Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.
Ari Weinzweig is the owner and co-founding partner of a Jewish deli called Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have not yet tried one of Ari’s many gourmet delicacies, though I have been savoring a steady diet of the wisdom he purveys in a weekly email newsletter called Ari’s Top 5. (Thanks, Kerry.)
The e-newsletter features tasty-sounding food items like Hungarian Walnut Beigli, rare Swiss Mountain cheese and recipes for dishes like “a deconstructed sort-of-Caesarish-salad.” But what is most nourishing for me is the life advice Ari doles out at the top of each top 5 list.
The topics range from the importance of gratitude to managing anger to embracing our emotions. They often are related to what it means to be a good boss and leader—but, more often than not, the lessons Ari teaches translate to what is means to be a good human being.
In a recent story titled, A Loving Look at Natural Law #14, Ari riffed on the atmosphere he tries to create at his Zingerman’s workplace each day, so that his customers can “shop in a place surrounded by love.” He explains the effect he’s trying to create this way:
It’s a bit of a below-the-surface glow, something that you can feel almost as soon as you walk in, a feeling that usually stays with you long after you’ve left. It’s a feeling that nearly everyone I know enjoys, and one that, consciously or not, nearly every human being is quietly drawn to, a feeling that often brings us back over and over again for more.
Ari sees creating this sense of warmth as necessary for the success of any small business. This loving atmosphere is all pervasive and extends to every corner of his business. Love for his employees, love for his customers, love for and in the products he make sells. The reason for all this love? Ari quotes the biologist Humberto Maturana:
Love is our natural condition. We humans are loving animals, and our intelligence and creativity in the domain of human well-being depends on our being loving animals.
What follows are Ari’s ruminations on love. While they are often presented within the context of his business, they also can all be applied to our own lives. In some cases, I have picked up Ari’s words verbatim. In others, I have edited his often-lengthy thoughts down and added a few words of my own.
5 Steps to Being a More Loving Human Being
Step 1. Learn to love yourself. Ari says that “he learned the hard way that until I made peace with myself and began to treat myself in the same kind and loving way I was advocating to others, my life would not go well.” Love begins within you. It is difficult to spread unless you are also loving and kind to yourself.
Step 2. Start each human encounter from a positive place. According to Ari “if we start every interaction by believing the best about individuals and their intentions, we are far more likely to be loving.” That means going into each encounter, be it with your neighbor, a store clerk or a co-worker, with the belief that their intentions are good. When we do this, “we’re likely to end up with positive outcomes.”
Step 3. Admire the uniqueness and beauty of everyone you interact with. It starts with being less judgmental of someone because of their age, the color of their skin, or their religious beliefs. We need to “steer clear of lumping people into statistically assigned stereotypes or burdening them with ungenerous assumptions and biases.” Ari advises that “ultimately this means looking, lovingly, into the eyes of each person we deal with.”
Step 4. Lead with generosity, humility, hope, care, kindness, and compassion. Ari admits that he has “slipped many times.” But each time we find ourselves being less generous or compassionate than we should be in our interactions, we have the ability to change that—often in the very next moment or our next encounter.
Step 5. Get ready for your next in interaction before it occurs. Choosing love means committing to love before you are out in the world, before your next interaction occurs. For Ari this means, “quite simply, to take a deep breath and make the mindful decision to start every day, every meeting, every bit of cooking, and every awkward conversation with love.”
A final thought: I recently saw an interview where the actor Keanu Reeves told the TV host Drew Barrymore that she should “always fight for love.” Barrymore responded, “I’m not a fighter, I’m a lover.” At that point an animated Reeves replied, “No, no, because if you’re a lover you’ve got to be a fighter. Because if you don’t fight for your love, what kind of love do you have?”
The point being love is not always easy. It may take some effort on your part. But if you commit yourself to making love an integral part of your life—the integral part of your life, love seems to appear more readily and be more present. Our intentions have a way of creating our reality. Love begets more love. Good reasons to read steps 1-5 one more time.