Today, there's no shortage of inspirational material to help lift you through the day--heck, even the hour. Google 'inspirational quotes' and you get over 900M results. The difference, however, is what you do with that new-found inspiration and how you apply it--and not just in that moment, but to your life. Savas "Sam" Tsakiris was one of those remarkable entrepreneurs who embodied exactly that.
Sam was from Rhodes, Greece, born in a small village called Kattavia. He immigrated from Rhodes in 1961 where Baltimore became his new home. Tsakiris' family and roots were always at the forefront of his heart and when he immigrated, he brought soil from his village to always remind him of his humble beginnings--that same soil was to be buried with him. Sam tragically passed from a battle with pancreatic cancer a few months ago on July 21, 2018.
Tsakiris was an entrepreneurial jack-of-all-trades. He was Proprietor of the acclaimed Boulevard Diner, infamous for its appearance on Diner's Drive In's and Dives, along with hosting Presidential Candidates. He was a dentist, philanthropist, and gardener. He was an adored father & grandfather ("papou" in Greek), and proud Greek Orthodox Christian where he served as President of the Parish Council at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation. He made time for it all--seamlessly.
Weeks before his passing, his son Marc found handwritten notes while cleaning out a drawer at his dental office--those notes were Sam's '10 rules to live by'. Where the origins of these rules are unknown, the magnitude is not and Sam kept these close as a reminder of how he should live his life.
1. "Life is not fair"
Sam is right and it's sometimes easy to forget. Life simply isn't fair. But any seeming injustice can be re-framed as an opportunity to grow. Somebody taking credit for your idea at work, for instance, really just means the idea was a good one and you're on the right track. So keep going. On the other hand, unfairness can work in your favor, too, so don't be too quick to complain.
2. "Life is too short to waste hating anyone"
Are you working with--or worse, for--someone you don't really like? It happens to everybody. But putting your energy into those emotions is like giving away your hours for free. How much more productive could you be when that time is spent focused on your own goals instead? Reharnessing that energy could completely change your perspective.
3. "Your job will not take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will -- so stay in touch"
"I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends."
According to one nurse, this is one of the most common regrets of people that are near-death. If you don't take the time to stay connected, not only are you missing out on a support system in the present, you're also setting yourself up for major loneliness down the road. And guess what? One of the other most common regrets is "I worked too hard". Seems like these go hand in hand.
4. "Cry with someone -- it's more healing than crying alone"
5. "Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present"
This comes back to our perspective on failure. If you have a win/lose mindset and see your past mistakes as losses, rather than opportunities to grow, then you're less likely to learn from them, setting yourself up for more letdowns. In some instances, failure is actually preferable. Accept it, and deal with the moment at hand.
6. "Do not compare your life with others -- you have no idea what their journey is all about"
Yes, some successful business ventures begin at 11, but there really is no way to put an age on self-realization or success of any kind. Also, we can't be reminded too often enough that everyone is going through something.
7. "It's never too late to have a happy childhood but the second one is up to you and no one else."
Isn't it funny how there's such a big difference between saying that someone hasn't grown up, and saying that they haven't lost their inner child? It's something that can be applied to your own life and that of your children--you have the power to ensure they have a happy childhood. Don't be afraid to embrace your inner child, either.
8. "No one is in charge of your happiness but you"
External vs internal 'locus of control' is Psychology 101 (check it out). Our tendency to fall on one side of the spectrum or the other is, to a certain degree, driven by our biology. But it's also a gauge of something that's less of a mouthful: resilience. If we can learn this one trait, we're on the path to success in all aspects of life.
9. "Forgive everyone for everything"
This seems pretty similar to the second axiom, "life is too short to waste it on hating anyone." Probably because it's worth saying twice. At the end of the day, time is the most important currency that we're trading. But forgiveness does more than just cut out dead weight; it also opens pathways to opportunity.
10. "All that matters at the end is that you loved and were loved"
"A rat race is a fierce, competitive way of life that involves pursuing goals in a repetitive, endless manner...and...may come from actual rat-racing sporting events held in the 1800s."
We often use the phrase jokingly, but a long résumé, full bank accounts, public recognition--while nice--they don't compare to firmly rooted, personal & professional relationships. Losing a partner, a child, or another loved one can leave someone in grief for a lifetime. You never see someone genuinely grieving over a job they lost ten years ago, a past bankruptcy, failed business, and the like. Science says life is about the journey, and what's a journey if it isn't shared?
After reading & absorbing Sam's words, it provided me with priceless perspective. The perspective that with the right outlook, you truly can balance all the things you are passionate about in life, while still being happy and not be stretched too thin.
It brings me comfort knowing that such a powerful 'legacy' can be carried on through his words. And that is an honor.
Until we meet again, Uncle Sam.
This article was written in memory of Savas "Sam" Tsakiris, October 29, 1951 - July 21, 2018.