(first of all, on a complete side note, ever since Pet Holdings–the parent company of the ICanHasCheezburger Network, which is run by my good friends Ben Huh and Scott Porad–added Lijit to their sites, I cant spell cheeseburger properly…)

kosher symbolsAt SXSW, I had the pleasure of meeting a young entrepreneur through mutual friends. I often find that interesting companies have really impressive founders behind them (mostly because the idea had to come from somewhere intriguing). This entrepreneur and I seemed to move in and out of the same circles, but never really crossed paths.

Why is this important? While most people probably dont believe this, the greatest gift I get from people is education. My favorite thing in the world is to find people that know more about something than I do, or participate in something I dont, or just flatly do something better than I do, and learn from them.

If you took a list of all my friends and made notations about what makes each one special, you would find a list of amazing talents, knowledge and activity that just by proximity can do nothing but impress.

What I didnt know about this entrepreneur is that he both keeps kosher and observes the sabbath. For most entrepreneurs, limiting your diet (“What if a potential investor/partner wants to eat out?!?!?”) and work week to 6 days (“C’mon! No startup is successful when the founder works only 6 days a week!”) is just unheard of.

Yet, his company is growing, they have secured funding from really high profile investors, and he successfully drives product direction and promotion.

Which got me thinking.

I have several friends who have made specific choices about how they live their lives and what is a priority for them. Sometimes the filter is of religious origin, sometimes is a lifestyle decision, or a geographic choice.

Many people would look at these decisions as limiting. What happens if an important phone call has to be made on a Saturday? Will it just go unanswered? Does something like following kosher laws and observing a sabbath create an artificial barrier for success?

Now, it would be easy to find many folks that have been successful in spite of self-limiting behavior or activities. (Face it, any decision to not do something is self-limiting by definition). Instead, lets discuss why I decided to participate in those self-limited behaviors.

Life is about choice. It is often said that the greatest gift given man was free will. (Of course, the evangelicals will say it was Jesus, but this isnt about a religious debate.) Some have said its man’s greatest burden as well.

(Ok, the religious stuff is over, I swear to Christ.)

I have spent most of my life immersed in free will. I tend to make decisions based on the exact previous activity. I dont think more than a day ahead. My therapist often says that the worst thing my parents did was not provide and enforce clear and distinct boundaries. I lived a life full of free will.

True Free Will often comes with a lack of order.

And I, in order to make the changes I want to make in my life, need structure and order. I want, for the first time in my life, to think…and then…do.

So, I was inspired by the entrepreneur I met at SXSW. If he could continue to be as successful as he is sticking to the choices he has made, then perhaps if I do the same, I would provide sufficient structure and order to help me be more successful.

With that, about two weeks ago, I decided to follow the kosher laws.

Wellllllll, thats a lie. I decided to follow a version of the kosher laws.

Quickly: What are the kosher laws? A set of dietary restrictions that many Jewish people conform to. If you want to read more about them, this is a pretty good resource on kosher. Kosher comes from the Hebrew word “kasher” meaning fit. Non-kosher food is known as “treif” meaning torn. Literally meaning torn by another animal, killed with a dull blade (feels pain), or has a defect that disallows it from being slaughtered.

Here are the basic tenants (as I understand them):

  • * meat is ok. But, it has to come from an animal that chews its cud and has cloven hooves;
  • * pigs are out, because even though they have cloven hooves, they dont chew their cud.
  • * birds are ok, but have to fit certain criteria. For example, they have an established tradition of being kosher or be really close to a bird that is kosher. Chickens are ok; falcons are not.
  • * fish is ok, but it has to have scales and fins. No shellfish. (dammit!)
  • * insects are not kosher (thank god)
  • * fruits, vegetables, nuts are all pretty much kosher, as long as they dont have insects (see above)
  • * dairy is kosher – pretty much
  • * meat and dairy cant be mixed. (you and me, cheeseburger, we are through)

There are a few other rules (like certain foods have to be prepared by other Jews. Like cheese and wine.)

Here are the ones Im following:

  • * meat and fowl have to be bought from a kosher deli.
  • * fish is fine, shellfish are out.
  • * pork is out (which is ok. I havent eaten pork in almost 20 years)
  • * no mixing meat and diary.
  • * fruits, vegetables, diary are ok.
  • * chicken wings are always kosher. (what? I love chicken wings!)

Here is the payoff. Before every meal, I have to think about what I am going to eat. I have to think about where I am going to eat. If I go to the supermarket, I have to think about what to buy.

I have to think…then act. I have to apply some level of structure and order to my meals.

Its not much, but its a start on learning to temper my free willing ways.

Anyone know a good kosher deli in Boulder?

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