YOU ARE HERE – Finding Meaning, Fulfillment, & Opportunity Behind the Bar

When we first start out as baristas we dream of what might await us in the cafe and what it might be like to do this job long term. When we show up for work however, we often find that we need to put our ideals on hold while the work of the cafe fills our time and attention. The customer and the business have their own ideals that you must serve in order to provide value and advance in your position which often means your personal values are put on hold. You slowly learn that when you enter the world of service under  another persons brand, standards and ideals, you will be busy about working for others and not yourself. This is not a bad thing per se, seeing that you are in the service industry and “serving” must necessarily mean a sacrifice of oneself for the good of another. Denial of self in service to others is part of the job and if it’s not part of your vision for yourself then you will be perpetually annoyed and disenfranchised with whatever position you find yourself in.

If we are to be healthy and fulfilled in our current roles we must not only react to and satisfy the needs of our environment, but we must also create opportunity for growth in our environment that lines up with our personal mission. This can be done while also advancing the mission of our employer. If you don’t, any professional advancements you achieve will ring hollow because they do not speak to that deeper part of why you are here doing this job in the first place.

So how can we harness the power of every experience to bring us closer to our goals and to find fulfillment in our work? Here are some tips that have helped me…

Set: Clear vision, values, and mission for your career

If you are going into work and feeling aimless you need to create opportunities for yourself to introduce a personal mission into the everyday work. Slow down the momentum of your reactive mind and see all the lessons each shift can teach you that will provide you with personal growth in the areas you most value. In order to do that you will need to have an articulated vision, set of values, and mission that you can reference and draw from in the coarse of the days work.

Of course the specifics of your vision may be not compatible with where you are now and that is expected …and ok! It’s certainly not a sign you need to leave to search for greener pastures. That has led many baristas to a wide but shallow career. The best thing to do is to distill your vision of where you want to be in the future, down to a list of virtues and skills you can develop in the present, that speak to who you want to be in the future.I recommend to you “The E-Myth Manager” by Michael Gerber for more reading on creating purpose to your employment beyond your current company’s mission.

Be open to learn from both the negative and the positive

I have worked in tough bar situations where I thought I surely must have got the wrong job. In the midst of it though, once I got past being dramatic and hating my life, I realized that there is always something to learn through patience and endurance. What I learned then has helped me today to be better in a job where I feel I am meant to be and that is closer to my vision of who I want to be in the industry. Not every job needs to be a perfect match for it to be the right job for you right now. You may need to be in a situation where you are being challenged in an uncomfortable way. Comfort is the enemy of growth and certainly if we are in charge, we would choose comfort more often than it would be useful for our maturity as professionals. You can learn from the”How not to” just as easily as the “How to” and walk away with a lifelong lesson that will serve you and your career well.

Harness the power of the negative and the positive by looking at each situation as an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.

Note: Please do not sacrifice your personal health, well-being, dignity, or rights for the sake of “Learning a Lesson”. There is a line between hard uncomfortable work and dangerous or abusive. The difference often is clear & systemic indifference or outright malice. In these cases you can still find opportunities for growth and certainly you can learn lessons there…but you should work to leave that situation as soon as possible.

Ask: What can this teach me?

In order to find deep fulfillment in your work and see progress made in your personal vision and goals you need to have a growth/learning mindset. No matter what you do, there is always a benefit to be gleaned. Working the register can be more than simply ringing up sales and moving the line, it can be an exercise in active listening and in memory development. Two things that will serve you well no matter what you do in life. Working as a bar back, you’re in charge of keeping the trash in check, the milk rotated properly, and the bar stocked. It might seem like an inglorious position but it can teach you how to find joy in the mundane as you serve behind the scenes.

The work of making coffee professionally is often made up of anything but making coffee. So why do it? We cannot chase a position where that is all we do, as that job does not really  exist. Hard but necessary things are the foundation of anything worth doing. I like to think that we are not just making coffee, but we are, ourselves, being made by the pursuit of making coffee. You are what you eat, and in professional pursuits we consume experiences that in turn fuel who we become.

Harnessing the power of every experience requires that we approach each day with intentionality and the goal of becoming better by leaning into and finding value in all of the days work rather than trying to cherry pick only the best and most immediately satisfying parts. Set clear vision, goals, and mission. Be open to learn from negative and positive. Ask yourself , “What can I learn from this?” and “How does this help me achieve my personal mission?”

Take the next week and try to approach your work, no matter what happens, as an opportunity to grow and advance in your career and I’ll bet you will be pleased with the results.

Let me know what you do to draw the most from your cafe experiences. Comment below.



Growth and Trust

All growth is due to an increase in trust.

This is something I tell the managers at Sunergos to keep in mind when they look at their store numbers and it is the message we want to send when we talk to them about how well the shops are doing.

This idea is something that has been on my mind especially in the last few years working full time in management. I see it as the main correlation between the numbers on the screen and the reality in the shops.

Thanks to robust back office analytics we can see our cafe’s history in neat and amazing detail. I have had my fair share of late night number binges obsessing over comparative dates and percentages. It’s actually really fun! We look at which days are busy and which are slow, average dollars spent per transaction, number of items purchased, and number of transactions per visit. We can track all types of things that give us valuable insight into our business’ financial performance and trajectory.

But there is one thing the numbers do not tell us outright that gets to the “Why” behind it all.  It is the hidden mover, the catalyst for all growth.


Trust is a feeling of comfort and certainty of intent and of outcome that is given to us by a customer to turn their time and money into something of value to them. Trust being placed in them by their own boss to turn their investment into something great for their company was how our customer got the money they use as a sign of trust in our shop.

Trust is not just given and then that’s it. It starts out small and grows. Trust is placed in a new employee in small amounts to perform a task they have been trained for without supervision. Trust increases the more that employee performs that task with excellence and consistency. The result being that you can look at those around you or those you manage and say there are those you trust more than others. The same is true for our customers.

Another way to look at it is like this: When the customer enters our store for the first time it’s like we are in the interview stage. There is a spot open in their life for the position of “coffee shop” and our resume looked good enough that they now want a face-to-face.

Their first interaction with us acts as the interview and represents the the small beginnings of trust. The second interview even more so.

Somewhere between the first and 3rd visit the seed of trust has been planted.

We’ve got the job!

As the customer continues to come in they will delegate to us the task of creating a great sensory experience in exchange for the wage of the menu price a little more each visit. This, after all, is in the “coffee shop” job description and now that we are hired we want to impress.

As we deliver and exceed our new boss’ expectations we see they are more at ease with delegating and entrusting tasks to us. Over time as trust grows we are promoted and there is a mutual trust between us and the customer that facilitates our success and theirs. Suffice to say that trust is the hidden mover of both parties and is represented by their actions and exchanges.

We tend to see the money as the focus but it is actually what the money represents that matters. It all shows how much people trust us to provide value when they make a purchase in our shops, how much they trust us and our teams to deliver on an implied or stated promise.

You’d be hard pressed to find a store manager looking at the stats who then draws a direct line back to what they are doing in the cafe that is making people trust them more than last year, yet that is exactly what is happening with each data point on the screen. We all have access to the same technologies, products, techniques so the thing that will really set you apart is how much a customer trusts you to turn their investment into a valuable experience day-by-day.

When we look at the numbers we should be thinking:  “This represents a sacred trust between the shop and this customer” Whether the numbers are down or up, that thought should be the starting point for all our practical changes. What is it that we have done to earn the honor of .50 more per transaction from the last year? What is it about the customer’s experience that made it so we see the number of purchases they make on their card is up 10%?

It is almost never because of our fancy equipment, beautiful space, awards, or menu.  It is all about the culture and consistency of the experience that those things facilitate in our hands over time that breaks or earns trust.

When we feel the weight of the community’s trust and support as something we must constantly earn and honor with our actions then we are living in a mentality that will infuse future decisions with lasting wisdom and keep our businesses on track and thriving. Trust is the cornerstone of it all.


Two Customers Every Barista Serves


We serve two Customers:

  1. The community to whom you are serving coffee (the cafe’s customers)
  2. The community that brought you that coffee  (farmer, importers, roasters, et al)

What a barista is and does daily is quite possibly one of the most important roles in the whole supply chain of specialty coffee. The heart of the role’s meaning is found not in the trappings of the craft but in the daily work of creating experiences for the benefit of these two groups.

The Cafe’s Customers

People and how they are treated is the key point of focus for all baristas. Any endeavor we humans set our hands to is done with our minds and hearts resolved on an outcome that satisfies our souls. Though the customer is not recognized as an artist, they set about the work of creation daily. Through purchase they create an experience that they hope will speak to that deep sense of satisfaction we all look for. We as professionals create our shops and our service encounters with the idea in mind that we will meet them in that pursuit as we too desire to draw a sense of satisfaction from our craft. Practicing hospitality with sincerity and empathy is a practical way of recognizing their deeper human needs while using our skills to render exacting quality.  Serving your customer well also serves you well. It is not selfish to recognize that.  In fact if you try to divorce self from hospitality then you end up with insincerity and burn out. Both baristas and customers are creating experiences-one through provision, and one through purchase. This is a truth from which we should draw inspiration. We need each other to continue creating.  I think most of you reading this must truly want to be a servant to and for your cafe’s customers. If not, that is ok, there are many other ways to work in coffee besides the cafe, where you will be happier and make others happy too. We must be honest with ourselves and either embrace service to the public as an honor and joy, or we must, for the sake of all involved, seek other areas of the industry.

A barista’s first area of concern is creating experiences of sincere, empathetic, and hospitality driven service for their customers daily. To do this well, you must recognize and honor the customer as a co-creator of this experience as they facilitate your craft and create opportunity for these experiences by their patronage.

The Coffee Community

At Coffee Fest Dallas, I saw a pin at the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) booth that simply said,  “I make good coffee happen.”  I love that!


There are many people who could wear that pin who put great effort into their particular niche of the industry and made that coffee in your hopper both possible and special. Owners/managers/baristas etc serve not only their local community but also the professional community of which they are a part. We retail professionals serve to realize the collective dreams of all those who contributed to that coffee’s potential as much as we serve to realize the collective dreams of all those who buy it.

The barista delivers only a momentary expression of a given coffee.  In order to make these brief encounters count and maximize each opportunity we need a balance of humility and confidence in our pursuit of knowledge from our industry and wisdom to know how to apply it appropriately in the shop. Customers understand specialty coffee through the lens of their accumulated experiences with it. Habits formed around these sensory expressions of coffee are what drive this industry forward. As a barista you facilitate many expressions of coffee. Hundreds of times a day you will facilitate experiences that in turn further promote the success of our industry. We are responsible for crafting coffee in such a way that not only serves the customer in the cafe but also serves the coffee community by ensuring the coffee’s final stage of life; as a drink that is sustainable, delicious, and compelling.


To serve both the customer and the coffee community well we must first draw inspiration from them. We can then create a coffee experience that honors the dreams of both groups while at the same time making it your own expression. In this way we are using our tradecraft to define and display for the world what specialty coffee is right now and what it can be in the future. So the next time you hurry back to the store-room to grab some bulk to top off the hopper, realize and be driven by the reality that, as a barista, you literally hold the future of coffee in your hands.


Hospitality in a Rush

We all want to give a good experience to the customer with each interaction we have. A great service experience is really what drives people to be your loyal fans and is therefore the most important thing you can provide. Trouble is that when things really get moving, standards often slip. I think there are two reasons behind this.


“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” -Stephen Covey

I like this quote for its simplicity. It seems obvious but practicing the obvious is harder when there is a host of subtle distractions that call for our attention. You could be on bar finishing a set of 3 lattes when a tea timer is going off too long and you are wondering why the bar back is not getting it. Meanwhile, the customer whose drinks you’re making is trying to find the drink carriers and is angling to ask you but you haven’t noticed because your attention was on the peripherals of the bar. Multiply this x 100 and you have a typical busy shift. It may not be a huge hospitality fail but losing small opportunities to show customers they are your focus add up. To combat this you should make up your mind ahead of the shift that you will value the customer experience down to the very small details in tangible ways whenever you’re given the opportunity. I know I went for years behind the bar without sitting down and working out my values like this. Of course you may work for a shop where the value system is different. By all means you should hold the values of the place that pays for you to be a barista. If, however, you work in a place that allows you to make your own priorities or you are the one who sets those standards then you have the power to make the customer experience the priority for yourself and those who report to you. Once you’ve communicated with yourself and others what the priorities are you now need to practice it to make it a habit.


If you think about it, you know what to expect on a shift. You can envision the distractions, the circumstances, your tendencies etc. In order to make hospitality a priority during busy times you will need to have a personal and collective plan for all the demands the call for your attention, e.g. You know you will need to, at some point, do dishes or brew more coffee and sometimes that mean turning your back. But customers don’t stop needing your attention when you are busy with these things. You can plan to do both these things with your body slightly angled outward so you see customers coming or if that is impossible you can delegate to another staff member to be vigilant while you bust out the dishes or inventory etc. The key here is that you are being proactive and making a plan that puts a tangible value on the customer experience rather than simply sacrificing hospitality on the altar of personal efficiency. Planning out these little scenarios may seem daunting but if you take steps to identify them as they come up and codify your solutions you will be surprised at how easy hospitality during the rush can be.


Look, I can appreciate “Pity Tips” as much as the next barista (i.e. customer dismayed at how busy you are drops $5 in the jar to ease the pain). It’s nice for your pocket and in the moment is makes you feel nice… but it’s a sure sign you need to prioritize and plan your bar’s hospitality for the rush because you look like you need care rather than looking like you are prepared to offer care. Take time to discuss and determine what the top priority is during the shift (I suggest it should be customer experience). Next take those priorities and superimpose them over top the various types of shifts you know your bar will experience. What’s the plan to keep “The main thing the main thing”? Unless we are willing to do the work of creating a purposeful plan of execution for all the little things around the big picture, we are doomed to only preach hospitality but practice something else when the going gets tough.








A Philosophy on Employee Turnover


Losing people sucks…kind of.

It is a crucible by which a shops leadership and remaining staff alike are tested. It is a signifier of both success and failure depending on the context. Administratively and logistically it is a burden. But is turnover bad on all accounts or is the hassle it presents clouding our judgment so all we see when someone leaves is inconvenience?

As I write this one of the three managers I oversee at Sunergos here in Louisville is preparing to leave after a very successful two-year stay with us. It was bitter-sweet hearing the news but I always knew that he was going to need to go on to his obvious calling as a writer. I hired Drew and then promoted him to manager after only 1 month as a barista because of his clear dedication, orderliness, and leadership. As the two years passed, those attributes and more shaped the cafe he managed in great and immeasurable ways. This story is not uncommon and it played out hundreds of times a year (maybe more) in cafes around the world.

As I think about his leaving, it brings up a host of questions about staff retention and turn-over. Of course there is the conversation about the “Career Barista” and whether or not that is an ideal to strive for. It is great when that happens but it is very rare. The reality is that a vast majority of those employed as baristas now, will not continue to be baristas in the future. This can be attributed to many different things and this post is not going to open up that discussion per se. We will however explore the options you have for how you can experience and use turnover for your benefit.

Shops are temporary entities that are organized for a shared purpose or mission, then, over time, they dissolve. That is not bad it’s just natural and I find it to be a rather beautiful cycle. My working philosophy on turnover right now is founded on that reality. Plus the idea that organizations of people around common goals are like latte art; ultimately temporary.  They are momentary alignments of variables that are designed to be experienced then realigned in order to help move forward positive change in the world, our industry, and our individual lives.

I want to re-frame the reality of turnover as a positive thing as well as a great opportunity. There are 2 things that I believe are great reasons to see turnover in a positive light.

Internal Cultural Evolution 

     The culture of your shop is an ever evolving thing. It is made up not only of the original mission and values that were laid out in its founding but also every staff members interpretation of those values. Each employee you have changes the shop in big and small ways just by their presence. They interpret the values of the shop that are communicated then live them out. There are staff who move the ball down the field and then there are staff who for whatever reason do not and have a negative impact on the culture. No matter what the situation, your culture is always in flux and so turnover, like the body constantly reproducing its cells, offers an opportunity to reinforce the good and to fix and replace the bad. To reinforce the positive influence of the good barista you will want to openly celebrate their contribution by communicating to other staff their legacy and values -e.g.: “John is leaving us for college out-of-state! We are going to really miss him and his hard work, flexibility, and attention to detail (plus his bad jokes). He’s leaving us an example to live up to and we are a better shop because of him.  Thanks, John.” Something like this statement expresses both the fact that you recognize the work and you also expect its continuation.

Now if you are losing an employee that has presented a negative influence, well, that is sad and hopeful all at once. Sad, because celebrating their contribution is made harder and sometimes is best left as just a polite send off. Sad, because in all likelihood they are leaving because either they were not happy, you were not happy, or both. They may have been a poor hire. They may have been a good hire but you were not a good boss. No matter the case the hopeful part is that their leaving affords you (and the shop as a whole) an opportunity to improve. You can and should take another look at your hiring practices and your management. What can we do better? How can we improve communication and follow through? What are our core values and how do we improve our ability to find staff that hold those values?

Finally, conduct exit interviews. I am a big fan of receiving evaluations from those who report to me. I want to foster an environment of openness and learning so they feel comfortable enough to give me feedback that I need to improve how I lead them. An exit interview should be the final feedback conversation of many preceding ones, not the only one when it’s likely too late. Ask about their view of the company and your leadership. How can we improve? You can do this with anyone leaving no matter on what terms they are leaving. Just be ready to take it in humbly and thoughtfully. The exit of a staff member affords you a unique opportunity for the growth of your shop. How you choose to experience that exit will determine if it is a missed opportunity or a well utilized one.

Training and equipping people for broad impact

     When we hire and train people to work as baristas we are inviting them to become part of a system that produces a product and an experience for both the customer and staff alike. That system is based on values that, if fleshed out well in the daily operations, determine what customers and staff take away from their time with you.  When you work in a place and are tasked with upholding those values daily, it has a huge impact on your personal development sometimes without you even realizing it.

When a barista leaves your shop they are not only a walking billboard for your company and a more savvy coffee consumer, they are also taking with them experiences and lessons that will likely stay with them the rest of their lives. How well you lead and manage will determine how they recall their time and what lessons they learned. Most all of us have experiences from our past jobs as baristas that have made us cleaner, more focused, better able to serve with grace etc.

We should view those people we have with us now as people in training for greater impact than just the job at hand. We can see turnover as a huge opportunity for large-scale contribution that could not be achieved if we retained all our staff. Our shops are training grounds for future leaders and influencers. We should celebrate that we get to be of service in this way and embrace the momentary opportunity we are given to host people in our companies who are destined for futures outside our four walls.

    With a balanced percpective we can experience turnover not as simply a burden, an unwanted cost, or an inconvenience, but as a natural and somewhat underutilized opportunity. An opportunity for betterment, not only for our stores or the coffee industry but literally for the whole world.

Shift Mindset

It happens all too often.

Baristas become disillusioned with their work. The shift starts and ends before you know it and even though you were physically there making drinks, cleaning creamer spouts, and sweeping cigarette butts off the patio you were not mentally present at all. In the day to day of the cafe the work can become rote and we are left wondering why we are doing this and dreaming up ways of getting over to the greener pastures we think will fulfill us in some other segment of the industry. Problem is, as the saying goes,

“Wherever you go…there you are”

This is to say that even if you do become a green buyer, a barista champion, or a master roaster, if your thinking is not right, you will eventually begin to see those roles to be just as lacking as your current one. Maybe this is why there is so much turnover and job hopping in barista work.

We have to shift our mindset

The mindset we bring into the work place is the number one indicator of whether or not we will feel a sense of satisfaction and purpose vs. feeling jilted by a thing we thought we would love but with which we are now disappointed. Relationships where two whole people are involved tend to be better than relationships where two people are looking for the other to fulfill their dreams. You cannot walk into your shift looking for your co-workers, customers, or coffee in general to fulfill you. 

You must enter this business of bar work with a clear understanding of who you are, why you are working, and what you will give rather than wandering without purpose and angling for what you can get at every turn. Coffee bars exist to serve people and the only way to do this well is for you to have the big picture so well etched in your mind that it infuses purpose into the minutiae of the job. Every person that shares the vision of the company must have a unique understanding and expression of it that cannot be dictated from the outside.

The job of a barista and cafe work in general is very taxing as a large part of it is spent in activity that seems unrelated even distracting or antithetical to the work we want to be doing. The image of a barista is one of a person creating and curating amazing craft coffee for customers all day, being a guide, a dispenser of “aha” moments! The reality is that 90% of the job is cleaning, stocking, team work, practice, organizing, data entry, etc. The remaining 10% (maybe less?) of moments that we long for where we hand a drink over the counter to a customer and their head explodes with shear joy are facilitated by, and indeed depend upon, the quality of the 90%; the tough work, the work that takes you off bar.

The behind the scenes work that takes so much of our time creates professionals; the on-bar work keeps them employed.

Do you find yourself flipping through a coffee magazine and letting out frequent heavy sighs over pictures of origin trips, signature beverages, and globe trotting barista superstars? Do you mutter under your breath when you are called off bar to count inventory, or to mop up a spilled kids hot chocolate? Do you pretend to be busy on the espresso machine in hopes of avoiding the customer approaching the bar with a question? Then you may be missing the treasure that lies within the shift you feel shackled by and unwittingly missing out of some of the very best and most satisfying parts of the job.

Here are some ideas for helping to shift your mindset to being open to the rewards of bar work that you may not be seeing:

Get clear on the “Why” and the “What”

You will need to have a strong “Why”.  This is essentially a personal mission statement for your work. It is something bigger than the job and bigger than yourself. When you consider why you are getting up so early, working so hard, etc.,  if you know what the mission is you will more easily consider hardship to be opportunity for growth and more readily recognize the positive and good in your day.

Whatever your “What” is make sure that it connects the details and tasks of the day to the big picture and the “Why” for yourself and your company. Once you take the time to articulate to yourself the “What”within the “Why”  you will want to practice mindfulness by just giving yourself reminders through the days work of how it all fits together. Doing this gives you perspective and robs stressful situations of their power.

What is it you are doing and why are you doing it? Easier asked than answered for sure but until you are able to articulate these two things you will be renting purpose from others instead of owning it for yourself.

Have a plan for the day and set goals

There is a saying, “Run the bar, don’t let the bar run you” It may be slightly trite but there is an eternal truth to this saying. If you do not have a purpose and a plan you are simply hoisting sails and seeing where the wind takes you. Sounds like an adventure until you crash. Once you’re clear on the “why” and “what”, setting a plan and goal for your day will give you the “how”. Take time before your shift and think through all the situations you know you will experience and plan out how you will respond. Plan out how you will create value for the customers and your coworkers that day. It can be stocking extra well for the morning crew because you know a group is coming the next morning. It can be delivering encouragement to a co-worker you noticed was down about their espresso dial-in skills the other day. It could be consciously smiling more and making better eye contact. Thoughtful, purposeful actions like these, generously distributed through the shift will make you almost immune from the turbulence of the day. Plan out the details of a successful shift and it is way more likely to happen as now you are taking responsibility for creating it.

Focus on coworker support and customer enjoyment 

A large part of what we do depends on how well we serve each other and support each others roles on bar. We must not only facilitate the success of our own shift but facilitate and work for the success of the whole. On top of this is the collective universal “Why” of service work-Customer joy.

We can tend to throw self-righteous shade on a customers love for a drink we hate but in order to provide a selfless and holistic environment of service “for” the customer we must lean into their enjoyment, away from our judgment, and draw joy from their joy.

Reflect & practice specific gratefulness

At the end of a busy shift all that most of us want to do is eat, drink, and curl up into a fetal position until the din of dishes, wifi questions, and grinder burrs fade into the void. If you are mindfully practicing the above you may find yourself more likely to exit the shift with clarity. Weary from work? Yes. Sick of work? Not if you are in the right mindset.                   To cap off the shift, a good thing to do is to practice reflection and specific thankfulness. Take a moment to think back over the course of the shift and pull out specific moments where the customer was blown away-where you were saved by the your co-worker taking on the dishes-where you were able to graciously mop up a kids spill and ease the embarrassment of the parents with a joke and a free replacement drink. Little moments like this are only little if they are allowed to slip by unnoticed. By reflecting on them and being thankful we begin to see them more day-by-day, they start to define our shift, and then our career.

As you become mindful of your mental state you can draw value from your shift and add purpose and meaning in the everyday tasks. You will start to see the place you are as being a much richer experience now that it has your full attention and presence. It’s always been there but a part of you has been closed to it until now.

Turn on the Open sign.

The Counterbalanced Barista

It’s early.

You sleepily approach the door and fumble for the keys to the shop knowing that you have 30 seconds to run across the place and turn off the alarm before it goes off. That weird mix of fogginess and urgency is the first thing every opener feels going in and last thing every closer feels leaving. In these moments and in many times in-between we are living in two worlds:

1. Our personal feelings, goals, and desires

2. The needs of the shop, its customers, and its mission

The line between those two areas is where the road to becoming a mature professional lies.   Setting aside by an act of your will the things we all drag into the shift enables us to take on the mantel of responsibility that the job requires. When practiced over time this creates character in the flashy and the seemingly mundane parts of our jobs . These are the first steps toward finding joy in the work that, at first, seemed more like necessary evils than value adding elements.

I like to think of it in this way:

We all tend toward the path of least resistance and, much like the nature of water pressed through a bed of coffee, the key is to create an environmnet that will prevent paths of least resistance from being taken.

For espresso we do this by distributing the coffee evenly and applying equal pressure in anticipation of the greater pressure soon to be delivered. In life and specifically with barista work we do this by distributing our expectations for, and applying even pressure (read”Discipline”) to, all facets of the job.

Wanting to focus on only the flashy parts of the job is natural in the beginning, but over time it will rob you of the greater lessons of the craft found in the seemingly mundane tasks that fill the majority of the work day. If you only focus on the things that give you a quick boost of confidence it’s like tamping one side harder because you like that side better. As the day’s work and demands put pressure on you, you will find the results to be rather unpleasant; over extracted in one place and under extracted in the next.

Next time you find yourself battling in your mind between your desire in the moment and the minutiae of the job at hand try leaning into the work to create and draw  joy from those things you usually would not. The more you find satisfaction in a well mopped floor, a shiny sink, a fully stocked bar, or a newly cleaned front-door window the more you will like the result of what is extracted from you over the course of the day by it’s pressures. Recognizing the need to counterbalance our default to the path of least resistance opens up the road ahead for a very satisfying career in coffee that you and the people you serve will enjoy.