Friday, June 3, 2011

Even the Finest Red Wine Turns to Vinegar (or “Be Careful About Delayed Gratification”)

No, this isn’t another wine post: if you’re interested in my wine musings, here’s a link to my earlier stuff, and don’t forget to check out the Bottle and Cans weekly podcast, which is chock-full of plenty of useful tips and tricks about wine that I’ve come across in my studies, as well as some entertaining banter about various other topics.

Instead, this deals with something else: delayed gratification.  As is true of my new, jet-setting self, I just returned from a trip to California wine country around Solvang, near where the movie Sideways was shot.  It was a great trip, and we had some great wines through it all at some fantastic wineries. At the particularly-strong Stolpman winery, we were able to taste a ten-year-old shiraz that actually ended up being pretty damned good.  Most of the wineries had at least a couple of bottles that had tasting notes like, “cellar for 5-10 years.”

This got me thinking a bit about the nature of delayed gratification.  Sure, if you wait to drink the wine for another 5-10 years, it could possibly taste better.  But then I think about my parents, and the expensive bottles of wine they received the year I was born (1983, for those of you keeping track out there), and how they let them age to the point where when we finally tried to crack them last year, I took a sniff, thought it smelled a bit off, then decided to taste it anyway (hey, I didn’t say I was the sharpest knife in the drawer).  It was absolutely undrinkable vinegar.  Luckily I was standing next to a sink, lest I spoil an otherwise perfectly usable area rug when expelling the offensive liquid!

My point is, sure, sometimes it can be worth 5-10 years to enjoy something.  Though I’m not particularly a fan of “paying dues for the sake of paying dues,” if you find a career you like or are trying to start a business, it can take some time to get to where you want to be.  The problem occurs when you get far too caught up in delayed gratification, waiting for some magical alignment of circumstances before doing what you want to do with your life, or “cracking the bottle.”  Too many people save things for “special occasions,” and it’s not just wine; ideas for new projects for your company, or that novel you have in your head, or a new career, or having kids.  Some of these require a lot of planning, and others really just require courage, but whatever the case, if you wait too long, a lot of times you wake up one day and realize “this isn’t the life I wanted.”  Sometimes, that bottle of wine tastes just fine right now, it’s just your fear of “missing out” on some mythical, ideal form of what the wine “should” be that keeps you saving it up for a “special occasion” that never arrives.

So instead of keeping that idea bottled up inside of you until its time has come-and-gone, or somebody else actually implements it and you’re left holding the bag, do something to put your ideas into action.  Regret is a strong feeling, so much so that people often times talk about it as overriding everything else when you’re about to die.  By exposing your ideas to others, not only might they be able to offer you suggestions and advice on whatever it is, be it the idea you have for a novel,  or a new project you really want to take up at work, but you might find some unlikely sources of support and contacts just by putting yourself out there.  I’ve found that to be true ever since deciding to put myself out there, and I’m sure that, unless you have the largest network of asshole friends ever  (I’m sure I already have you beat on that one), you’ll find that the same is true for you.

Action Item: Think of an idea that you’ve had for a project, business, book, or other creative endeavor.  Tell it to five people that you trust.  See how your worst fears don’t come true.  Ask for constructive feedback and use it to improve whatever you’re working on.  Actually takes steps to make your idea a reality.

Do you have any examples of situations where you “took the plunge” against your better judgment?  How did it go?  Let me know in the comments.

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

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