This week I did some early Christmas shopping. I know some of you are already finished and everything’s wrapped beautifully beneath your tree. I wanna let you in on a little secret – the rest of us don’t like you very much.

I’m that guy who’s out on the 24th and wrapping things minutes before the gift exchange, so I’m pretty proud of myself right now for shopping early. And as it turns out, it’s more fun without the panic and road rage I’ve grown so accustomed to.

I’d stopped for a quick bite in the food court when a distinguished man in his fifties approached and sat down at the next table. He was wearing an expensive suit with shoes to match and no tie. He seemed out of place in the food court, or at the mall for that matter. He was overdressed for shopping, and given the time, it was unlikely he’d come from the office. He struck me as the type who wears a suit just because he prefers to.

YOUR CHOICE – read or listen!

He took off his coat, sat down and settled in to eat. As he rolled up his sleeves, my preconceptions fell to the floor and gave way to curiosity. Each fold of his cuff revealed more of what turned out to be a sleeve of colorful and intricate tattoos covering his arms. I was so surprised. Right in front of me, he seemed to become a different person than he’d been just a minute earlier.

He looked up from his tray, caught me looking at his tattoos and graciously let me off the hook. “You getting much shopping done?”

“A little – I’m just starting.”, I said. “I’m sorry. You totally busted me…I was checking out your tattoos. I was surprised to see them on someone like you. But they’re really cool.”

“No problem. I get that a lot.  And thanks. They remind me of some of the people and places I don’t ever want to forget.” He turned his arms over, so I could see the other side.

I asked him a couple of questions about them, and as he spoke, I could soon tell I was talking to someone who’d seen a lot of the world, lived a big life and had a lot to share. If he was into talking, I was into listening.

When I asked him about his work, he said, “My company is doing well. But in spite of that, I’m still living a pretty great life.”

“What do you mean?”

He ate a bite of his sandwich and said, “Most people don’t get this, and I learned it the hard way… Success and living a great life aren’t the same thing. You know? Success might hand you everything you ever thought you wanted… but nothing will keep you from your adventure more than chasing after comfort.”

Dang! It hit me like a rock. I could fill pages with how it resonated in me, but just read your own journal instead. You already get it. We work so hard to create a comfortable life, but most of us get chained up in the process.  And once we finally do get comfortable, we wouldn’t possibly consider changing course because of all we could lose. We make most of our life choices based on mortgage payments, car loans, insurance, and our 401K.

Who owns what? What owns who?

How might our lives be if we weren’t spending so much of our time and choices pursuing a comfortable life?

“I’ve never followed crowds much”, he said. “It’s helped me in business, but even more so, it’s helped me in life… I’ve got some nice things, but they don’t have me. I want the adventure. I want the experience.” He pointed to his arms and said, “These are my stories, my greatest memories. This is my life.”  Then, he pointed to his jacket draped on the chair next to him. “That’s just a suit.”

We talked a little while longer, and as I got up from the table to get back to my shopping, I introduced myself and said goodbye. “It was nice to talk to you.”

“Nice talking to you too”, he said, and as he reached out his hand to shake mine, I noticed a little open spot above his elbow.

“You’ve got a vacancy there.”

He smiled and said, “You never know where life is gonna take you”.

I didn’t get his name, but the man with the suit and the tattoos gave me my first Christmas present this year. He totally changed my perspective as I was shopping. And since then, the questions have lingered.

Am I pursuing adventure, or am I pursuing comfort?

Do I have stuff – or does stuff have me?

This Post Has 47 Comments

  1. Heidi

    I often am judged by my tattoos. I never really understand it but it is nice to hear a story that I can relate to and hear of a man who can so beautifully explain his tattoos. It is how I feel about mine but have not been able to put to words.

  2. Momma J

    When my husband & I were first married, “Uncle Sam” sent us to live in Europe for 3 years. Being newlyweds, we didn’t own any furniture. Knowing the military life, we didn’t intend to buy anything but the basics, until our adventures were slowing down!!
    We watched as some of our colleagues purchasedexpensive cars, bought beautiful European furniture, things that they were tied to. If a scratch or a dent happened to these ‘investments’, the purchasers would be devastated!

    Instead, we decided to “DO”. DO the safari in the Sahara Desert. Do the study tour of Israel. DO East Germany, Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie, see behind the Iron Cur
    DO Salzburg, Innsbruck, learn history. Learn to ski in Bertchesgarden, Austria, Switzerland, take in the breathtaking views. See where the Olympics had taken place (many cities). As my husband’s career took us to many places, Travel & learning was what we invested in. As we’ve grown in numbers, we’ve returned to many places to share our adventures with our children! And every trip, we add more…..places we hadn’t yet discovered!
    Thank you for this reminder……don’t be tied home by “stuff”, mortgages, cars, expensive anything!!
    All I can leave my family are those joys of discovery! Finding unusual foods, adventures on a train, exploring famous places, seeing paintings by Ds Vinci, exploring little alleyways in Amsterdam.
    Those are the priceless treasures, shared with my priceless family!!
    Bless you, Chance!!

    1. Chance

      Wow…Thank you for sharing in such detail. You made me want to sell everything and pack a bag! :) Beautiful, rich perspective. I’d love to hear more from you in posts to follow. We all have something to learn from you. Please drop in again.

      1. Momma J

        Thank you…..planning our next adventure!! :-)

  3. Judy in Huntsville, AL

    This may be my new One Little Word for next year: Adventure.

    1. Chance

      I love it. Great, great word for the new year.

  4. femmeflashpoint (Angelia Phillips)

    I hope his name isn’t Jeff M.

    Jeff M.’s a great guy and a colleague but you don’t wanna be taking up a space at his company.

    He’s a musician and a mortician. Wears suits all the time and underneath them is nearly sleeved out from top to bottom. :)

    Great story. TY for sharing. Made me smile!


    1. Chance

      Ha! Yeah, I hope to not meet Jeff for a long, long time. ;)

  5. Rich Langton

    This is fantastic Chance – I loved hearing you read it too!! You’re a great story teller – I felt like I was right there with you in the food court. And the moral of the story is right on point for this time of year – thank you!

    1. Chance

      Rich, isn’t it about time you pick up and move to the States? I know a sweet little town in Tennessee. C’mon!

  6. Meredith Haynes

    Chance you really know how to tell a story! Great moral! I’m fascinated with the read or listen app! Gotta learn how to do this!

    1. Chance

      Thanks, Meredith. :) It’s a little extra work, but I like it too. Makes it feel a little more personal. And the best part is that we package the most popular ones together as a resource. That way people can listen in their car, on a walk, while they’re getting ready in the morning. Time is so short for everyone. This makes it easy for readers when they’re on the run.

  7. julie diane

    ~ thank you Chance. a truly wonderful story to capture and share. i too had an encounter with someone like that, yet the clothing was reversed… suited, grounded and successful on the inside and living their adventure and passion on the outside. taught me to never again ‘judge’ any book~ but more importantly… to stay clear of the ‘trap’ and just follow my passions fully!

    1. Chance

      Lesson learned. :)

  8. Derek

    A smack in the conscious. Thanks

    1. Chance

      Totally – for me too. :)

  9. Ben Gazaway

    Thanks for sharing this Chance. Kudos for engaging a stranger at the foodcourt…just a reminder that every day we are surrounded by stories and not just scenery. I hope you and your family have a great Christmas!

    1. Chance

      I’m mindful of that fact now more than ever. Sometimes when I’m in a crowded place, I look around and wonder what each person in that room knows that I need to know.

      Merry Christmas! :)

  10. Cathy Henry

    Thank you for sharing this story and your heart. Just what I needed.

    1. Chance

      Thank YOU, Cathy, for taking time to read it – and for your kind encouragement. I wrote that a few months ago, but I still remember that encounter so vividly. It gave me something I’ll carry with me for a long, long time.

  11. Amma

    I just read this post, but it’s still timely. The part that gave me pause: “I’ve never followed crowds much”, he said. “It’s helped me in business, but even more so, it’s helped me in life… I’ve got some nice things, but they don’t have me. I want the adventure. I want the experience.” He pointed to his arms and said, “These are my stories, my greatest memories. This is my life.” Then, he pointed to his jacket draped on the chair next to him. ”That’s just a suit.” Wow!

    1. Chance

      I KNOW! It was a great moment…I’ll carry that with me for a long, long time. Glad it spoke to you too!

  12. Lil

    Amazing story! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Chance

      Thanks, Lil. I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Glad it spoke to you!

  13. Skip Prichard

    Chance, what an incredible story. Pursuing adventure or comfort. It seems the more comfortable you are, the less adventurous you may become. In turn, that may end up making you less successful and then less comfortable in the end. I’m intrigued by your many thoughts in this post. Thank you for sharing this! (And, as someone who is also running into the mall on Christmas Eve, I’m impressed that you were shopping so early! Since you’re not too far away, we may even shop at the same mall…so I will look for you.)

    1. Chance

      Skip! Great insight here. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. “…Less comfortable in the end…” Yes, isn’t that ironic? It’s so complicated. It was a great conversation. I wish I could have shared every small detail. I’m still chewing on it, and likely will be for a long while.

      Will be looking out for you at the mall. I will most definitely be there. Wouldn’t be Christmas without the last minute panic. ;)

  14. Dee Dee

    I always love that I read a post of yours right when I need it.


    I’ve spent my career in the non-profit sector because that’s where I thought I could really learn about how society works – and try to make it better in some small way.

    For the past few years I stayed at a place that caused many of its employees a lot of unhappiness, but I think we all told ourselves there was a greater answer so we chased after that answer.

    Now, a few months after leaving and saying yes to a giant opportunity, I realize that the chase became the goal and that’s never good.

    I’ve got tattoos and a corporate office and I work in philanthropy and finally feel a connection to what I desire, what I’m good at and how I think I can be helpful. It’s nice. And like I said, this post is so welcome because it just feels so timely!

  15. Karen Drinkard

    Boy, am I ever busted!! I’ve spent the past 26 years of my career chasing after comfort. It took me leaving that warm and fuzzy zone to realize that the ladder I was climbing was leaning against the wrong wall the whole time! I LOVED this blog post, Chance. Plain and simple. Not to mention, I needed to read it too. Funny, how our paths cross with folks like this, who we will never meet again, yet they leave an indelible mark on our psyche, sort of like a tattoo. Blessings to you and your sweet family this Christmas.

  16. Deeob

    wow, WOW Chance!! Just knocked me off my comfortable little couch! All I’ve really wanted lately is comfort and to BE comfortable…and my dear family keep me traveling and doing things that I push against doing because I just want to “be”…whatever that looks like!
    Guess I’m going to have to rethink this whole thing! I hate it when you keep making me think…or rethink!! LOL

  17. Scott

    Great post, Chance! I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with friends over the last many months that revolve around this very thought. The tension that exists between hopes & dreams and the realities of paying rent and taxes. The struggle between trying to be the “good guy/girl” and the desire to take risks and do something big. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that there is room for both, but the balance is so difficult to navigate.
    Kinda bummed you didn’t get the gentleman’s name. Would be great to buy him a beer and listen to his story.
    Thanks for sharing!

  18. Leslie

    Thank you for your “vacancy” as you allowed the Lord to fill that space with a “tattoo,” the story, of this man’s amazing life and for sharing it with us, I am grateful and changed.

    1. Chance

      You and me both. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

  19. Melody

    This was the best blog post I have ever read! Very impressive! I love how descriptive you are. I feel like I just met this man you are talking about. You seem like you have discovered an “open mindedness” that I think all people should have and nurture daily. You don’t have to look “perfect” on the outside to be a good person, or to be loved by God. Bravo!

  20. K. Denise

    OMG!!!!! This is LITERALLY part of the conversation that I just had with my friends! I am all about adventure and having fun. Most people probably would think I teeter closer to the reckless side…but I don’t! I just know that the moments that I get “out there living” are far greater than the moments that I get at some desk working for someone else to try to live their dream! I refuse to just work for them to live theirs! I have to put in some work for mine too!

    This blog post was the last little bit of encouragement that I needed to go the final step to pursuing my own version of a life well lived! YES!

  21. dardi

    Thankyou for sharing this, it was worth my time!!! And everyone elses to read it as well…Be Blessed

  22. Barb Touchette

    I am so glad I saw the link to this. Really something I needed to see as I a struggle with stuff having me and try to reverse it. Thanks so much.

  23. Sara Steger

    One of the harder things to know and understand in life. When you are simply working to amass possessions, you are not building anything that matters. It always strikes me when I read these stories (like the one this weekend about the football player who murdered his girlfriend and killed himself), that there is so much more to life than money, success and things. The times I remember most fondly are the simple times, the insignificant moments, and some of the happiest ones were when we had the least materially but the most in love, friends and family. You are a constant blessing to me, Chance.

    1. Chance

      “The times I remember most fondly are the simple times, the insignificant moments.”

      It’s so true! And yet, we still get back on that hampster wheel. Why is perspective such a struggle to keep?

      Sara, again, thank you so much for reading and encouraging me on this road. YOU are a constant blessing to me.

  24. Anna-Emily

    I know so many people who wouldn’t understand this man’s words. They would choose comfort any time and give up on adventure just because adventure doesn’t feel completely safe. I’ll keep your post in mind when I find myself thinking about joining those people in the way they think.

    1. Chance

      It’s interesting… I can understand the struggle and that perspective more so in Russia where comfort isn’t so readily attainable.

      Adventure doesn’t feel safe to many of us, but don’t you just know inside of yourself that it’s the right road to pursue? :)

  25. Jeff Anderson

    Wow! So much so what I needed today. Truly, truly great perspective. Thank you for stepping outside the moment and having the conversation with him AND then choosing to share it with others.

    1. Chance

      I’m so glad! Thanks for taking the time to read AND to comment, Jeff.

  26. dellane

    i know this man. he’s the voice in my head that keeps whispering “let go of all this ‘junk’. happiness will fill the void”. seriously. this has been one of my daily lesson’s for the past 6 mos. though my journey is an inward one, letting go of ‘attachments’ -material, emotional, physical- is a struggle, but they prevent me from reaching my ‘destination’. so, i imagine myself to be a small boat sinking from the weight of it’s heavy load. daily i ask myself “what needs to go so this boat will keep afloat and reach it’s harbor?”

    1. Chance

      It’s like cleaning out your closet. With each thing you get rid of, you make room for the thing you really want and need. :)

      1. dellane tynefield

        yes, chance. exactly like that.

  27. Jan Silvious

    Yes! Wonderful reminder. Speaks to me this day!! Speaks to me this day!
    Thanks, Chance.

    1. Chance

      Day = Made

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