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Pause, breathe, and reflect

As an entrepreneur, it has become my second nature to always fight the good fight. In good times and in bad. Over the years, through a lot of successes and failures, I have learnt to live side-by-side with uncertainty by being quick to make decisions and even quicker to act in times of change.

As an entrepreneur, when times get tough you hustle. When your back is against the wall, you use your creativity to find a new direction. When the wheels of fortune turn in your favour, you better damn re-position yourself to be in the right place to take the leap.

But this time it’s different.

We all feel it. So much change is happening so quickly. Our lives went from free and open to fearful and restricted overnight. The authorities we look to for reassurance and counsel went from being certain and acting with clear intent to seeming as confused as the rest of us, from one day to the next.

Over the past two weeks I’ve had to fight every natural instinct in my body to keep from responding to this new situation with action. With hustle, as I’m used to. We at Simple Feast are in a very fortunate position not to be one of the companies in immediate trouble – we are keeping the kitchen open and actually seem to be in one of the few industries that is weathering this particular storm better than others. But still, it felt wrong to hustle through this particular storm.

Last Wednesday, instead of making any drastic changes in our strategy to adjust to this “new normal” or deciding to make grand public statements, a very different message went out internally to managers at Simple Feast.

Rather than making a separate statement for our customers and the public, it feels right to share the same sentiment I aired to my co-workers inside Simple Feast.

Time to pause, breathe, and reflect

As the change around us speeds up, it becomes more important to pause, breathe, and reflect. Not because we should try and stay on the side-lines. But because, now more than ever, it is important that you and I don’t let ourselves get dragged along by momentum and caught up in fear. Instead, it is imperative that you find time to take it all in and reflect on your role in the situation. Reflect on your role outside of it.

What you do matters. You have the choice to act with caution and do your part towards what’s best for your health, your family, and the society we live in. As we hear from our friends on the front-line of this particular war, our doctors and nurses, the best way to show gratitude to those who are able to keep us healthy is to do your part in keeping the situation manageable.

But completely shutting down out of fear and staying locked up also harms. And that pain can be long felt. Many of us here at Simple Feast come from the hospitality and restaurant sector and can see the pain that is hitting small businesses. The ones that serve you so well and bring you joy when times are good. Most of us at Simple Feast will stay in our homes but we will also do our part to support the businesses that are such an important part of our communities.

Finally, I asked my co-workers to take time to think about who they are and the sequence of events that got them where they are today. Good and bad, it doesn’t matter. To also think of the sequence of events that got us here as a species. The planet is sending us a warning. The next one will be for real. Let’s learn from it.

By not responding with immediate action and hustle, we now come back with more clarity than before, having had time to process, reflect, and accept the situation. My recommendation to them, as it is to you, was to let the fear, the tragedy and the gravity of the situation pass through you like a wave.

Keep the joy alive, in good times and in bad But most importantly, let’s not forget what it means to be human. Remember to take a moment to enjoy. Not to revel in the current crisis, but to allow yourself to enjoy the things that haven’t changed. Or even the things we often miss when our daily pace is faster than it is right now.

Don’t trivialise what is happening. Don’t ignore it. But remember to keep the joy alive in spite of it.

There are ways of keeping the “good life” – whatever that means to you – alive, even when times are tough. By giving space to the daily moments that matter. By focusing on family. By spending time with your thoughts. By entertaining your senses with the things you love. In fact, our ability to enjoy the good, even in bad times, is one of the things that makes our species as resilient as it is.

So, amidst all possible ways of responding to the huge amount of change we’re seeing around us, I am as surprised as you are to be coming to this conclusion: sometimes the best response isn’t to act, but to pause, breathe, and reflect. And to enjoy the wonderful aspects of life that haven’t changed.

Signing off from us at Simple Feast, and our many friends in the hospitality business that serve you in the good times:

Keep the joy alive (especially when it is most needed)

/ Jakob

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Original internal email sent to all Simple Feast Managers (to be published externally).

Wednesday 18th March 2020

Team, Who are we as a company if we don’t recognize the situation that we are in and reflect beyond business objectives? It’s time to pause and reflect. The planet is sending us a warning. The next one will be for real. When you get ‘into’ office tomorrow, Thursday, I want you to finish up what cannot wait until Monday. From then on, instruct your teams to do the same. Forward them this email. Close your cell phones and take off. Spend time with your loved ones. Venture off into the woods. Jump in the ocean. Play some games. Sing. Dance. Pay attention to each other and the paths that you walk on. Try to look at the sequence of events that got you to where you are. This one, we cannot control. We cannot hustle us out of this one. This one is our mirror. It shows us the obvious need for our existence going forward. If we don’t take care of our planet, it will fight back. Let the fear, the tragedy and the gravity of the situation pass through you like a wave. Don’t fight it, like you saw me fight it. It won’t work. I understand that not all teams have the luxury to take Thursday and Friday off. I myself have an interview on Friday morning that I’ll take from the office. It’s about being a dad, crossroads in life and why we do what we do. It’s a big podcast and I feel the conversation will be on exactly the themes that we need to reflect on, so I’ll take it, but otherwise cancel out the rest of my calendar until Monday. I understand marketing and production and parts of other teams cannot fully do that right now, so I trust you will instruct your teams to find another time to do this. I want to thank you for everything. I love this company and what we are trying to do. Work wise, this is my endgame. I have nowhere else I’d rather be, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. So take off and use the time to recalibrate. Then come back stronger, rested and ready to grow like crazy. Jakob

Mar 20, 2020