When I was just out of college, I lived for six months with friends in a communal apartment in Goleta, Calif., less than a block from the beach. Goleta is the home of the University of California at Santa Barbara. To earn money, I took a job as a busboy, server and dishwasher (who says I can’t multitask?) in the cafeteria of a large student dorm.
Starting at 5 p.m., the quiet, empty cafeteria would become filled with ravenous, rambunctious students scrambling for tables and a place in the food line. One evening as the students were arriving, I noticed that the juice machine was empty. I went to the cafeteria manager to ask him what to do. If ever there was a dead-ringer for Bob Newhart, it was this nervous little man who was always wringing his hands. When I told him the problem, I’ll never forget the panicked look that came across his face. “Son,” he said to me, “This is a helluva time to be out of pink lemonade!”
To this day I’ve never forgotten those words. Whenever I find myself in a difficult situation, I repeat them. They always make me laugh and help me move on.
(More: Why Today Is Better Than the Past)
As I’ve gone through life, it’s rarely been the words of history’s great thinkers — Aristotle, William Blake, Confucius, the Dalai Lama, Jesus or even Deepak Chopra — that have most influenced me. Instead the most invaluable guidance has usually been an offhand remark or observation by an everyday person, often a friend.
Next: Forever Young—At Heart
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