Hello and good day!
For a little over ten years, my brother Brian said goodbye to his family and took a 17-hour bus ride, every two weeks. He was living in the northern Andes town of Cajamarca, Peru. To get out to where we buy cacao, he had to travel westward down the face of the Andes to the northern Peruvian coast.
Then the bus went back up into the Andes, due east, up and over a mountain pass, down the eastern face of the Andes, through innumerable winding river valleys, until he finally made it to the canyon where we buy cacao.
He lived and worked out there in campo for 2-3 weeks at a time and then he said goodbye to the team and went back home to his family. Over and over again, for a decade.
That is what made our chocolate company possible.
Anyhow, one of the very important skills my brother had to learn was compartmentalization.Saying goodbye to his family was very emotional, as you can imagine.
When we started the project, Brian's wife was pregnant, and their daughter, Amara, was born just as Brian had to become a road dog. Every single goodbye was tearful. When a baby is so small, 2-3 weeks brings about a lot of changes, and Brian knew he was missing a lot of Amara's childhood.
However, out in campo, we have a team and a business. There is a lot of work to do, and a leader is needed. We buy cacao from hundreds of cacao farmers and employ dozens of people out in the canyon. A tearful, sentimental, team lead is not what people need out there.
They need an optimistic, enthusiastic, hard charging, doer.They need to see somebody strong, and confident, and smiling. Brian gives them what they need.He is able to push down or ignore the sadness, for a time, in order to get on with his work and responsibilities.
We're a family business. My brother runs parts of the business. My dad runs other parts. I run a couple parts. And increasingly, my wife is running important parts of the business.
We also have a great team, mostly comprised of long-time family friends.
There is no way around it, family members fight and bicker sometimes. Over the years, my dad, my brother, and I have had some real barn burners. In particular, I remember one night about 5 years ago when my dad and I got into it over the direction of our company.
The argument escalated into a shouting match. We'd been sent to the store by our wives to buy groceries and we started arguing on the way. I was driving and dad was in the passenger's seat.
At the store, we had to cool it in order to go in and buy the stuff. But once we got back in the car, the intensity was turned back up to full blast. Back at the house, we sat in the driveway yelling at each other.
It was not one of our finest moments. We were out there for about 20 minutes and the car windows started to fog up. Our wives, and my kids, stood near the living room windows, looking out at the driveway, wondering when we were coming in.Afterall, we had the groceries in the car with us.
Finally, we reached an impasse.Sometimes when you are arguing, it becomes clear that both sides are saying the same thing over and over again but trying to use different presentations of the same arguments.
That was happening and we decided to go in. On the way from the car to the house, we plastered smiles on our faces and ended up having a very nice evening.
Sometimes I have to go to work after disciplining my kids or bickering with my wife. I'm not in a great state of mind, but customers don't want to see a gloomy, moping, man when they come into the chocolate shop. They are coming to have fun and enjoy themselves, and I have an obligation to give them that experience.The team and I have to be on when we are interacting with customers.
We have to compartmentalize.
And there are two things that I think help a lot with this. The first is smiling. Force a smile on your face. That alone helps a lot.
And the second thing is being around people. The inclination when you are in a bad mood is to go off alone and ruminate.This makes me spiral.
I'm there by myself, thinking and thinking. Each time I think a thought, it becomes more deeply engrained in my mind and my position hardens. Say you argue with your spouse and then you go off alone.
You have the idea in your head that he or she is wrong. You sit there by yourself and count the ways they are wrong. They're wrong. They're wrong. They're wrong. The thought repeats in your mind.
Then you see them, and what do you say? You say, "hey, you are so wrong" and then the whole thing kicks up again.
But getting around people naturally forces these thoughts to cool off a bit and you might be able to reconsider things in a different light. Also, getting around people, serving them, helping them, and doing something to make the world a better place is uplifting.
It can almost lift you up above your problems and when you look back down on them, you see how small and petty the whole thing was in the first place. You come back ready to accept some of the blame and compromise.
Smiling and serving. These two practices are a great way to compartmentalize.
Anyhow, I'm running out of steam a bit now.
Thank you very kindly for giving me a moment of your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!