I love a great, quality cigar…a real cigar…not the kind you can buy at Walgreen’s or Exxon. Over the years, I’ve learned quite a few things about cigars, business and myself from being a part of the cigar culture. I’ve learned lessons on quality and patience. I’ve learned how to network. I’ve even learned how to win poker tournaments! While at my favorite cigar shop enjoying an Ashton VSG (my favorite), I began to equate my transition from a novice cigar consumer to a Cigar Aficionado with my journey through the workforce, specifically in Human Resources.
Like most people, my first time walking into a cigar shop was overwhelming. Wall-to-wall product, in all different shapes, sizes, price points and brands. What in the world do I choose? Once I make a selection, what do I do with it so I don’t look like a confused rookie? I’m supposed to look cool doing this, right? So, I asked questions, the staff asked me questions. Dialogue ensued and I started to not only learn about the different blends and sizes of cigars, but also about myself and the things that I may enjoy. I was shown how to properly cut, light and enjoy a cigar from those that had been enjoying them for years. Discussions (online and in person), magazines and blogs by other experts gave me insight into the industry and kept me abreast with current trends.
Once I decided to start investing in cigars and building up my supply, I again solicited the advice of experts on how to properly store and care for these delicate little masterpieces because improper maintenance and poor preparation can ruin the taste, construction and ultimately the experience. It was also stressed upon me that like a fine wine, cigars get better when they are properly aged.
Let’s bring this home to business. When I received my undergraduate degree, I had NO idea of what I was going to do professionally. If you’ve ever seen a deer’s eyes react to headlights, you’ve seen the look on my face when trying to find my place in the workforce. But instead of bolting out of the proverbial cigar shop, I continued to do my research and study. I began to ask questions of people who knew far more than me when it came to finding professional fulfillment and success. I enlisted the help of experts and I listened to what they had to say, and just as important, the things they didn’t say. I was careful to keep in mind that the flavor and strength they preferred (their goals and talents) might not necessarily be what stimulates my professional palate.
I learned how to be deliberate in my actions and how I would maneuver and conduct myself in the workplace. Remembering that like with a cigar, cutting too high could cause it to unravel…cutting too low would make it hard to smoke. How exposing the foot of the cigar to too much flame could cause it to burn unevenly and taste charred; a taste that lingers for days. Care, attention to detail, and precision allowed me to progress and find my niche professionally, thus enjoying the experience and making me want to return for more each day.
Proper care had to be taken of the opportunities that were before me. Carefully hand-crafted positions were made available, and it was imperative that I accepted the challenges and nurtured them so that they would not dry up and become unusable. Realizing that the storage process took time, I realized the importance of committing that time to obtaining advanced degrees and certifications in one’s chosen field. These steps helped me to find my favorite cigar/profession. And by respecting and caring for it, it returned the favor by developing and caring for me.
While our professional and personal efforts may sometimes leave a charred and bad taste in our mouths at first, we learn from the experiences and develop our crafts. With ongoing research, proper execution and care, that bad taste becomes a pleasant one and we begin to experience success, and more importantly satisfaction in our daily efforts. The world slows down around us and we are able to take in the aroma and satisfaction of the experience, and not just the daily functions and monotony of work.