In a former life, I sometimes counseled small business owners who were going through a difficult time in their business. The circumstances would be so desperate and the prognosis so dire that the person on whom this business's buck stopped would be close to being unable to function.
Having been there myself and calling upon what I had learned about what really matters, I would begin a visit with, "How are your children?"
To which they would ask, incredulously, "What?!"
When I asked the same question again, they would invariably respond, "They're fine. I'm about to lose my business. Why are you asking me about my family?"
To which I would respond, "Does anything else REALLY matter?"
The late 20th century rock star and malcontent, Warren Zevon, succumbed to lung cancer at 52. If poets were punctuation, Zevon was a great, big, bold, in-your-face exclamation point in a world with too many pedestrian periods.
He was also a small business owner.
Having penned songs like my favorite, "Werewolves of London," and the now ironic, "Life'll Kill Ya," Zevon was an independent artist working without a net, passionately creating products in hopes of finding customers who would appreciate and pay for his wares. And we did.
In preparing for death, Zevon had one very important thing to say, especially to small business owners. In an interview with David Letterman, both knowing Zevon's days were numbered, Letterman asked what he had learned about life: Looking straight through the camera lens into every soul watching, Zevon said, "Enjoy every sandwich!"
Zevon didn't mean life is short; go get more sales. The man whose life's work was the definition of sardonic was saying, "This just in: You're not going to get out of this alive!!"
We sometimes get so wrapped up in our business that we risk losing our grip on the things that really matter: health, happiness and those who love us. "Enjoy every sandwich" was Zevonese for "Slow down to the speed of life! Listen to a bird! Smell a rose! Hug your kids!"
Surviving these tough economic times is important, but not at the expense of love. Financial security is a good thing, but it's not more important than health. And all the credentials in the world can't begin to move the scales when weighed against having joy in your life.
Warren was lucky; he knew how much time he had left. You don't.
Write this on a rock...Life is short; enjoy every sandwich. Thanks, Warren.
Jim Blasingame is one of the world's leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship. He is the creator and award-winning host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Small Business Advocate ® Show. In addition to his weekly columns, Jim is the author of two books; Small Business is like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success .