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don’t just sit back waiting for your life to happen…

Today I spoke on the phone with a journalist in Dubai about how the idea to do 7 ironman in 7 day challenge came about —  it was over a “friday night dinner” in Portofino, Italy with Jason Gorud…

He and I were enjoying a great dinner right on the port, literally a few feet from the sea … discussing our 40th year challenges (we both turned 40 in 2011) and I jokingly mentioned the idea of doing an ironman on each of the seven emirates in seven days….

Instantly, he raised his wine glass and bet me a box of Monte Cristo “A” cigars that I couldn’t do it … his way of making sure I go after this challenge…

anyways – after my conversation with the journalist, I thought about this blog entry … so decided to repost it.
Even if you have read this entry before — “don’t just sit back waiting for your life to happen…” 
this title says it all
In Tokyo, on a Friday back in October of 1998…

I was the sales director of the Tokyo office.

We had a big week.

The newly, transferred General Manager of the office, an American, Jason Gorud invited me to dinner to celebrate the big week.

He took me to “il Pinolo” which was considered (at the time) the best restaurant in Tokyo.

The restaurant was very small, if I remember correctly, it had only 10 tables.

We sat at the third table in the gorgeous dining room; the best table in the restaurant.

I didn’t know Jason well; he had been in the office for less than one week, but we had several things in common – mainly, we are both from the Midwest in America and we had both lived in Japan for several years.

Up until that dinner, I had never ordered a bottle of wine because I didn’t drink alcohol.

However, after Jason persuaded me with talk about Ernest Hemingway (one of my favorite authors) as well as his favorite novel by Nikos Kazantzakis,  “Zorba the Greek,” I agreed to “experience” wine.

Jason ordered a white New Zealand wine, “Cloudy Bay.”

We spent 4-5 hours discussing our aspirations, dreams and goals.

I remember discussions on leading adventurous, Hemingway-esque lives.
I remember Jason talking about…dreaming of living a life like Zorba.

It was a great, memorable dinner.

The following Monday…

Before work began, I went up to Jason’s office and suggested that if the sales for the office broke the previous weeks figure – we should go back to Il Pinolo again.  Jason excitedly, agreed.

Like magic, I had another big week and the office beat the previous week’s sales…
what drove me that week was to ensure we went back to Il Pinolo for dinner.

By chance, we sat at the same table and we both instinctively, sat in the same seats as before – Jason to my right.

We stuck to the same ritual as the Friday before – one glass of champagne to start and then one bottle of Cloudy Bay.

Again, we spent the evening dreaming and discussing setting simple goals…

Like the previous Friday night, we were the last table to leave the restaurant.

Over the next 10 months, we turned this end of work week dinner into a prize:
we would work our asses off during the week to be able to go out to dinner on Friday night, eat great food, drink great wine and celebrate life.

But if we slacked off, missed the numbers or generally failed to deliver on the goals we set for ourselves, we would have no FND.

In 10 months, we only missed one FND, and it was very early on so we learned from our mistakes.

Very quickly, Jason started to call the dinner “FND” for “Friday Night Dinner.”

“Ritual” is important to both of us.

Over time we developed certain rituals, which became a sort of rule set:

  • we must always wear suits
  • the FND must occur at the best, or one of the best rated restaurants in the city the FND takes place.
  • Jason always sits to my right
  • no guests are allowed, not even wives, friends or family
  • one Friday I pay, the next Friday Jason pays (even if the next FND doesnt happen for months)
  • one glass of champagne to start
  • we limit ourselves to one bottle of wine during the dinner (we dont want to become drunk)
  • we document every “Friday Night Dinner” in the same Hermes leather journal

To this day, we still adhere to these ‘rules’ as a way of differentiating an FND from just another nice dinner.

One FND we got into an argument about which restaurant had the better view– “New York Grill” in Tokyo (not our usual FND location, but one of the more iconic restaurants in Tokyo)  or “Felix” in Hong Kong….

Both have stunning views, but I bet the airplane tickets that “Felix” in Hong Kong had the better view.

Around midnight, we went straight to the airport (about a 3 hour train ride from Tokyo) and flew early that morning to Hong Kong, booked rooms in The Peninsula (where Felix is located) and enjoyed a Saturday night dinner to judge who was right.

After a great meal and a bottle of Cloudy Bay, we both agreed,  the view from “Felix” was not better than the view from “The New York Grill,” thus I lost the bet.

At the time, we were both 27 years old and the internet didn’t dominate our lives like it does today.

You couldn’t just “google” something.

Reflecting back, it didn’t seem crazy or extravagant —  debating with your friend on which restaurant has a better view of two amazing cities – one in Tokyo or one in Hong Kong, and then going straight from one restaurant in Tokyo to the airport to catch the first flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong to see who is right ….

….that’s what the FND turned into – pushing ourselves into experiencing life,  doing crazy challenges, and most importantly NOT talking about what we were going to do, but challenging each other to make it happen.

Just a few quick examples…

Over an FND, we decided to go to Africa and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Several months later, we summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in a white out snow storm.  A few days after the summit, we went on a 5 day safari in the world’s largest, most incredible wild life reserve.

Over a FND, Jason told me he was getting married and asked me to be his best man…

Over a FND, Jason challenged me to swim across the English channel … three months later, I did.

Within a year or so of the original FND,  we both moved our separate ways to different countries, and while (individually) we ended up moving on with our lives, the FND ritual still remained important to us.

At least once a year, since 1998, We have organized our schedules to enjoy an FND – recently, several times a year.

Up until now, Jason and I have had an FND in many different countries at some of the most famous restaurants in the world, including, but not limited to restaurants in:

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Nairobi, Amsterdam, Zurich, Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Lyon, St Tropez, Monaco, London, Beverly Hills just to name a few….

The FND is not about the dinner, or silly rituals or idle chit chat.

The FND is about consistency,  focus and ultimately — achievement.

The FND is our incentive…

An incentive for us to work hard to try and make our lives happen — our incentive to ensure we don’t just sit back and allow life to happen around us.

(we have since taken the FND ritual to a whole new level with the FND trip – trips organized once a year around food, wine and seeing cool shit…
for those interested:  http://7hn.11e.myftpupload.com/?p=3827)


2 thoughts on “don’t just sit back waiting for your life to happen…

  1. Hi Scott, this is a very interesting post! In one-sentence summary of it: Great minds think alike and heros respect heros.

    Have a good weekend!