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mastering innkeeping


In his book, OUTLIERS, Malcolm Gladwell presents neurologist Daniel Levitin’s study of world-class experts. Levitin says that “scientific” studies indicate that 10,000 hours are a pre-requisite to be a world-class master in any arena. He gives several examples to prove his thesis.

As I read this, I thought about Innkeeping. Specifically I thought about what I enjoy most about Innkeeping: being the host for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Whitestone. In the 12 ½ years since we opened, I have greeted guests at approximately 4,000 breakfasts, 1500 lunches, and 4,000 dinners. That equates to about 17,500 hours of interactions with guests to our Inn.

I love these opportunities to hear the stories of weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, sanity breaks, escape from children, rest from stress, preparation for tomorrow’s struggles, honeymoons—and the list goes on and on. I love answering the question: “What possessed you to build Whitestone?” (I wonder how many times I have told the story.)

But if Daniel Levitan’s study is true about being a master after 10,000 hours—I am there! My goal is to make each guest feel comfortable and cared for. It is getting increasingly difficult to remember what story goes with which face and name. After 27,000 couples, I need a bigger chip! More gigabytes!

Being a master innkeeper is not just about the 10,000 hour rule. I guess you could just put in the time and not care and not get any better with more hours. But the years have not diminished the joy of getting up each day and renewing my relationship with former guests and meeting new friends.

Everything in my life has prepared me for the opportunity to be an innkeeper. I love my life. I love my guests. After 17,500 hours I am getting this innkeeping thing down. Everyone should be fortunate enough to get to practice what they love at least 10,000 hours until they really master their arena of service .

Time to go to bed and joy—joy, I get to practice grace-based southern hospitality again tomorrow. And I (humbly) think that I am getting good at it.