I understand that most folks drink gallons of it and that companies like Starbucks are proof positive that the world takes to it readily. Almost all my friends and family use it to jump start their day and to keep the mojo flowing. Indeed, people have been swilling coffee for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.
For all my life, I have been an exception to this general, universal truth.
That was true at least until I got married and my wife and I went crazy.
We had just moved into our second apartment and we decided that we wanted people to come over and visit us. As we thought and talked about why they weren’t coming over, it dawned on us that all our family and friends drank coffee and we didn’t! That must be why they never came over!
In fact, we didn’t have instant coffee let alone a coffee maker. Thinking back to our wedding, we realized that we didn’t even register for a coffee maker. It just didn’t occur to us.
Well there we were, married all of six months, wanting company and no coffee! Something had to change!
We sprang into action.
A couple of hours later, we sat facing each other over mugs of freshly brewed java.
We began to sip. It was acrid, scalding, and nasty. We began to swirl it around in the mug thinking maybe that would help. We sipped again...no luck, it tasted the same. So we swirled it around a bit longer as if more swirling would translate to better taste.
We sipped again…no change.
We looked down at the swirling, steaming coffee, then back up at each other.
“We’re never going to like this, are we?” she said.
“No,” I said, taking the mug from her.
With that, two mugs of barely touched coffee were poured down the drain. Some time later, my parent’s coffee maker broke and ours had a new home.
We haven’t had coffee in our house since, and, once we decided to invite folks over, some actually came…and it was fun having them!
Turns out, folks come to see you, not drink your coffee. At least the folks you want around you do.
True story! My wife and I wasted half a day trying to force ourselves to like something we didn’t to get folks to like us enough to share our company, when all we had to do was to ask them over.
Sounds crazy and seems needy, but before moving too far into the “I never do that,” space, really check yourself.
How many of us clean a clean house before the mother in law comes to visit? How many hold our tongue in an important meeting because we don’t want to appear stupid or “not a team player.” How many sit on a strong, viable recommendation because someone powerful might not like it…or me, or I might actually have to do it and what if it fails?
We use more time, energy, money, emotion, and self-esteem trying to twist ourselves into something acceptable to someone else than we do determining our own principles, our own purpose and having our actions generate from them.
What’s gained by twisting ourselves into some unrecognizable pretzel of a person for another’s approval? For me, it was for a short term, transactional gain. What’s funny and tragic at the same time is, when the transaction’s over, I have to live with me.
Finally, years after the coffee experiment and other lessons from the school of hard knocks, I have internalized that it’s just easier, happier, and more real to accept others without expectation, to surround myself with people who honor me in the same way and who love and respect me enough to challenge me to release my fear, to realize I’m enough, and to embrace who I am as man, husband, father, son, friend, and leader.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?” – Marianne Williamson
The cool thing is that this power is the spark of life in everyone. Showing it to the world with love and compassion doesn’t diminish anyone but expands everyone’s capacity for productive work, for peace, for joy.
What’s the “coffee” in your life and in your work? What's keeping you from authentically connecting at work and at home?