“The promise of America is Opportunity, not Guarantee.” – Abraham Lincoln
My grandfather sold gloves in the five-state area bounded by Illinois and Minnesota. Not door-to-door, you understand, but to every major retailer. He became a salesman, he once told me, because he “just wasn’t any good at kissing rear ends,” which, he figured, meant he wasn’t destined to work in an office.
He was very successful.
One day during my first year of college, Gramps called. He was in town, he said, and wanted to buy me a good dinner — “The best steak in Minneapolis,” as he put it. I wasn’t one to turn down a great steak. Or good conversation, and Gramps was an exceptional raconteur.
We went to Murray’s. Sadly, it was St. Patrick’s Day, which meant a line out the door and down the street. “It’s okay,” I said. “We’ll find a different restaurant.”
“Nonsense,” Gramps said. “I promised you the best steak in Minneapolis and that’s what you’re getting.” With that we went in, bypassing the line, and a stout, cheerful woman spotted my grandfather, shouted “Harry!” with a glad cry, and gave him a huge hug.
It went like this: “Mrs. Murray, I’d like you to meet my grandson. I promised him the best steak in Minneapolis. Can you help us out?”
Mrs. Murray had the maitre d’ set up table for us where only floor had been before.
Over dinner, Gramps explained why we were eating at Murray’s and not Charlie’s Cafe Exceptionale – the other great restaurant in town.
“A couple of years ago I wanted to take some buyers to dinner so I called Charlie’s and asked for a 7pm reservation for four under the name Rosenbaum. ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Rosenbaum,’ the maitre d’ replied. ‘I have nothing until 10pm.”
As Gramps told the story he waited five minutes, called back, and made the same reservations under the name “Colonel Scott,” without difficulty.
It was the last time he ever ate at Charlie’s.
Rousseau once said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing — when you let the small evils pass, larger ones follow.
Perhaps and perhaps not, but while Charlie’s is long gone you can still get the best steak in town … and the best garlic toast you’ve ever imagined … at Murray’s.
Define success as you like – the accumulation of great wealth, the invention of world-changing gadgets, or the accolades of millions. How you define success is a personal matter.
As you do, consider my grandfather, Harry Rosenbaum, for whom Mrs. Murray set up a special table, just for us on St. Patrick’s Day.