“If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.” –Alice Roosevelt
A few months ago while I was mopping my floor, I heard something in my shoulder pop, and for the next few hours, I could barely raise my arm above my head. Initially I wrote it off as a onetime thing, but it kept happening and so I made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon (who just happens to be my husband’s best friend—score!). After x-rays and an exam, he told me that I’d worn most of the cartilage away in my AC joint, and that I’d probably never be able to regularly practice vinyasa yoga again.
If you know me at all, you can probably surmise that the diagnosis and recommendation were pretty devastating for me. I have been practicing yoga regularly for years, and credit it with getting me through some of the hardest times in my life, both personally and professionally. When I was on the road, it kept me sane, and when I was experiencing difficulty in any area of my life, time on the mat really helped put things into perspective for me. I learned so much about practicing daily mindfulness, kindness, and gratitude. Whenever I was facing a particularly tough question in life or work, an hour or two on the mat would usually help clear my mind and help me get things focused.
So what does all this have to do with selling wine?
As I am sure you’ve realized, the wine industry is a very small place. If you travel at all, you start to recognize certain faces, and you might even have a group of people you socialize with from other wineries that tend to travel in the same waves and schedules as you do. And naturally, in a small industry that is highly social and that revolves around the consumption of alcoholic beverages, gossip becomes a huge component of our interactions with each other. We gossip a lot because it helps us figure out how to manage our business better—knowing which buyer who historically supported your wines has moved to what new restaurant, which rep has been promoted, and what person at a distributor has a knack for getting things done—they’re all things we talk about. But of course, sometimes the discussions devolve into critiques of someone’s personal behavior, relationship choices, or professionalism and that’s where the line goes from gray to red.
I’m not proud of it, but I occasionally have a pretty pessimistic side, which I was reminded about this weekend. I spent the last few days with a very good girlfriend (who also happens to be in the wine business). I love her because she’s smart, funny and generally amazing. Of course when we get together we discuss our jobs quite a bit, covering both things that have been high-points for us, but also things or people that have been troubling for us.
On this occasion, I brought up a supplier that had said and done some things (the one time I had met him) that I viewed as arrogant and out-of-left field. For a few moments, I negatively lamented his unseemly behavior, and when I finished, I glanced at my friend, to back me up. Instead, she arched her eyebrows incredulously and stared over the rims of her sunglasses and said, “Wow, you really seem to dislike this guy and you don’t even work with him! Do you think maybe you’re reading too much into it?” And of course she then proceeded to positively sum up how she felt about him like this: “he’s smart, he’s efficient, and he’s good at his job. I probably wouldn’t go to dinner with him, but no knocks against him. We’re just different.”
I realized in that moment that I REALLY hadn’t been bringing the yoga of kindness and positivity into that conversation, or into my words very much at all since I had given up my practice. I mean, what the f*ck? What is the point of talking sh*t about someone I hardly know, and with whom I don’t even work?
And just to hammer that lesson home, on the heels of this conversation, a coworker today told me that she’d heard a rumor about me that was ridiculous at best, and malicious at worst. Thankfully she stuck up for me, but it did make me think: the wine business IS a small place. It’s really not worth it to be a negative asshole–your words will come back to haunt you, and in the end, it’s just not worth it. I’m not saying that it’s bad to be analytical and realistic. It’s just that being negative and shitty because it’s fun and dishy doesn’t get you anywhere. Really.
Also, I started going to yoga again, even though it’s just a couple times a week. And I picked up cycling. How’s this for karma: