Paulelmo's Blog

A note about happiness from Albert Einstein–from the archives

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Being a bartender of many years, this morning’s article on the MSN homepage about the two notes Albert Einstein gave a messenger in 1922–in lieu of a tip, as Einstein found himself with no money–was especially interesting to me. At first, I saw it only as a good reminder to tipped employees, but then I realized it’s just a good reminder to all of us.

Since he had nothing to tip, Einstein wrote the deliveryman two notes. The note that read, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness” recently sold at auction for 1.56 million, while the one that read, “When there’s a will, there’s a way” sold for $240,000.

Now, if this were to happen to most of the people I’ve worked with over the years, and the person didn’t know who Einstein was, the gratuity would almost certainly be scoffed at. We’re out for money, and money is all we want.

First, let’s look at it from a bartender’s perspective. I’ve been working in the tipped industry long enough to realize that the worst thing I can do to hurt my wallet is to judge my clientele by how I think they might tip, based on whatever prejudice. For that, I apply some certainties that I’ve found when it comes to working for tips. These are things that I’ve never seen disproved.

  1. It doesn’t help to get all caught up in one interaction or even in one day. If you’re in the business, you’re going to have less than desired interactions and less than profitable days. Those facts should simply be accepted and moved past. I don’t worry about individual tabs or much about bad days even. I’ve found that those seldom do enough damage to make the week’s income suffer. I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and I don’t recall a bad week.
  2. More sales always means more tips. I don’t care if you wait on the least desirable people all day long, if you do a chart of how much money you make versus your sales every week, you won’t see much variance. As random as people seem to come, there is a semblance in the make-up of people we deal with in all walks of life and situations, day in and day out.
  3. This said, if you’re dealing with the public, then you’re just going to have to make it through dealing with the tough people and the unfortunate situations. This is more easily done if we remember parts of the first two points: Sales go up and income goes up. A fairly constant percent of interactions are going to be less than perfect, so the more of those you make it through will mean the more good ones you make it through. That means the more less than perfect interactions you make it through, the more money you’ll make.

And why is this important to note. It’s important to note because the person who keeps these thoughts in mind isn’t going to take something like an old man’s notes and walk into the kitchen mumbling about how that old man shouldn’t go out to eat if he can’t afford to tip. It might not make his or her socks roll up and down, but reminding oneself that we have to take the bad (at least the perception of it) to get to the good is so very helpful. From that perspective, the notes might not be what was expected, but they don’t raise any bile.

And that person may not have a couple of notes worth millions, but he or she will have a more receptive attitude to all of their customers and charges.

To get the general human perception, we have to look at what the notes actually said, those two phrases, especially the first.

Looking at the second first, as it is of less consequence, we see that it’s enough of a cliche to be a bit pie in the sky or smoke up the backside.”When there’s a will, there’s a way.” Yeah, we got that. It’s a concept we grasp, but even when we’re not following it we think we are. So, I think it’s more difficult for us to actually apply than the first one.

“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” I love so much these years of my life as I learn how true those words are. Friends from my youth knew me as a spastic boy, who would do anything to be the center of attention, including tell grandiose lies and do other unsavory things. And I can still shake my madcap tail in the performance of the bar, but when I walk away from it, I live a calm an modest life. What’s more, I can almost always leave it there. Five days a week I get there on time, and eight hours a day I do everything I can to make myself successful by doing my job well. I am almost always successful, and I almost don’t think about what else I might do to make myself more so.

That’s just by doing those two things.

I’ve been, I’ve done, I’ve tasted, and I’ve owned. These days, however, a good day off is when I don’t have to move the car. I work hard at present at my pursuit of happiness because I’m transitioning careers, but when that transition is complete I’m gonna work my 40 and push away from the desk. If you work a good 40, then 40 is all you need, and if you leave it all out there, then there’s no reason to work so hard beyond what’s expected of you; you’ll have already done your best.

I don’t know why I wanted to say this, but apparently I did. Detractors would be correct in calling these comments broken and incomplete; they are such. Still, this is where the stream led; it is unfortunate that I don’t have time to follow it further. I’d be interested in hearing what you think.

Warm thoughts from here.

Feel free to share it if you like.

***

You should see some new words coming your way today, friends. In the meantime, here’s one that I’m surprised I haven’t re-posted previously. It’s excellent advice from one of our greatest thinkers. I hope you have an excellent day, beautiful people. We’ll talk soon.

2 Replies to “A note about happiness from Albert Einstein–from the archives”

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