Two Brothers, Two Different Dreams
My brother and I grew up in Alabama where we worked in a small family restaurant. As kids it was great because we didn’t have a care in the world and we would rather be there than playing outside. As we got older, my brother and I started to have totally different tastes in what we liked even in our taste for what we did for fun.
Dad passed away when we were getting out of high school which left the business to my mom. About a year later she was diagnosed with cancer and had to take it easy on running the business on a day to day basis. In turn, that meant that my brother and I had to step it up. I was willing to dive in and take over for mom but my brother was hesitant. As much as he said he was down with working with me, you could see it written all over his face that he was not into it like he said he was.
About a week later, my brother came through the door and said he was headed to Chicago and going to finish his law degree. Before I could change his mind, he had already made up his and was packed ready to go. As he left he turned to me and said, “There are far better things out there for me than working at some small restaurant in a small town.” I didn’t have a reply for him except to say, “I’ll miss you brother.” When he walked out the door I knew it would be a long time before we saw each other again.
7 years later…the restaurant was running strong, mom was doing better and from the few times we spoke with my brother he seemed to be living the life he wanted. He got married, had a kid but traveled all the time and liked “things” and was truly all about himself to the core. One morning a man drove up in a sporty BMW and I could swear it was my brother. He got out of the car and you could tell he was just lost which is when I knew it was definitely my brother Jeffrey. He walked in and we sat down at a small table in the back to talk. We started off with small talk and then he told me, “I’ve cheated on my wife.” As I was about to open my mouth, he blurted out that it was not the first time and he never really wanted to get married but it just seemed like a good thing to do at the time. He then tells me he wants me to tell his wife about what he’s done so he can move on and continue doing the things he wants to do which include the fancy cars, women, clean clothes and his blackberry that he can’t let go of for the life of him. I asked him, “Why don’t you just come clean and move back here where you can enjoy what you have and the people around you?” He laughed and said, “This isn’t a life, this is just a joke. Once you have the nice things and get out of the po-dunk way of living, then you’re living.” I could tell he meant what he said as he flashed his fake smile while he spoke. At that moment I realized that I could not change his mind and that I was the one meant to be a small family business owner, not him. He walked away and said, “Don’t forget to help me break this to Angie. I have to catch a flight but take care and we will chat soon.”
Why am I telling you this story? Because whether you are a business owner, husband, wife, sibling or someone battling looking to find your path in life, you can relate to this story in some way. Can’t you? Many small businesses are owned by families and sometimes we think that all family was meant to be a part of the business. That’s where we’re wrong. Everyone is different and not everyone is meant to do the same thing. There is nothing wrong with pursuing what you want to do in life but don’t make the wrong choices and continue to hurt people along the way. My brother would constantly say to me when we were kids, “Why would I screw this up when I have it so good?” I’m assuming that’s what he said to many people around him while he had other plans on his mind. Life is going to be messy but don’t put yourself in situations where there’s a chance you will mess up faster. I’ve been living in the same town and working at the same place for years but I am truly happy with my life. Don’t think that where you live, what you drive, what you wear is what defines you in this life.
My advice to you as a person and business owner is to not let money or things blind you. Surround yourself with those who make you better and not mediocre. Running a business is not easy but it’s a way of life and if you’re ready for it then jump in with all you have. With the new year ahead of you, think of it as a clean slate for yourself and your business.
I Am A Mom and Pop
-Michael M. in Alabama