Here is a picture I took of the clouds above the local Starbucks I was meeting my mother at. In fact, I am actually writing this post at a different coffee shop not far from this one. As the month comes to a close, I want to give a friendly reminder to all of us, myself included. In this new economy, we have switched from the problem of businesses being able to open, to one of them being able to find employees to serve the customers they have. This is something to keep in mind as you are served not only at your local coffee shop or restaurant, but also at grocery stores when the lines seem a bit longer than normal. Most of the business owners I talk to would really like to have more help to serve you, but they are unable to find some.
While we are experiencing longer wait times than usual or slower service let us try to keep one thing in mind. We are being served by the people who did show up. The ones who are often working double shifts or longer hours. The ones who are doing not only there job, but often the jobs of two or more people. If we encounter an employee who seems a little less than full of sunshine, let us try to remember they are probably working twice as hard as normal and running on less sleep as well. It would be easy for us to be filled with anger, but let us do as the Dalai Lama suggests and show our strength by expressing patience. Perhaps offer a ‘Thank you’ and some encouragement. Employees working short staffed often feel burnt out and under appreciated. They need our patience the most.
As the month rolls on, I ask you to keep in mind the struggles of the workers who are doing their best to serve us every day in all of the locations we go. Just to help with the tranquil mood, I am going to end with another picture of the beautiful sunset I witnessed outside of the coffee shop that day that I met my mother.
Most of you have heard me mention my friend Curtis before. I first ran into this gentleman on a trip to the local establishment Urban Joe’s Cafe,. Throughout the years I have known this man I have watched him navigate his way through school, maintain a fitness routine, become a father all while working full-time as the face of the franchise, if you will, of Urban Joe’s. This past Saturday was his last day. Curtis, his wife and young son are moving next month to start a new chapter of their lives in sunny Las Vegas. Although the restaurant will continue to offer the mouth-watering cuisine prepared by chef Carlos, and the same charming atmosphere, it will no doubt miss the personality of Curtis.
Curtis has done a great deal to become more than just the face of Urban Joe’s, but a piece of the fabric of the community. When people think of the city of West Allis, they can recall a visit where they received great food in a pleasant place. What made Urban Joe’s so special when Curtis was there was his ability to care for his customers. To make them feel less like a number and more like a friend. To that end, he became a pleasant part of the people’s lives that live and work in the city. I know several people who, when visiting the city, make it a point to stop and see Curtis. They do so because everyone likes to be treated with respect. They like to feel valued and cared about. Those are qualities that you cannot put a price on and ones that will surely be missed with the departure of this wonderful family.
While the city of Las Vegas is going to gain some amazing and wonderful people, the city of West Allis will have lost a great deal of it’s warmth and welcoming nature. Whatever city you are from, I am sure this has happened there as well. Great people come, bless us with their gifts of love and hospitality and move on to share it with a new city. That means a great responsibility falls on the hearts and shoulders of the people left behind. It is why we must work to provide a warm and welcoming feeling to everyone we meet. We not only represent ourselves, but the places we work and the cities we live in. We should remember how we like to be treated and feel when we go somewhere. Let us provide that feeling to others. We need to work together to make sure the light of love and welcome shines bright for all we come in contact with.
On a personal note, I know Margie and I are going to miss seeing Curtis and Danie as we consider them good friends. We wish them and their family great health and fortune in their new adventure. Margie, my mom and I were lucky enough to spend some time with Curtis on his last day at Urban Joe’s. We will certainly continue to support this local business but we will always miss the presence of our goods friends. Those who have had the pleasure of knowing Curtis and Danie no doubt feel the same.
Most days after my day job at the Post Office I like to stop and unwind with a nice cup of coffee. It is rather convenient that about 2 blocks from the office I work at there is the Starbucks you see pictured above. The staff there are always pleasant and I have had many great conversations with several of them. Today’s post comes from a recent conversation with a barista named Deb. I mentioned the pleasant staff, Deb is certainly an example of that. Always greets everyone as they walk in and has a great memory for the names of several of the regulars.
On this particular day, Deb and I exchanged greetings. My answer to the question of “How are you doing?” that day was my usual “Living the dream!” (which if you are keeping score at home is the title for my soon to be released second book) Deb looked at me and exclaimed she was living the dream too, ‘one cup at a time’. I let that sink in. Considering we were in a coffee shop where she was serving customers, it was good to be living the dream one cup at a time. I let her know how much I enjoyed that response. Little did I know there was an even more amazing side to it. She used to work at a different Starbucks location (ironically one that was by an office I used to work at) While at that location she tried doing something a little extra. Do you remember when they used to write your name on the cups? Now it comes on a sticker, which I feel is not nearly as personal. This time as Deb was marking the cup she decided to add a little smiley face. Nothing too crazy, just a little gesture of happiness. The reaction from the customer told her that it was surely a gesture that was appreciated. “When I noticed how much that meant, I started doing it to more cups.” Deb explained to me. I thought about how I felt when I received a smiley face on a to go cup or even the bill at a restaurant. That simple gesture not only lifted my spirits, but made me feel more valued as a customer.
Does putting a smiley face on a coffee cup amount to changing the world? I began to do the math. If Deb did this to a mere 3 customers per shift and she worked 5 shifts a week, she would bring joy and a little bit of unexpected happiness to 15 people a week. If we were to multiply that times the 52 weeks in a year and throw in a few extra smiles during the holidays, we would be approaching 1000 people. How do you think the world would change with a 1000 people experiencing a little extra joy? What would the ripple effect be? Would they pass that smile on to someone else? Would they take it home to their family at the end of the day? if you work with the public, I know it can often be a trying affair. It is, however, a situation filled with opportunity! When I used to work the counter at the post office, I would often stamp a smiley face on the customer’s receipt. I was always amazed at how much that meant to my customers. It was my intent, much like Deb, to make sure they knew they were not just another customer, but a valued person and that their time and business was appreciated.
In today’s mask-filled pandemic world, a smile can be a rare and valuable treasure. If you can’t share one with your customers on your face, we must be creative and find other ways. They are always appreciated even more so now. A simple gesture of kindness can change someone’s day. You do that enough and you too can change the world.
As a youngster, I have memories of this place called Skelly’s in my hometown of West Allis, Wisconsin. It was a small breakfast place. When you walked in you were greeted with the smell of frying eggs and buttered toast. If you wanted something healthy, your only option was to go somewhere else. I love places like that. Warm, comforting with a little greasy breakfast. Something about a diner just takes you back in time.
When I was still quite young, Skelly’s closed for good. I don’t remember much about that except one day it was just gone. When you are young I suppose that is how things go. Things are here one day and gone the next. There was a similar place down the road a piece, called The Cup and Saucer. Same sort of food and also went out of business when I was young. It wasn’t until I grew up (physically) that I began to recall and long for a place like Skelly’s.
Then, at that same very location opened a wonderful new cafe – Urban Joe’s. I do not recall the first time that I visited this wonderful place, but I do know I have not stopped visiting since. Unlike Skelly’s there are plenty of healthy options. (One of my favorites is the Mediterranean egg white sandwich. They also serve Valentine Coffee, which happens to be my favorite local coffee to drink. (I even have a Valentine Coffee sticker on my laptop) The best part of Urban Joe’s Café is the service that you receive there. It comes courtesy of the husband and wife team of Curtis and Danie. Both treat you as if you were more family than customer. I always enjoy encounters with them both. Curtis and I can maintain what amounts to rather entertaining banter the whole time that I am there. Margie and I actually have plans to go there a week from today.
Sadly, for those of us here in West Allis, Curtis, Danie and their young son will be moving to Las Vegas in May. This will spell the end of the era of Urban Joe’s. I heard rumors it may become a taco restaurant. Perhaps it shall keep its name and format, but without these two behind the counter things will certainly not be the same.
Unlike when I was a young child, I can see and appreciate this ending coming. Although knowing ahead of time allows me time to soak in a few more wonderful meals, cups of great coffee and experiences at Urban Joe’s, it is also bittersweet. Knowing that time is limited can be a somewhat sorrowful feeling, but it also reminds us how everything in our life is transitory, if not fleeting. Whether that is a friendship, a relationship, a job, a vacation and even more to the point, our own lives, everything comes to an end. Let us not view this as a somber thought, but let us use it as motivation to live every day – no wait, every moment – to the fullest. Be present when we are enjoying all of the moments of our life. Urban Joe’s may never be the same. Curtis and Danie may certainly be leaving. That is just going to inspire me to enjoy every moment I have left in both that establishment and with these wonderful people Margie and I have been fortunate enough to befriend.
These days it would seem people are forever in the process of trying to get even with someone. Trying to get even with your parents for all the terrible things they did to you while you were growing up. Getting even with your children for all of the hell they put you through as they were growing up. Getting even with those in opposite political parties because their crookedness is different than your own. Getting even with those in a different spiritual belief system because centuries ago your ancestors did something terrible to their ancestors. Even as something as innocent as wanting to get even with the motorist in front of you who is having a hard time discovering which pedal is the gas and which is the break and you have to be at your Post Office job at 5am and it is already 4:45. I mean, I can only imagine that might happen.
Here is another angle, why not try to get even with those who helped us? How about those who treated us with kindness and compassion? This will accomplish two very important things. First, you will quickly find out it will be a full time job. How do you get even with your friend for recommending you for that job you wanted? Maybe suggest him to your attractive single friend? How about the server at the restaurant who went the extra mile to give you good service? Certainly, an increase in their gratuity would be appreciated or mentioning their great service to the manager.
The second thing you will come to notice is how many of these opportunities you have to get even. I know on some days it may seem that everyone is out to make sure your patience gets a good workout, but we may miss the opposite side of the coin. There are quite a few people who are showing us kindness, compassion and making our lives better overall. It may seem awkward and difficult at first. We do not get a lot of practice thinking of ways to ‘get even’ with those who are a positive force in our lives, much less putting it into practice. Keep practicing and it will become second nature.
There is an added bonus to all of this ‘getting even’. You will find that people will want to do more nice things for you and help you even more. When someone shows you appreciation for something what do you want to do? That’s right even more of that thing. You will also, by process of elimination, notice the negative things in your life a lot less. When you are busy finding ways to get even with someone who just held the door and let you go into the coffee shop ahead of them, you have less time to consider that person who does not understand the simple act of using a turn signal. You will begin to see random acts of kindness in all areas of your life. This will have you feeling better and wanting to get even with the world in a positive way.
Last post I wrote about a local amazing store called oniomania that I had recently visited. While writing about that specific store and all the wonderful gifts they have, I got a great idea. One of the best gifts you can give is the gift of experience!
How do you give the gift of experience? Think of places you have just fallen in love with. In our city of West Allis, there are many local businesses that fit that description. With all of the hard times businesses are facing, why not give the gift of an experience at a local business?
There are so many ways to celebrate with friends while supporting local businesses. Margie and I love stopping at Westallion, the local brewery, to enjoy some very festive and unique brews. We often visit there with friends and family. West Allis Cheese and Sausage is a great place to not only take friends for breakfast or lunch, but has a great little store filled with delicious gifts to feed the stomach and the soul. For our more active friends we have Transaction Skate Shop, filled with everything you could need for skating.
If you can’t support a local business in person during the busy holiday season, why not purchase gift cards to give to others? You will be both giving the gift of a great experience to someone you care about, but giving the gift of a great holiday to local business owners and your neighbors they employ. The possibilities are endless! We have great places to eat such as Urban Joe Cafe and Peanut Butter and Jelly Deli, plus places to work it off like Peak Physique. Giving the gift of a great meal or cup of coffee? How about the gift of health and fitness? All well helping the business owners, their employees and all of their families enjoy the holidays more? It is a win for everyone!
For years I have been telling you how important focus is for impacting your life. (with language and physical movement being the other two) With today’s technology, we can find any information we are looking for. This not only comes in handy for those arguing far-fetched political ideas, but any other subject as well. The dangerous part of this is that if our primary focus is how terrible the world is, with just a click of a mouse we can find information to support that theory. It is actually even easier than that. With online news delivered right to your phone, many people wake up, roll over and read about violence, environmental disasters and other such unpleasant topics.
Here is a statement that, if we remember it, will make our world, and those in it, a lot easier to understand and deal with. If we fully understand this statement, we can have compassion for those who are different than us. The statement is this – our truth is not the truth. What does that even mean and how can understanding it have a great impact on our life? Let us start with the first part of that question, what does that mean. You would think facts are facts. Once we read them that has to be the truth right? Not so. Let me give you a quick example from a book I was reading and you will be able to better grasp what we are working on here.
Let us suppose you have been applying for months to get your dream job. Today is the day! You have an interview this afternoon. You drive a good 30 minutes to the location. You are running a little early so you decide to stop and get a cup of coffee. You are so nervous you can hardly contain yourself. You order your cup of coffee and and wait. A few seconds later you are handed a steaming cup of delicious coffee. Within seconds a young man bumps your arm and spills the coffee all over you. It is on your white shirt, down the front of your pants and scalding your leg. “Watch where you’re walking!” you yell. “So sorry.” is all the young man can say before quickly walking off. It is too late. The damage is done. Your choices now are showing up for perhaps is the most important interview for your life with coffee stains all over your clothes or trying to reschedule and interview at the last minute and hope they will oblige you. All the fault of some young kid that was not paying attention, right?
Not so fast. Let us look at this from a different angle. Instead let us be someone watching this happen while drinking our hot tea and writing a blog that will go on to positively affect the lives of thousands. We notice a man come in the coffee shop. We notice him because we saw him walk past the door, realize it and have to turn around and come back in. Once in line he seems nervously agitated. He is fidgeting as we waits his turn, clearing mentally preoccupied with something else. He orders his coffee and as he offers to pay drops his credit card. “Damn it!” he yells. Rather upset with something that doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. As he waits for his coffee his eyes seem to have a glossed over look as if his body was there, but his mind was somewhere else. Finally, he is handed his coffee and quickly turns and runs into a young man who was walking by, spilling his coffee all over himself and the floor. “Watch where you’re walking!” you hear him yell.
In the first example, when we were the young man on the way to the important interview, the fault seem to be entirely with the young man. When we were the person watching the situation unfold from in front of our laptop, the fault seem to be a little on both individuals. Which is the truth in the drama at Starbucks? The answer is both…or neither. There is an entirely different viewpoint that could be explored if we were the young man who did the spilling, or the worker behind the counter or any of the other people in that coffee shop at that moment. Imagine magnifying that by thousands, or millions of lives looking at a global issue and see how many versions of the truth their can be. All of them equally as valid as our own.
Whether you decide to Google “Why the work sucks” or “Why the world is amazing” you will find answers to both. So, does the world suck or is it amazing? It depends a great deal on what our focus is on. Remember, our truth is determined a great deal on our life experiences, our beliefs and opinions applied to certain situations. Others have different life situations, beliefs and opinions and can view the same exact situation in an entirely different light. Both are true. Knowing this we cannot only understand that our truth is not the only truth. Keeping that in mind we can hopefully develop and appreciate the fact that others have lived a different life that has been shaped by different experiences. To them their truth, although different, is just as real.
The above quote was one of many to be found on the table of a new coffee shop I visited. This coffee shop is called Inspired. If you read the last post Margie had taken me on a little getaway for my birthday. We went to the town of Lake Geneva here in Wisconsin. As we were doing a little shopping we happened past this coffee shop where there was a young lady offering us samples of some tasty drinks they had. This may not seem to out of the ordinary. What made this a little different was the young lady offering us the samples.
This young lady was everything you would want in a worker offering samples. She was friendly. She was knowledgeable about the products she was selling. What made this young lady special was she also had down syndrome.I recall reading about this coffee shop some time ago but the memories were a bit hazy. It was a hot day and we were in need of a beverage so we stopped in. As Margie found us a seat I went to order an iced chai tea. When I came to the counter I was greeted by a very friendly face that inquired as to what I would like to drink. I passed along my order and informed them that was my first time to there establishment and could they fill me in as to what they were all about.
What was said next is what made me fall in love with this place. It turns out that this was not only an amazing coffee shop with fun quirky signs on the tables that made possibly the best iced chai that I had the pleasure of enjoying, but something far bigger! Their mission as you can see in the picture above was to “help adults with disabilities to live with a greater purpose and achieve their individual best in a thriving work environment.” As I was told, the individuals working there are being trained in customer service and baristas to help them have a more potentially rewarding opportunity down the road.
I am a big fan of helping out where you can and making life better for those we share the planet with. I applaud the owners of Inspired Coffee for having a dream that was bigger than just themselves. I have previously written about the Guardians of Children, a motorcycle club that raising money for the victims of child abuse and their families through rides, soup tastings, raffles and other such activities. Inspired Coffee is yet another group of angels as far as I am concerned. They have taken the experience of going out for a cup of coffee and turned it into an opportunity to help adults with developmental and physical disabilities a place where they will not only be job trained, coached and over time, placed into a fully integrated work setting, but equally as important, it is a place they are celebrated. You can see the pride the employees have in doing the jobs they are doing.
This coffee shop was not only clean and extremely well run, but had the most smiles on employees faces I have seen in any coffee shop I have ever been in. As I mentioned earlier in this post, they created the best iced chai that I ever had. It is my opinion the beverages at Inspired Coffee taste so amazing because of a combination of two very important facts. First, the pride and love their great employees put into making every order. Second, the knowledge that with each cup you buy, you are helping the lives of an adult with disabilities. The next time I find myself in the town of Lake Geneva, I will definitely make Inspired Coffee one of my required stops.
I know many of you may not live in close enough proximity to this wonderful place to enjoy a beverage there. I also know many of my readers would really enjoy knowing more about this wonderful place and how they can do their part to support not only the business, but more importantly, the lives of those who are employed there. With that in mind, I have included a link to their Facebook page at the end of this blog. It would do your heart could to click through and read some of the great stories. Maybe even order a bag of coffee or other products to be shipped to you. I bought an Inspired bracelet to remind me of this great place and the importance of helping and inspiring others.
In today’s world it would seem everywhere we look there is something ugly to behold. There is, of course, this terrible world-wide pandemic. There are politicians busy accusing each other of the worst crimes instead of actually trying to solve some. There are even some murder hornets flying around somewhere. With everyone wearing masks, it is hard to even catch a smile when you could really need one.
While all of this is true, there is something else we really should be focusing our energy to look for – beauty. It may seem hard to focus on beauty when there are a million chicken littles screaming at you from the television, online and a million other sources. It serves us well to remember an axiom we often repeat on this website. What is wrong is always available, but so is what is right. It may be more of a challenge, but there is a lot of beauty to be found. The picture above was the sky I saw on the way to write this very blog. I found it striking and wanted to share it with all of you.
The beautiful smile of a loved one. This is my lovely Margie. Her smile melts my heart and is one of the most beautiful things I am blessed to see in the world. Being stuck in quarantine will allow you to learn a lot more about those you share your home with. Put that knowledge to good use by using it to place more smiles on their faces! Be it a roommate, a brother, a sister or the love of your life. When they do smile at you, make sure to appreciate the beauty of it.
Speaking of friends, friendship is a great thing of beauty itself. Above is a picture of my good friend Russ and myself in the mountains of Sedona, Arizona. We had a great hike and a great time overall. I am not sure when the next time we will be able to get together again. Rather than focus on that, I am going to focus on all the good memories of that trip and be grateful I can still pick up the telephone or send him a text.
What about all of those challenges? Even in those there are beauty. As you can see I have had a hard time finding an open coffee shop in which to write. As I was speaking to my friend Pat today, we both commented on how the people that work in some of the most difficult situations are still quite friendly. I believe I have mentioned it in a previous post, but the workers at Starbucks have to wear masks for their entire shift. They are behind the counter with steam and heat. They are running around and serving people, a lot of whom are very stressed themselves, yet most of the ones I have dealt with have been very pleasant.
My point is this – that in a world that seems to be ugly and dark, there is plenty of love and light you just have to look for it. I would love to hear about some of the beautiful things you see in the comments below.
Some people may incorrectly assume that because I have been in the self-improvement field for over two decades and have written over 1300 blog posts and 2 books on the subject that I have it all together. Nothing could be further from the truth. I occasionally lose control of my emotions, I do not always remember to keep my focus on what I have to be grateful for. In short, I am a flawed and imperfect human just like everyone else. I am a perpetual student of the game. Always striving to learn something new from someone new. Quite often I find that hearing the same information presented in a slightly different way can make all the difference. That is why there is so much room for different people in this field.
All of the learning takes up a good deal of time. I listen to different meditations as I am falling asleep. I listen to motivational speakers at my day job and as I do chores around the house. I am always learning something new. Even if I listen to an hour talk and gain one line of information it is worth it. I do my best to record what I learn to share both on this blog and in the books I write. Even when I am watching a movie my brain is on the lookout for some insightful piece of information I can share with all of my followers. This can, on occasion, drive Margie a little crazy.
I spend mornings at the gym 6 days a week. Then I am off to my day job. After which I eat dinner and run off to a local coffee shop to write these posts and to work on my next book. Combine that with being a DJ every Saturday and Sunday and you can see that free time is at a premium. Throw in a couple of articles for different publications, appearances on podcasts and some social engagements and sleep becomes a luxury I seldom acquaint myself with. Every spare minute is consumed with my passion of gaining and sharing knowledge. You will find me in front of a coffee cup and behind a computer. This is the situation as I am typing this. As you can see in the picture below.
This Sunday, however, I was reminded of something I had completely forgotten. Sometimes you need a little bit of nothing. We had to DJ that evening and Margie was finishing up another marvelous cake creation. The weather was wonderful outside. The sun was warm and there was a gentle summer breeze. I wanted to be outside, but didn’t feel like working. The novel idea that some people just sit and relax came to mind. I grabbed a book I had been reading for about the third time. This may seem like working on gaining information, but reading is my guilty pleasure.
I informed the love of my life that I needed to just get away and relax. I was glad to find her not only understanding, but encouraging. My first attempt failed when the location I went to was closed. Lucky for me there was another coffee shop down the road with a west-facing balcony. I ordered my iced coffee inside, said hello to our friend Scott who happened to be there and took my leave to the patio. I sat for a few moments before opening the book. I listened to the birds singing and felt the nice breeze. As I opened my book and began to read I felt completely consumed. The outside world seemed to disappear and the author’s words came to life. At the end of each chapter I again returned to the world of the coffee shop patio. The birds were there to greet me. (As were the people in the drive-thru)
Here is what is worth noting. When I returned home from this hour-long moment of relaxation, I felt like I had slept for several hours. My body was refreshed. In addition, so was my mind. Ideas seemed to come to me faster than I could record them. Ideas for my next two books began to take shape. Then it occurred to me. While writing my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People, I had done this quite often. That is where a lot of the ideas for the book came. I knew and taught the importance of self-care, I just had forgot to take some for myself. I have decided there will be at the very least once a week where I will leave the computer at home and take a good book, or maybe just a journal with me. I will relax in a coffee shop or at a local park. Taking in the beauty of nature and allowing inspiration to come to me. It is a practice I recommend all of us do.