As we start the long, traffic congested Eric, chuckling, tells me how his staff was confused by our dinner. Eric normally doesn’t do business dinners, and in those very rare instances that he does, they are with people of note. He doesn’t explain it in these words (having beaucoup more class than I do). And his staff is right to be surprised. The company and people that I represent are tiny, tiny krill that are coincidentally in the same body of water as the whales who feed upon them. Luckily for the purposes of tonight’s dinner, I am not one of the latter.
Bashir drops us off in the northern 9th district of Paris around the corner from Palais Garnier. This is the opera house where Phantom of the Opera is set. The sight of it is amazing, on par with the Louvre. Being France, counter-establishment architects like Le Corbusier decried this decadent national treasure on Cappucino Boulevard as “lying art” or a “décor of the grave.” (Source Le Corbusier)
Our restaurant is in the elegant Soho section of Paris called So-Pi (south of Pigalle). Quotes from various famous writers decorate the walls, and we are the only two people in the whole restaurant. Eric likes to dine alone. I put my black nylon backpack on the floor next to us. Immediately someone runs over with a plush brown, leather chair for my backpack to sit upon. My backpack is now sitting on a chair nicer than anything I own.
Eric’s English is perfect, whereas my French sounds like Barney Rubble impersonating President Bush II. We stick to English. At one point when we switch to French, I immediately misunderstand that now, with advances in refrigeration technology, all his warehouses run on the very expensive alcohol Armagnac (a less distilled French brandy version of Cognac). For a second, I think that this man is the Jay Z of international logistics. He quickly realizes my confusion and says in English “No, no ammonia not Armagnac.”
Eric has quadrupled the size of his company in the last ten years. This is not easy considering that he has to buy land, build buildings, and then generate revenue based solely on service fees. His secret is very simple. Focus. Most people spend their time waiting for the other person to stop talking while thinking of their response. Eric actively, not passively, listens.
“Active and passive listening are as different as listening and hearing.” (Source Collette Gee 2/19/16 Huffpost Passive Listening The Art of Communicating). The meaning here is that hearing is just a reaction to a sound. A gun goes off behind your head and you jump. There isn’t a lot of analysis involved. Listening, however, is a deliberate act that requires you to process new information and connect those dots to other dots from previous unrelated sources.
Eric for example has never multi-tasked in any meeting that we’ve had. Many people still use “multi-tasking” as a compliment. The reality is that fragmenting your concentration through repeated interruptions does not apply the same level of intelligence to more decisions. Multi-tasking applies less intelligence to more decisions (in my opinion). That is why when you have Eric’s attention, you have all of it.