10 Things Being a Waiter Taught Me about Being a Better Man

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About Mark Radcliffe

Mark Radcliffe is a writer living in New York City. He has a weakness for bourbon, jazz and girls who can drive stick. You can read more of his essays here: www.theradcliffescrolls.tumblr.com and http://markradcliffe.com.


  1. Love this post. I still think my low-end retail and food service jobs spurred a work ethic that will be with me forever. Those positions helped develop people skills and character and I wouldn’t be the same without them. I never thought I’d be able to say that since I would’ve done anything to get out of going to work at the time, but I owe almost everything I admire about myself to those experiences.

  2. Outstanding piece! I was in the food industry too many years to count. I started young in a cafe my parents owned. I took immeasurable pride in doing my job well. It wasn’t a job I held just to “get by”. I truly adored serving my guests. I always thought of it as an art form — juggling everything with a gracious smile, making my guests feel like the 90 minutes they spent with me was the highlight of their day. I deeply value the lessons I learned while bussing/ hosting/ prep-cooking/ waiting tables and bartending. Cheers for spelling it out so beautifully.

    (And Mark? It’s such a small small world – we met in 2008 on the 3-Hour Tour. Hello again!)

  3. These are so true…! Humility and courtesy will go a long way!

  4. “And conversely, the person who’s waiting on you now might be Mark Zuckerberg eight years from now. Treat him or her accordingly.”

    Sooo, if they aren’t a genius? If they aren’t ambitious? If they’ll never succeed in another career?
    Then, is it ok to treat them badly?

  5. I will continue to saw what I will.

    Over 24 hours and the typo remains.

  6. 7.”and it’s an unfair world. But there are still advantages to playing the game. Just know that some day, you’ll be running the show somewhere, and he’ll be divorced, broke and in need of a liver transplant.”

    10.”You won’t be a waiter forever. Aside from the devoted pros who make waiting their careers here in New York and who are world-class server “savants,” most of us will simply do this for a few years, and then be on to the thing you really want to be doing with your life. Acting. Teaching. Med school. A full-time writer. A dancer. A choreographer. Whatever your future destination, know that it is coming.”

    In the first instance you tell people to just sit back and wait for the world to give them what they deserve, and in the second instance you tell people to just stick to day-dreaming instead of hard work.

    • Peter von Maidenberg says:

      Contradictory, maybe even hurtful in some cases, but it has its productive side.

      One of the best ways to develop ambition is to learn first how to be pushed around, put in your place regularly, and have absolutely no right to do anything about it. Before long you’ll be chomping at the bit for autonomy and self-empowerment, in which case you’ve got a solid foundation of character to go on and succeed. Or else you’ll be eaten alive with bitterness and rage, in which case your life is worthless except as an example to others.

      As for daydreaming, there’s a sort of bland everyday sense where it takes some of the edge off things, but then there’s the kind of serious self-deluded obsessiveness it takes to really achieve – anything – in a world that’s got a lot less use for people who want to achieve than those who already have.

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