The Risky Bartender

What fresh hell is this?
Dorothy Parker


The Risky Bartender

Once upon a time, about 70 years ago, a bartender did an extraordinary thing by taking his drink glass, flipping it and rimming the edge of that glass with salt. The margarita was born and is one of the most popular drinks today. He knew it would work, that it would be tasty and yummy.

We can analyze it and wonder if it’s success is because salt makes us thirstier and want more. Or, maybe the salt compliments the sweet of the drink. But the real question is: how did he get to the point of flipping that glass? He was taking a risk and brought innovation to the grand school of bartending. Bless his heart.

Taking risks is a trait of a great leader, artist, learner, philosopher and more. One might read a treatise on great leaders and think, “By golly, I need to take more risks!” This is a bit scary.

Maybe we should learn when to take risks.

Every act of craftsmanship requires technique. The practice of technique is a necessary part of creating so that it can go on auto-pilot when the thing is being made. Lets be clear about how broad this idea of technique can be.

  • A salesman practices the technique of, perhaps, smiling and connecting with the victim when crafting a sale.
  • A guitar player practices his technique by playing scales by note or chord, then it is automatic when crafting and performing a song. He doesn’t have to think about where to put his fingers on the fret board.
  • A teacher practices using names, eye contact, voice modulation and a mastery of content; then when facing the classroom delivers the content of the day.
  • A chef has practiced dicing, dashing, chopping, splashing, mincing and mixing so that it is second-nature when crafting that omelet or dessert.
  • A basketball player practices the mechanics of shooting the ball; placement of the elbow, the grip, the rolling off the fingertips and the follow-through.

You practice some technique in your life every day when accomplishing a task even if it is simply folding laundry.

While the mind is terrific of pushing the elements of technique to the back of the brain so that the crafting of the work is at the fore; sometimes, rarely, the technique gets elevated. For a while everything is easy, you know what is next, there is clarity, you are in the zone — all of the things described as the feeling of being in a profound moment.

The Profound Bartender recognizes these moments of heightened technique as the time to take a risk. Everything is clicking and you are having a good day; being aware of these moments and exploiting them is the key to taking a risk, a chance or being open to new ideas.

Sure, you might miss the shot. But, while in the zone, it is the best shot.

It is a pleasant thought to think that we can induce these feelings of euphoria more often by continuing to work on technique and to craft work in our lives. It might be the best kind of addiction.

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