[Life Back West] June 2012 – “Perfect”

Indian grandmothers, perhaps the same ones that shared my Cathay Pacific red-eye from Hong Kong earlier that day, dotted the crowd helping out with their grandkids.

English: Baker Beach and Golden Gate Bridge

Rachel Herbert, successful entrepreneur and owner of three hit restaurants (all three parks + dogs with Dolores Park Cafe, Duboce Park Cafe, and Precita Park Cafe) was doing her part collecting donations as a volunteer, working the crowd of several thousand before showtime hit.

And my son Traylor, old enough to go across the way and buy snack at the Pop Secret popcorn stand by himself, could also catch solo time in the restored gem that is the Helen Diller playground at Dolores Park.

There were hipsters, people of all hues and ages, couples in love and loving couples, families with kids, and gay preps in jackets – quickly dropped – thick in the crowd. Toss in that unusual warm summer night as well as some visitors from San Francisco’s north side –  venturing into the Mission now that it was hip –  and you had one of the rarest of rare nights.

It was perfect.

There is perfection that surrounds us every day, from the sweet smile of a baby, the presentation that the junior staffer pulled together that was a total home run to the shape of that iconic bridge that crosses the Golden Gate. Most of the time we’re too busy, or too frantically looking that we don’t see what’s in front of our face.

When a cold-sick spouse combined with jet lag from that 12-hour flight, Traylor’s request to attend the Movie Night in the Park’s outdoor showing of Mamma Mia at Dolores Park on a Saturday night earlier this month could have easily been met with the same enthusiasm as stepping on a warm turd on a hot summer day.

But sometimes you get lucky, and my luck was in slowing down a hair and saying “sure” we can see the movie.

Not my first, second, or even third choice; just, as it turned out, a good choice.

Many kids grow up with something that is burnished into the fabric of their childhood, whether it’s a Jack and the Beanstock repeated endlessly, or like my niece Jessica, the tireless playing of the VHS tape of Charlotte’s Web. In our household Mamma Mia was the “story” that knew no final end; fitting, perhaps, for an open, adoptive family of two dads that a story about a girl’s search for an unknown parent set to show tunes would be something of keen attraction.

Experience, the neuroscientists with their research can tell us, is heavily informed by the expectations we bring. Expect cold and miserable and you’ll likely to get it. Expect something better and there’s a good chance it will happen. The same applies to your own performance.

Expect good, and “luck” just happens to often bring it.

While Pierce Brosnan’s singing didn’t improve one iota on the outdoor screen, the lights of the City as a backdrop made the movie all the sweeter. Traylor nestled next to me made it even better.

It’s not clear to me that the Catholic priests who founded Mission San Francisco de Asis (aka Mission Dolores) two blocks down the street  in 1776 would have guessed that 200+  years later it would be the sounds of a sing-along Mamma Mia that filled the neighborhood air, not church music.

But then again, this is San Francisco where special happens; maybe they would have.


Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.


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