The Aha! Moment. It’s a phrase that Oprah Winfrey made famous during her many years of interviewing insightful people. It can be a spiritual awakening, a lesson that smacks you in the face, a moment of enlightenment, or a voice inside your head that screams, “THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU FOR YEARS! YOU FINALLY GOT IT!” It’s your “aha! moment.” And you know when it happens to you because in one flash of a second, your epiphany goes from being a taught lesson to a practiced truth in your life.
We all have lessons to learn from others during life’s journey. It’s one of the cool parts about growing as a human being. But in order for those lessons to become more than words and thoughts from the mouths of others, we must put them to practice in our own lives. When that happens, they become a part of our daily doctrine. And it’s in that spirit that I pass these words and this story on to you...
He had one request, “Let’s go somewhere quiet. A place where we can have a nice dinner and enjoy a private conversation.” That’s easy, I thought to myself. After all, it was a Sunday night. How many restaurants in town would be packed on an uneventful Sunday? He was visiting my hometown of Cleveland. And while Los Angeles is the city he calls home, his address is often “Everywhere, USA” throughout the calendar year. His work brought him to the Rock-n-Roll Capital of the World. And Sunday was his free night. My friend was in the middle of an exhausting stretch of travel from city to city, performing on stage for a live audience every night. And while live audiences energize and excite him, the hours and miles on the road are taxing. My friend is a professional musician; an extremely successful one. He’s a nine-time GRAMMY nominee; a chart topper who has performed with artists like Ray Charles, Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, and U2; and he’s a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. But above all of those achievements, he’s an exceptional human being. And every time we get together, I find myself inching closer and closer to an “aha! moment,” or as I like to call it, “The Koz Effect.” My friend’s name is Dave Koz. He’s known to many as a master saxophonist. I’ve come to know him as a friend. And our friendship, which crosses over many miles (as we live on opposite sides of the country and speak only a few times a year), is a true gift in my life.
After I picked up Dave from his hotel, I decided to take him to one of the quaint suburbs on the westside of Cleveland. I chose a neighborhood restaurant that I consider one of my go-to places when I’m not sure where to go. It’s a cozy spot that’s always dimly lit. The booths are large enough to sink into. And the food is consistently good. It’s not a fancy place, but it’s comfortable. And I was certain that on a Sunday night, it would be a quiet scene. I called ahead to reserve a large booth and I told the hostess that we were celebrating a birthday. It was a couple of days after Dave’s actual birthday, but I believe in weeklong birthday celebrations. The moment we arrived at our dining destination, it was clear that I failed my friend’s “quiet and private” location request. The atmosphere looked like a bar scene out of St. Elmo’s Fire (with a lot more gray hairs and no Rob Lowe lookalikes in sight). The restaurant was packed (so much for private)! And there was a live band (a quiet night wasn’t in our cards). But we settled in, ordered our wine, and then Dave did what Dave does best - he asked thoughtful questions; he helped me assess my goals in life; and he led me to an “aha! moment.”
**A word of advice to anyone reading this blog: When you come across people in your life who challenge you and bring substance to your conversations, they will help make you a better person. Keep them around.
After a toast and several sips of wine, we settled into our Ahi Tuna appetizer. As I was lifting a chopstick full of sashimi to my mouth, Dave said, “Tell me about your life. What’s happening with you?” He already knew my stories of job loss, failed relationships, health scares, writing a book, releasing a book, and my swing in the direction of success. But let’s be honest, even when life is good, we can get caught thinking about what’s missing. And so I rattled off all that I was wanting, but most certainly lacking. And at the heart of my list was something I think most of us want when we don’t have it... love. As I spoke, Dave listened intently. And as I weaved my way through all of the thoughts that sat heavy on my mind, he nodded to affirm my feelings. When I was finished talking, my wise friend offered some advice. First, he reminded me of the positive things that I had in my life. I know what they are. I usually make a point to offer gratitude for my blessings at the end of every day. But I haven’t been consistent with that practice over the last month. It was good to have my friend remind me. But it’s what Dave told me next that’s been simmering on my brain and in my soul. He suggested that I stop spending time thinking about what’s missing in my life, and instead, concentrate on doing things that fulfill my life. And then, in words similar to these, he said, “If you spend time filling yourself up, you won’t need anyone else to fill that hole. And that’s when you’ll attract the right people into your life.” Aha! The moment occurred. It sounds obvious, right? That concept has been spoken or written in some form or another by countless others. But on that day, in that moment, from the mouth of that friend, I had an “aha moment.” I needed to be the cause of my own happiness. I couldn’t rely on, or search for someone else to do that for me.
If you’re assessing your life right now, maybe you feel a void? An empty space? Maybe something feels fractured? Or incomplete? Maybe you’re spending more time worrying about what you DON’T have and not enough time thinking about all that you can personally DO to live a fulfilled life. What are your passions? Practice them more often. What’s on your dream list? Start checking it off with your own pen, not someone else’s! Looking for love? Love yourself first - no really, love yourself! Want more money? Spend time with people who know how to make it. And learn from them! Think the Kentucky Bourbon Trail sounds like a fun trip? Go where the spirit leads you! You get my point. Do things that make you happy and the happiness should follow. It’s cause and effect. Or in the case of this story, it’s “The Koz Effect.”