choose. “Everyone should do this once in their life. ” What should everyone do once in their life? I think everyone should work a job in retail at least once in their life. You should do this for several reasons.
The first reason is that you will have a lot more compassion for people who work in retail. When you may feel tempted to yell at a store clerk during the holidays or demand the coffee shop employee creates your beverage with a certain amount of ice cubes or anything that involves fractions, you will reconsider. You will personally know how it feels to be on the receiving end of that.
The other reason to work a job in retail is to expose yourself to as many different people and ideas as you can. Like anything in life, this can either drive you crazy or make you more open-minded and compassionate. It may be one of the best ways that I know to meet people in many different fields and with many different beliefs. You may discover things that you never knew you enjoyed about some of your fellow human beings. It is good training on managing your emotions when it comes to these same fellow human beings. It will also train you, if you use it for this purpose, on managing your own emotional well-being.
I was a bartender for 23 years. My next book will be my journey from that profession to self-improvement author, speaker and blog writer. In this profession, and just in life in general, one of the questions I get a lot is, “How can you be happy all of the time.” The short answer is that I am not. Margie can certainly attest to that. It also would make life pretty boring. We learn most when we go through challenges. That is where the growth comes from. The goal in life should not be to be happy 100% of the time. You will never achieve that and it may even increase the feelings of failure you have. The goal should be to reduce the frequency and intensity of the times you are not. You should also endeavor to learn from every situation you experience in life.
Learning from everything in life is what I do my best to do. I am always trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. When I think about what allows me to feel upbeat most of the time, a lot of things come to mind. First is gratitude. Developing a attitude of gratitude is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. Surrounding yourself with what Les Brown calls OQP, or only quality people. These are the ones who will both encourage you and hold you accountable. Developing a routine of self-care is another thing that will pay dividends in the long run. I recommend all of these steps to each and every one of you reading this, but it was something I learned on my first day of bartending that made a huge difference.
Jimmy G was the man who trained me. He was one of the most respected bartenders in the city and taught me many things that I will never forget. I had the good fortune to work with and under several amazing men. One of the things Jimmy told me was “Nobody cares about your problems.” He went on to explain that you never want to walk into a bar with a depressed or even indifferent bartender. Whatever is happening in your life, for the time you are behind the bar you must put it behind you. “When you are done working you can go back to being sad, mad or whatever else you are dealing with. When you are behind the bar, you must act as if it is the greatest day of your life.” I used this same manner of thinking when it came to working the window area of the post office. Even if people dealt with me for a mere 60 seconds, I wanted it to be the best 60 seconds of their day.
What I learned by being ‘happy’ for an eight hour bartending shift, is that you can emotionally compartmentalize many emotions. I was forced to learn many methods and find the ones that worked for me. Doing this for the time I was working taught me that I could still have things crumbling down in my life and manage a positive outlook. In doing so, it allowed me to see opportunities and solutions I may have missed if I was in the whirlwind of negative emotion focused on what is wrong. This is a skill that has stuck with me. I am grateful for the chance to learn it. Having a positive outlook, even one that may be just ‘show’ for the public, can help us see ways in which to do so authentically.