If your family is anything like mine, the idea of “the best” is important. Growing up in Poland in the 70ties, it was important to know which store had the best bread, the tastiest kielbasa, the only true, original pottery, the highest quality clothes, etc. Even though the times have changed, my relatives and friends in Poland still tend to place more value on word-of-mouth recommendations than on formal advertising. My mother still gets all her cold cuts from the little shop on street X because they are “the best.” My aunt tells me her son and his family went to “the best” resort in the mountains for their holidays. My friend recommends “the best” facial cream, which is, of course, produced by company Y. The list goes on and on…
Just the other day I was at the Polish shop in Vienna, Virginia. There are two Polish shops in the greater Washington, DC area – a well established Kielbasa Factory in Rockville, MD and a relatively new Polish Market in Vienna. The owner of the Kielbasa Factory is a kind person and a great businesswoman who recognizes all customers, even those (or maybe especially those) who do not speak Polish and admit they are still learning about Polish food. On the flip side, the owner of the Polish Market, takes every opportunity to put his customers down.
“I would like some kielbase that has garlic in it”, says one customer. “Which type would that be? Because I bought some Polish kielbasa before and it wasn’t very garlicky. ”
“Where did you buy it? I guarantee what you bought was not true Polish kielbasa! These all have garlic in them. Depends on what amount you feel comfortable with.” The owner snaps. Way to put the customer in her place….
“I would like to send a package to Poland.”
He hands me the form : “Do you know how to fill it out?”
“I think I can manage”… I am Polish, the form is in Polish, what is tricky about this?
However, sometimes lessons in life come from the least expected sources. As much as I do not appreciate this man’s attitude, the other day I was shopping for pickles, so I asked, in a truly Polish fashion: “Which pickles are the best?”
“The best for whom? For you? For me? For your friend?”
As rude as his response might have been it is also VERY true, especially in cases when we transfer this way of thinking to life choices.
A few years ago I was touring universities with my son, who at the time was a High School junior. He was graduating from the International School of Kenya and was trying to decide between five California universities. At Cal Poly San Louis Obispo, a parent on our tour asked a question, putting down one of the other universities and looking for reassurance. Instead, this was our guide’s response: “I guarantee that all the universities you are touring are great. They are all renown and fabulous but their offers are different. It is not the question of whether the university is good. It is the question of where do you see yourself for the next four years.”
Last week my friend came to Washington, DC with her daughter who is a great athlete. They were going to tour one of her daughter’s first pick schools. Before the visit, her daughter already heard from her friends “You got in? OMG! This is a no brainer! Obviously, that is where you are going. So jealous.”
Even my husband said: “Oh, wow! She got in? Of course, she must go there.”
But why? Just because this particular university has a great reputation and is a renowned institution? Is that a good enough reason? We spent three hours at that campus, she took it all in and in the end decided it was not for her. Even though the coach was practically bribing her to come, giving her a private tour led by a few future teammates. In the end, she picked a different school because she got the wrong vibe. The main selling point that this particular university kept emphasizing was just not something she personally cared about. Is the university not good? No, quite the contrary – it was just not “the best” for her. She could not see herself there for the next four years.
So, best for whom? This is the question we should be asking ourselves often in life. Best diet? Best car? Best exercise regimen? Best food? Best country to live in? Best for whom?
What is the best for one person is not the best for another.
There are many fabulous things and places on this earth. Don’t let anyone decide which is the best for you. Trust your gut – have self confidence, self knowledge and courage to always choose yourself what is best for you.