When I was in my late teens I worked as a waitress for one of the hotels where I also was a line cook. I waitressed in the morning for breakfast and lunch and then I worked as the line cook for the dinner rush. I had zero experience as a waitress, but I was a very good line-cook, so management made an exception.
Since I was very familiar with the food and often was the one that prepped it the night before, I had a lot of opinions that were sometimes difficult to keep to myself. My poor short-term memory coupled with my doctor inspired handwriting made taking orders feel more like a guessing game than a required task. But what I lacked in skill and professionalism, I made up for with enthusiasm.
At 5am every day, I’d be the first one in the restaurant and would quickly knock out all the side work in case the other servers had to help me out later when it got busy. I rolled silver wear, stacked glasses, set tables, whatever needed to be done, I did without complaint. Then I’d go in the back and talk with the breakfast cooks to ensure that the breakfast buffet was ready on time and offer my help if needed.
People usually started arriving for the breakfast buffet about 6am. My coffee and juice game was strong, and I’d usually the customer’s drinks on the table before they could get up to look at the buffet. Simply the fact that I was wide awake when others could barely keep their eyes open, gave me an advantage.
By 730am, things would get complicated. People didn’t want the buffet anymore, they wanted to order off the menu and needed extra things; like highchairs for their kids, extra napkins, and to-go bags. I ran around the dining room and back and forth from the storage room and kitchen is efforts to get and/or do what was required.
However, despite how ungraceful I was as waitress, a curious thing happened, I out earned all the other waitresses. I’d make more in the first two hours of breakfast than some of them made all day. It didn’t make sense to them how anyone as clumsy, forgetful, and anxious, as me could make any tips at all.
After a few months of good tips, I started to really examine what it was about my approach that made me more successful that my co-workers. I concluded my success was directly proportional to how present I was.
When I arrived at work early and with the mindset to be fully present. I was able to prevent a million little mishaps before anyone else arrived. The random dirty pepper shaker, the half empty glass rack on top of two completely empty racks, the sticky computer screen used to enter orders, the printer that was out of paper in the kitchen, the dirty rags, and misplaced tips from the night before, where just some of the tasks I’d confront in the morning. Each taking less than a minute to remedy.
Making it a priority to greet each morning for what it truly was, not how I wished it to be, gave me the power to have an unshakable attitude. I didn’t waste time blaming others or leaving chaos for the next person, I just focused on what was in front of me and did what needed to be done. The result was I was able to be fully present while those around me were pulled down by circumstance. I believe this impacted how I was perceived by my customers and while I was not as graceful, or bubbly as the other servers, I was indeed 100 percent present and it showed.
This morning I awoke before the sun and went out for a walk. As I walked down the stairs from our neighborhood to the lake, I was greeted by dozens of spider webs. This is a common occurrence for me as I am often the first one down this spider infested outdoor stairs. The first few times this happened, I panicked a bit and would hurry down the stairs, but soon realized the only thing that changed by doing this was my attitude towards the spiders and the loss of my pace.
Then I learned to accept the spider webs as part of my morning walk and started to anticipate the wall of webs. The simple act of putting my hand out in front of my face allowed me to keep the webs out of my mouth so I was able to keep my pace without fear of choking on a spider.
Today, I don’t have any negative thoughts about spider webs and my hand almost automatically goes up in front of my face when I go down the stairs. I catch the spiderwebs before they become a problem and I continue my way.
When I focus only on what is right in front of me, I can avoid getting caught in the webs of chaos by adapting myself to meet the situation instead of sitting idle waiting for the situation to change.