This past summer, I had the privilege to spend time in my south of the border home with a joyful and incredibly loyal former employee and his family. I’m sharing the experience here as one of my PEAK relationships, based upon what I express in my updated book, which is on sale now.

If you’d like to dig into some of the new content in this revised edition, please join me on November 15th when I’ll discuss PEAK‘s Eight Leadership Practices, in an exclusive online webinar with my UK friends at Wondrlust. It’s free, with a limited number of seats, so register here and join us.

And now, for my story…

Life can be so transactional in the 21st century. That’s why gifts offered with no purpose other than loyalty and love are so valuable today. Who works for the same employer for 30 years? Seems like the kind of trait of someone who operated a cotton gin or printing press long ago. But, I’m lucky enough to have dos compañeros who’ve been working with me for three long decades, back to the Reagan era. I profiled housekeeper Vivian Quach in my TED talk seven years ago. Now, I want to show my appreciation to the other long-timer.

Martin Cabello has been a maintenance supervisor since the start of my first hotel, The Phoenix. He also worked at our Hotel Bijou and now works at the Wild Palms hotel in Sunnyvale (I still co-own The Phoenix and Wild Palms with partners). He has offered me the gift of his loyalty, his ingenuity, his positive spirit, and his friendship for all these years.
I taught Martin to drive a stick shift on the hills of San Francisco when he was 21 years old, he taught me some Spanish, I celebrated the birth of his first baby, and toasted him when he got his citizenship. He brought his kids to our Joie de Vivre Bowl-a-Rama nights as well as to Great America when 300 of us JdVers took buses from San Francisco down to the amusement park (one of the key leadership lessons I had in the service industry is provide perks/benefits that involve the whole family as the kids’ Mom or Dad work hard and appreciate, on relative tight incomes in the Bay Area, doing something for their kids). Martin and I have grown up together as adults.
To say thank you to Martin, I invited him, his wife, and four kids (Christine, Jennifer, Martin Jr, and Christian) to join me for five days, all expenses paid, in my home in El Pescadero, Baja Sur California in Martin and Maria’s native Mexico. This was the first time the family had taken a vacation on a plane with all of them together. It was heart-warming to spend a few days deepening my connection with the family and working on my Spanish as this is the primary language they speak at home in Redwood City.
Sharing my love for my new home as a gringo in their country of origin and seeing how much they appreciated the combination of ocean, desert, farms, tropics, and mountains (and the amazing food in this particular region) burst open all of our hearts. I hope they are my neighbors some day as they love it here.


The boys went bike riding with me, the girls did a sunrise shamanic cleanse on an ocean cliff with Saul, I did the Rancho Pescadero running loop with Maria (Martin’s wife) and daughters, we all did a beach horseback ride, and Martin and I got to reminisce about how Joie de Vivre evolved from one funky motel in the Tenderloin to 52 boutique hotels over 24 years (while I was founder/CEO). Martin continues on with the company after I left so he’s more loyal to JdV than I am. :)
Our last full day, we traversed an hour to the 105 degree La Paz and ventured out on the Sea of Cortez on a private panga boat to experience Isla Espiritu Santo, a breathtaking nature refuge. We capped it off by swimming with one of the largest sea lion colonies in the world and thousands of tropical fish. How can you stuff so many memories in one head over such a short period of time? On their last night, after a delicious BBQ at home, Maria took Martin by the hand and they went for a walk on the beach at sunset while the kids and I watched and swooned from a perch at my home. Martin returned saying, “I’ve never seen my wife so happy!”
Love and loyalty can’t be calculated, but they can be appreciated. You can offer a radiant smile, a genuine compliment, some fresh-made marmalade, or a few of your SF Giants season tickets that you aren’t using. We all have gifts we can offer. But, this trip was one more reminder that the greatest gift in life doesn’t come in a box with expensive wrapping. It is shared…one corazón at a time. I couldn’t have done this without my hospitality sidekick Saul Kuperstein to whom I dedicate this final wise thought from Rabindranath Tagore. I also dedicate this sentiment to my Joie de Vivre sidekick, and “Modern Elder” even before I’d coined the term, Jack Kenny, who reminded me that we’re nothing without our people…

I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

I awoke and saw that life was service.

I acted and behold, service was joy.

If PEAK (original or revised) has inspired you, I would love to read your review on Amazon. If you’ve reviewed before, unfortunately it won’t transfer to the new page so I thank you for your loyal support (uploading again if you’ve got a moment).

Joyfully yours,