Couple enjoying dinner

Sometimes it’s better not to try and “make something” out of everything. A few weeks ago I went out to lunch at a trendy health food cafe which I frequent here in California. As I made my way around to find a table to dine at, I saw a super cute girl eating at a huge table by herself. Also about to occupy a 4 person table alone, I made a playful joke about her doing so, and asked if I could join her.

She lit up.

“Sure” she said, “I’m almost done, but you can sit here.”

We enjoyed a (partial) meal together, discussing silly random topics and conversations about nothing and anything. I asked her about her passion, and she told me she loved to paint, but it’s hard to make a living from it. Usually I’d go into “motivational coach mode”, but I simply empathized with her and urged her on to get back into it anyways.

Her lunch break was over and she said goodbye, barely exchanging first names before parting. She left and I finished my meal, seamlessly progressing to opening the pages of a new book I brought along. Half an hour later, I left the cafe, never to see or hear from her again. It felt great.

* * *

That’s it – yes, the entire story. No punch line, no epic conclusion; and therein lies the beauty.

There was a time before when doing such a simple, casual thing as this was unfathomable. The idea of approaching a girl and sitting with her for a meal seemed like a Hollywood fantasy. Years ago, there were all these mind games I played with myself about judgment, “appropriateness”, fear, rejection, etc. Weird feelings and incongruencies in my thoughts and behaviors were the norm, rather than just being present to whatever was happening.

Now, after many years of inner work, I see it simply as two people momentarily crossing paths and enjoying the company in the moment. An ephemeral rendezvous of two souls that just happen to be of the opposite sex, meeting in a moment to share a connection – even as shallow and fleeting as a single meal.

There was no desire to “close her” or forcing something more. No compulsion that I needed to give a bigger meaning to the interaction. No mind games that I’m a loser for not sleeping with her within an hour – I’ve done that, and have flushed out the need to prove that to myself. I am now free to be authentic in the moment, acting on impulse and genuine desire.

When you deal with people – in business, dating, or networking – lose the agendas and become open and unattached to outcomes. Of course you should still have an intent, but make it a win-win. People can sense agendas easily, especially when they’re manipulative or selfish. When you simply have an intent to “light up their day”, “have a blast pushing my comfort zone”, or “learn about somebody’s story”, you can still achieve something without making it an obsessive goal or beating yourself up over not making it happen.

Nothing has meaning until we give it one. Look around you – everything you see means something to you because you gave a meaning to it, whether you realize it or not. When you’re in situations, they are inherently meaningless. You can decide if the meaning is “This person is too pretty/cool/young/famous to eat with me, so I’d just make a fool of myself” or “This other human being is eating lunch alone, perhaps they’d enjoy another person’s company.”

Be present and explore each new situation as its own, unique moment. Everywhere you go can be an adventure: some end up steamy and others what I like to call “a learning experience”. Show up fully and take risks; you cannot be “rejected” unless you’re seeking approval. Just enjoy the world and the world enjoy you right back. When you can bring goodness into the world, there is no reason other good people won’t want to enjoy your company.

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