Today I get to celebrate the end of IMTS and the start of the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah. For me these are surprisingly connected events to be treasured and assessed.
My life is a combination of the mundane and the spiritual, but I find it strange and sometimes inspiring how the stuff of business and the practice of my religion wrap around each other so often in my daily life. This hit me at IMTS when I met with a fellow traveler in the machine tool world at the Mazak exhibit. He had sought me out after reading my work for many years. We share a love of this business, a passion for sports and to my surprise, a commitment to Judaism. I know some people wonder why I occasionally bring religion and God forbid – God – into my columns, but he gets it, and out of the blue, he engaged me about my Judaism over bottled water at Mazak.
One of the nice things about doing Swarf for 12 years is that people feel like they know me, which frees them up to expose more of themselves than they normally would to somebody they’ve never shaken hands with before.
We played a little “Jewish Geography.” He knows a couple of distant cousins of mine, at least I think they might be cousins. Then he asked me about my religious practice, which seemed odd with the machining centers cutting metal 20 feet away. Yet he asked with such a matter of fact sincerity that I answered him with more depth and nuance than I would have even expected of myself. Two sixty-something guys who had never actually met sat and talked about how we pray at IMTS in Chicago. There was a refreshing innocence in the incongruence of the moment and it made me sweat with the rawness of the happening.
I usually have a lot of deep conversations over the course of a week. I guess I crave them because they give texture and depth to my days. I was discussing with my wife Risa my struggle to get as much done during my work day that I feel I ought to and she suggested I curtail my serendipitous conversations which sop up my available minutes. My talk at the Mazak booth was one of those. It took me away from some other business connections I wanted to make at IMTS.
But as I think about it today, as Rosh Hashanah is about to begin, I would gladly trade three business card exchanges at IMTS for my 45-minute ad hoc talk that intersected our spiritual connection.
Will that talk transfer into more money in my bank account? God knows – or doesn’t. But in September of 2012, the beginning of my New Year, this is how I look at it. I have a finite number of days left of health and breath. I want these days to be as rich as possible, which definitely has something to do with my business success and my organizational acumen, or lack of it. But it’s the emotional connection that really makes my days precious. If I can find that and savor it at those crazy incongruous times it surfaces, like at the Mazak display, I want to go for it. Screw the “to do” list, give me my moments.
Question: Should religion be off-limits in business?