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Lean Norman

Commencement season is here.

Photograph by Ahmad Al-Ahmad/AFP via Getty Images

Commencement season is here.

“You’ve got to pick something in life you want to do, and I love this,” he said recently. “My greatest fortune is getting a job at the Ritz-Carlton. When you’re from Brooklyn, you didn’t know these places existed. You didn’t know people paid more than a dollar for a drink.” He started bartending in the 70s, when he went in with some friends on a business venture. “We said, ‘We drink a lot, so let’s buy a bar,’” Mr. Bukofzer recalled. It closed in 18 months, but he found his niche ….

On a customer’s check, “the first thing you look at is the name,” he said. “Not the gratuity they left. What they drink, where they came from. If you’re serious, you’ve got to be interested. I have relationships with people going back to the 80s. We pride ourselves on introducing people to people. Everybody has something in common, no matter what it is.”

— Melana Z. Ryzik, Tales From Behind the Bar, the New York Times, Dec. 11, 2005.

“You’ve got to be interested.”

Call it the Passion Season. Somewhere out there is the first commencement speech of the 2013 season. Like throwing out the first ball, the word passion will be used and then, again and again and again and ….

Parents, who have written a near-retirement in tuition payments, will delicately ask/suggest/demand of summer plans. The graduates, wasted from the previous evening, would kill for a time when it was easy to go into plastics.

They should lose the graduation brunch, lunch, and/or dinner.

Instead, they should descend on the bar of the Ritz-Carlton, Central Park, New York, 10019, and get a lesson in “interested” from Norman Bukofzer.

Forget all the pomposity of the fortunate wise, drowning in money, acclaim, and celebrity. Head to the bar of the Ritz for pretzels and potato chips (they’re not artisanal), a surgical martini, and wisdom from Norman.

Your newly minted graduate will learn more from Norman in three drinks than all of three commencement speeches.

His ability to listen, cajole, listen, and make a room comfortable is a first-order skill for any and all. His ability to provide distance and shelter on a quiet night is treasured.

Passion. Follow your dream. Lean in. Forget it. Lean Norman. Discuss.

Keene hosts Bloomberg Surveillance 7-10 a.m. ET on 1130 AM in the New York metro area and nationally on SiriusXM 113.

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