For the Love of Whiskey

My longtime friend Josh and I were having lunch out the other day when he asked, “So why the whiskey thing?”

I said, “I’m not sure I understand your question.”

He said, “Why did you quit your job and then spend thousands of dollars going to Whiskey Sommelier school? What are you planning on doing with it? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome. I’m just curious about what motivates you.”

I paused mid bite into my burger and said, “I plan on making a living out of it. And as for what motivates me…”

A long silence ensued while a dozen reasons flashed through my head. The first 11 were superficial. Reasons like, “Because it’s cool, duh.” Or, “Because I love whiskey.” Or, “Because I wanted a job other people wish they had.” Or, “Because I was tired of working just to get paid.”

While those reasons are true, they aren’t the answer I gave my friend. Instead I put my burger down, looked him in the eye and said, “Josh, remember when we were growing up and I was always tinkering, always learning new things?”

He said, “I’m not sure what this has to do with whiskey, but yes I remember.”

I said, “Did you ever wonder why I was constantly trying to learn how to do new stuff?”

He said, “I just figured you liked it and/or were bored.”

I grinned and said, “While that’s part of it, the real reason is; I remember reading something in a book when I was a kid. Something that had a profound effect on my little mind.”

“Oh lord, you’re about to get philosophical, aren’t you?”

“Only a little bit,” I said, “bear with me.”

He said, “Ok but only a little bit. I’d like to have time to finish my lunch.”

I said, “Deal. Now, let me ask, how many new things did you learn from me growing up?”

“Oh man,” he said, “more than I can count. I just always remember that as soon as you finished learning something or figuring out how to do something, you would race right over to teach me.”

I said, “The reason I did that was because of what I read in that book. The book said that each time you learn a new life skill – even little things, like how to thread a button on – you grow as a person and become more valuable. So I tried it. I learned how to do something new, and you know what? I felt a little taller, a little more capable, and the value came in the form of self-worth. I liked the way learning how to do new things made me feel, and I wanted my friends to feel the same way. And you know what else?”

“What else?” Josh said.

I said, “After I taught you how to do something new my good feeling multiplied because I saw your eyes brighten up with confidence, like mine had.”

“Really?” Josh said.

“Yeah.” I said, “And that’s why I’m doing the whiskey thing. I love teaching people about whiskey. Whenever I host a tasting or a class and I get to see the ‘Aha’ moment on people’s faces, that’s the best! Watching their confidence and self-worth go up a little and knowing that I had a hand in it, that’s what makes me do this.”

Then the waitress brought the check.

— Zac Smith

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