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High Profile Magazine

A Double Cheeseburger and Chips Changed My Life

There’s a famous adage that reads along the lines of ‘success comes from overcoming challenges’, and I think it's so true. Oddly in life sometimes the greatest challenges are hardship, insecurity and close mindedness. The biggest obstacles in the way of our own success are simply ourselves and the way we think.

We’ve all known people who ‘like what they like’, perhaps that's you? Someone who, for example, only eats certain foods, shops at certain places, never travels to new places but simply sticks to being safe. Sometimes easy options give us a sense of safety because ‘they have always been the way’, we are hardwired to not be adventurous and stick to what we grew up on or with.

A friend of mine from school would only ever eat ‘English meals’, e.g., roast dinner, sausage and chips, English breakfast and so on. When it came to suggesting an Indian takeaway, it simply wasn’t in his comfort zone. I would often try with friendly jest to remind him of the century we lived in. It's fine of course to like what you like, but if you never think outside the box, if you never take the door to the outside, you will always be defined by the confinement of the box you put yourself in. My friend would reply to me when I suggested a Chinese or Indian meal, ‘I wouldn’t like it’. ‘How do you know, when you’ve never tried?’ I would ask.

This illustrates more than food choices; when it comes to life, for example, many people fear going outside their comfort zone. They may stick to having friends in one social group, not wanting to associate with people they may wrongly feel are below them, because of what difference, a difference in the amount of paper we call money. For others it may be age, they may reduce people over 70 to a box in their mind labelled ‘old’ and not take them seriously.

This is one mindset I overcame as a young man. After I left school and made many young mistakes, I felt unable to communicate these with my peers due to fear of judgement, and so I would find myself a walking mine of questions. One day, of all places, I was in Burger King, and having bought a meal and sat down to eat it, I saw an elderly gentleman walk in with a cane. The gentleman struggled as his somewhat frail arms reached for his pocket and as he brought out his little purse of coins his finger shook as he slowly and carefully counted the coins to buy himself a burger. I looked on, saddened by this, thinking how age was cruel and pondering the life questions that we all at some point ponder.

The cashier carelessly threw his tray on the counter and foreseeing the challenge, I left my seat and asked if I could help him with his tray. He nodded and whispered, ‘thank you’. He then asked whether perhaps he might sit with me and eat together. I agreed, my young ‘over concerned about how I looked’ ego out the window. And for the next hour, he changed my life in some small way, by changing my viewpoint and challenging my perceptions. He told me how he had recently lost his wife a few years back, and how she was his everything and how he wasn’t even all that keen on hamburgers, but they were her favourite and ever since he would, despite the growing pain of arthritis, make the journey into town to enjoy a memory in his mind.

It brings me to tears writing this, how powerful that was to me and what it taught me, multiple lessons in one. Over the course of the hour, he told me about his life, asked me about mine and gave me countless pieces of advice, not condescendingly, just with the pure compassion only many years could bring.

What he had done that day, is change the way I thought of old people; it made me look up to them with their experience and knowledge, and also made me grateful for the aging members of my family and their feelings and life stories.

I’ve been very fortunate to have met some great people in my life like this. I was also welcomed into the home of an acquaintance, a barber who wanted me to feast with him and his family after dark on Ramadan, and this experience gave me insight and I was very thankful. It was amazing of him to do this, on such a personal level, with the only aim being to show his friendship and give me understanding.

Of course, difference goes far deeper than just age and religion. We have a huge problem with the likes of racism, homophobia, and other such issues, and while we live in a modern time, and while we may well be moving in the right direction, there is so much more that need to be done by way of awareness.

Hate tends to come from two places: firstly, it comes from uneducated naivety and secondly, it comes from jealousy which usually grows like a bacterium from inner insecurities. Whatever the reason and to whomever it is aimed at, it is important to work on ourselves to eradicate it, because the only thing hate consumes is ourselves.

If you choose to step outside of the box of hate and see the world and all the differences in it as something to explore. You will soon see the beauty in culture, in difference, you realise how monotone your vision has been all this time.

As an entrepreneur I see this hugely relates to business also; if you live within comfort zones, if you build prejudices, you set limits for yourself. If you dare to think differently, to explore opportunity with a focused and wise mind, you can achieve great things. No great individual ever got to where they are by simply taking the safe road. Quite the opposite, the greatest innovators, leaders, money makers, educators, they all push and cause friction in the direction of positivity, often they go up against difficulty to bring about change.

With all this in mind, I challenge you to have the inner talk with yourself, realise your weaknesses, your pre-set ways of thinking and challenge yourself to have a different viewpoint. Wherever you are, whatever you do, it might just change your life and you may change others and that might just change the world.