Sunday, August 05, 2007

"When ambition ends, happiness begins"--Hugarian proverb

"I had no ambition to make a fortune. Mere money-making has never been my goal--I had an ambition to build"--John D Rockefeller

I have often wondered what my professional ambition really is. It isn't about the money anymore, though I still like the cash very much. I am already the longest-tenured restaurant manager in my city, so that means the endurance record is already on the shelf. It is true that I definitely feel a responsibility to my employer, but that is more about allegiance than ambition.

I get job offers every week--literally. From nearby competitors, from national fine dining chains, from far-flung independents, and most intriguingly [and sometimes most laughingly] from regular guests of the restaurant. Most of these offers simply don't appeal to me, and warrant my classic, "incredibly flattered but not interested in a change at this time" response.

More troubling are the interesting proposals that just don't carry the green--I have earned myself into a corner here making more than many upscale-chain regional managers and my annual earnings are just too high for most people to compete with. In these cases I have to let my potential suitors know that their offer really does interest me, but that before we go any further they should know that my current annual earnings are [insert dollar amount somewhere between the salaries of the Vice-President and President of the United States], much of it in cash. After a period of dead silence, there are usually some congratulatory good wishes and a quick good-bye.

Just lately however, a bear of a different color has walked into my little forest. One of our best guests is an individual who owns roughly half the land in our city in addition to being one of the finest attorneys in the country. This fellow is understandably disappointed with the quality of our fair metropolis' lodgings, and has decided to take a big chunk of his riverfront land and build a proper hotel. He has decided that within this hotel should sprout one of the finest restaurants in the city, and has further decided that I should be the general partner of this proposed utopia of fine food and drink. When I hit him with my poison pill figure he simply shrugged and said, "that's as good a starting-point as any". As an added bonus, commencement of this project is nearly a year away--I would literally have years to design an elegant exit from my current position. Talks are of course in an incredibly preliminary stage right now, but I must admit that it is refreshing to once again be thinking beyond the next inventory, next quarter, next crisis, next convention, etc.

What is that old caveat? Oh yeah, "be careful what you wish for..."


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