This is a story about a girl, but at the same time… it’s not.
I started my Sunday with a bike along the beach to play with the rings. I came home to shower and eat before migrating to the cafe with an adamant determination to finish two tasks that had been lingering on my agenda. They were my ‘one thing’.
Before I begin, I’m sharing this story because I need to — for me. It’s not going to give you actionable advice to leverage in business, but if you’re single, focused on building your career/business, and trying to determine how/if dating fits into that picture — perhaps this story will provide you the same clarity it provided me.
If you aren’t balancing development of both your personal and professional lives then this story might not be for you, but feel free to read it for the perspective it provides.
Some weeks ago, while working at my regular cafe perch, someone came and took the seat next to me. I remember catching her out of the corner of my eye and making the conscious commitment not to look. Reflecting back, I could feel this pull to see who was next to me and, not questioning why, I fought it for as long as possible.
I didn’t want to seem overly interested as she was just inches from my shoulder, but I also kind of wanted to seem disinterested as I wanted to have leverage when I finally turned to see. I fought for so long that she finally finished her coffee and started making moves to head for the restroom. Catching, with the corner of my eye, her move to pause her music and put down her headphones I somewhat flippantly acknowledged that I would watch her computer before she’d had the chance to ask.
When she returned, I make eye contact for the first time — she was stunning.
I can’t say I was surprised. Something had been pulling me towards her in a way I hadn’t experienced in some time. She had this dangerous mix of freckles, a button nose, and eastern european facial structure that brought out the brilliance of her eyes. We started talking and quickly fell into a unique synchronousity.
I quickly discovered the juxtaposition of her day job as a software engineer and her passion for filmmaking. We talked for what seemed to be hours about the bounce between hemispheres of the brain. It’s rare to meet someone who has the ability to consciously shift between both — let alone have that person be a cute girl.
I wussed out in asking her for her number and substituted with an invitation to a slack-based mastermind group (which she rightfully deserved to be in). In the process of making an introduction to a neighbor we discovered that we lived right down the street from one another and it prompted wine which evolved into dinner.
The evening was full of titillating discussion about everything from sports injuries to creative writing. I made dinner and we shared a bottle of wine as we enjoyed the evening with neither of us forcing any particular agenda. While it’s far beyond standard practice to invite a first date to my apartment (even though I was only partially certain that’s what this really was), it was relaxing and just seemed to fit.
As I walked her out I suggested we go to see the view from the roof. This wasn’t as much a “move” as it was me delaying her departure while I decided if I wanted to make one. I wasn’t interested in anything less than long term and I didn’t really have the bandwidth to develop that if I found it — I’d made the pragmatic decision to focus my attention on my business. I wasn’t avoiding love, I just wasn’t actively looking.
What I’ve come to realize is that you can keep a tight grip on the distraction of dating while you focus on developing your business or career, but every once in a while you have to let out some slack in the line and see what happens.
Neither of us were dressed for the frigid gusts of wind that greeted us on the roof so the adventure was short lived. We quickly retreated back to the elevator bay for warmth. I pressed the button to call for the elevator and kept walking into her, putting my hand around the back of her head and pulling her lips towards mine.
She kissed me back and things quickly got heated. She pulled me towards the wall and lightly pulled me in with a sweep of her leg. The elevator came and went as we both enjoyed the moment. When we finally called it again — the feeling remained.
I could see the same processing in my head happening within hers. All at once, things had changed — not for better or for worse, but they had changed.
We walked together back to her apartment and, not trying to be too forward, I mentally committed myself to parting ways no later than her front door. We made it inside the gate and continued to kiss with no less passion than the first moment our lips touched, but she pulled away. She said, “I wasn’t looking for anything, I’m in the middle of a divorce” to which I responded, “and I have two paternity tests that say a baby isn’t mine” implying that we all have pasts we’re working to move beyond. She paused and broke a huge smile while coming towards me for a hug. In that moment I could tell she had a lot going on and, regardless of what I thought or wanted, needed to be given space to deal with it before she would be willing to explore anything new.
I kissed her goodnight and parted with a smile as I started to process the evening.
There’s a distinct difference between busy and elusive — since that night she had been the latter. I didn’t need to understand why and was comfortable enough focusing on my own professional ventures that I let things settle and process.
Today, on Valentine’s Day amongst a sea of couples embracing romance, I went to my normal cafe perch to work… and there she was. Beautiful as ever she lit up with a big smile when she saw me and a walked over to work next to her. We only talked for a moment as, without verbalizing as much, were focused on our work.
I surmised that what she said was “writing” was actually something personal and, knowing my own preferences for solitude or anonymity, figured that my presence was going to taint that. It didn’t feel right to move away, but I tried to give her space.
For several hours and at least three coffees, we playfully danced between our focus on work and flirtatious conversation. Eventually, needing to find food, she shut her computer and began to pack her things. I made a playful comment and she invited me to join her for lunch. We walked down the street while talking, without great detail, about her relationship and the cause for it’s end. The conversation only deepened through launch as we discussed our pragmatic approaches to the postponement of romance to make way for personal and professional development.
Napoleon Hill talks about this in ‘Think and Grow Rich’ as he describes the ability to transmute sexual energy into temporary focus on the development of a business.
The more we talked, the more we connected, and yet the more we pushed apart.
We’re both extremely independent people capable of creating our own sense of fulfillment without a “need” for someone else. As she put it, “I don’t want someone to tell me I make them happy… that’s not my job.” I agreed, remembering something my friend Kyle Cease had said in a keynote last year — if you tell someone “you complete me” you are in essence saying “I am not complete.”
We’re both temporarily abstaining from throughs of romance or passion to focus on the development of ourselves and our businesses, but… it was abundantly clear (to us both) that we were immensly attracted to one another.
Was it passion? Was it romance? Was it smart?
So here we are in a conversation that is arguably the most honest and authentic conversation I’ve had with a woman in years, but simultaneously and mutually agreeing that opportunities of both passion and romance are unwise to pursue.
We both want to explore it, but we both know that it could (and is likely to) be detrimental to the goals we’ve laid before ourselves. She commented that she’d love to see me again… in a public or group setting. As I laughed, she explained that anything more private would likely result in the crumpling of our pragmatic fortress.
We laughed for an hour just recognizing how in line we were with one another and how it wasn’t smart to get too close. Was it love or the catalyst for an atom bomb?
I share this story with you in an effort to make a parallel to business. There will be opportunities that come your way that you know are wrong and, while it can be hard, you can learn to turn them away. The more practiced you become at saying ‘no’ the more you will discover the magnetism of those who want to be your ‘yes’. Said differently, the more suitors you turn away — the more desirable you become.
This begs the question, when something so seemingly perfect comes along that you’d need to drop that which as been most sacred to you — how do you say yes?
We parted ways three hours ago and I’ve been sitting on my porch writing ever since. I feel empowered to have the control to abseil from distraction, but it’s mixed with a pensive sadness for what could have been had we met in a different time.
One thing I forgot to mention… she has a tendency to read these emails.
I have no doubts that she’s been reading this with a flutter of emotions while wondering where the story will go. She surely knows what happened today as she was there, but perhaps she might be wondering if there’s a perspective I didn’t share.
I have no idea what the future holds, but I’m appreciative of the (developed) ability to step back and make a conscious decision. Whether love or lust, following anything blindly into the night will only lead to a loss of control in the long run. While we both wanted to follow each other into the night… we also wanted to maintain control of our focus on personal and professional development.
While we both eventually want to find love, we know the eternal pain that would be felt if we became distracted and lost sight of the sense of purpose we’ve worked so diligently to uncover. It’s not that the exploration of one has to terminate the pursuit of the other, but it adds a level of risk never to be taken lightly.
We’ve all got goals and a sense of the order in which things should happen, but as someone once said, time is a “big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.”
Everything is fluid. That’s why I built a boat instead of a sand castle.