During one of my internship interviews I received a question that I would have never expected. Rather than the performance or case questions that are the norm, I was asked one question so open ended that it left me reeling for a moment.
“You have an hour to do whatever you want. What do you do?”
They’re looking for something here. Do I say skydiving to make myself seem adventurous? Do I show dedication to a task? Do I talk about how many of my free hours are spent watching old sci-fi television, or does this particular company frown on excess Space: 1999? I cleared my throat and gave the only answer I thought was logical.
“I’d have lunch.”
While this answer may have helped me land my eventual internship at Myriad Restaurant Group in New York, it seemed incongruous for many other companies. Only lunch? There’s nothing more important you want to be doing? Nothing more adventurous or exciting? What’s the benefit of lunch when you have the whole of human experience? It may sound odd, but I think a good meal with the right folks will help you more than anything.
First of all, let’s get the body’s needs out of the way. Excellently-prepared and good-tasting food is a salve for the mind, body, and soul. The grad-student lifestyle can be harried, and the rush of our routine leads us to eat poorly. If you live on junk food, you produce junk results. One can only head to the Johns—Jimmy and Papa—so many times before one begins to succumb to the effects of carb overload, the body rebelling against constant pizza-sandwich influx. Variety, quality, and balance are key. (Current Owen students may want to speak to Mr. Brad Musick and Mr. Alex Johnson of the rising second-year class. Their habits in the field of raw food and juicing put many of us to shame.)
Of course, the food on your plate only goes so far. If it is eaten in monastic silence, then there is no way to fully appreciate all the benefits of a lunch. The manner in which you eat is important, and if you’re taking lunch above all other alternatives then you should never eat alone. As I explained my answer during that interview I began to think of who I would have around the table in every city I frequent. Los Angeles for the rising star, the producer, the model, the linguist. New York for the patent lawyer, the performance artist, the activist, the executive. Nashville for the economist, the novelist, the minister, the editor. We all have very little in common but shared connections and a surplus of ideas. What would come of it? There’s no way to tell. The thing of it is that you never know until folks start talking across the table. That’s the exciting part. You know your friends and what they can create, their specialties and their interests and their great loves. It’s up to you to sit them down and see what happens.
The power in a power lunch is connection and collaboration. It’s sitting across the table from an intelligent and resourceful friend and realizing that you’d work better together. It’s that moment when an idle thought is sculpted into a business plan with a few thoughtful suggestions. It’s realizing that nothing gets done without a germ of the idea and the team behind it. So when you have that hour to do anything, have lunch. It could be the most productive thing you do all day.