Jan 5, 2024 2 min read

The Time A Homeless Man Offered Me Change

The restaurant industry is notoriously go-go-go, but one lesson from a homeless man in the early days of Ovation has taught me the power of pause.
The Time A Homeless Man Offered Me Change
What you see and feel is not always how other see and perceive you.

As I travel around the country speaking at a wide variety of industry acronyms like MURTEC, RFIS, and FOD, there’s a story that I often share. It’s one that taught me an invaluable lesson that I believe can resonate with anyone navigating tough times **cough** all of us **cough**.

In the early days of Ovation, I was living in San Francisco with my wife and 1-year old daughter in an incredibly intense investment program for tech companies called 500 Startups. 

I was working 100-hour weeks and we had no money. Our anniversary that year was some fast food we ate on a plastic crate. I would leave early and often get home after my daughter went to sleep with no breaks.

One Saturday afternoon, my family and I took a walk to grab a quick bite between meetings. Lost in my thoughts about what our customers, employees, and investors needed, I pushed the stroller while holding my wife’s hand, feeling completely overwhelmed. I'm sure you've been there. It was then that I noticed a homeless man making his way straight towards us on the sidewalk. He was bearded, ragged clothes, and had obviously been through a lot. 

As he got closer, I saw him just…staring at us as he walked in our direction. I moved us to one side, he followed. I moved to the other, again, he moved into our path. 

He suddenly stopped right in front of us and pointed at me. 

I was about to tell him that I didn’t have any change, but what he said next still gets me emotional to this day. With his finger outstretched and his eyes piercing through me he said, “I hope you know how lucky you are.” And with that...he walked away. I stood there for a few seconds watching him in complete shock. Here I was with my beautiful little family, my health, a masters degree, a place to sleep, food to fill my belly, and part of a world-class program with a company I loved. With how lucky I was, how could I have gotten so caught up in the details?

As it turns out, that homeless man didn’t ask for change, but he offered it instead. And so, I committed to change: I would spend more time with those that I love and be more grateful for what I had. I would remember to celebrate, even if everything wasn’t perfect. I would remember how lucky I really was. 

Now, several years later, Ovation is working with thousands of restaurants and growing faster than ever. Does it mean it's easy, now that we have a “real” business? No. It’s still hard, just in a different way. Along came COVID, raising money in an economic downturn, and the challenges of managing a growing team. I think every stage of life comes with its own challenges. 

But as I go through life, the memory of that man reminds me how lucky I am. And I hope that no matter how stressful your life may be right now (and believe me, we are all under a lot of pressure), that we can change our focus to take time to realize how lucky we really are!

No matter what your life looks like, know that you’re living someone else’s dream. So why not make it yours?

You can check out Ovation by clicking here.

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