Friday, December 12, 2014

four cups of coffee

People often refer to the Starbucks down the street from our campus as my "second office." I can be seen there once or twice a week meeting people for coffee and having a lively conversation.  I mentioned to someone the other day that I could write my personal history over the past six years from the conversations that have happened there.  Those "cups of coffee," whether they happened at Starbucks or other places (and may not have even included coffee), have made me the person I am today.  I had four different "cups of coffee" yesterday that I believe are important for people to have on a regular basis...

  • Cup of Coffee #1 - someone outside your comfort zone: this is a person who comes from a different background, different culture, different ethnicity, or anything "different" which makes you a but uneasy.  When I encounter these situations, I sometimes even find it difficult to ask questions because I am unsure of the norms in the other person's life.  These are conversations which you enter into with courage, humility, and the deep sense that you are about to learn something both about the other person and yourself.
  • Cup of Coffee #2 - someone who can mentor you: this person is often much smarter than you, has a higher level of experience than you, and has been where you want to be.  I am not referring to a formal mentor here; rather this is someone you encounter by chance and have the opportunity to have a dialogue, or someone you invite for that cup of coffee and come with a host of questions.  These are conversations which you enter into with a multitude of questions and ready to listen intently, knowing you may never get this opportunity again.
  • Cup of Coffee #3 - someone you can mentor: again, I am not necessarily talking about a formal mentoring relationship; rather, this is someone with whom you get to share knowledge, help them clarify their thinking, discuss accountability issues, or get to think out loud together.  What I love most about these "cups of coffee" is the ability for me to clarify my own thinking about certain subjects,  These are conversations which you enter into with the intent of being 100% present for the other person and creating an atmosphere of trust and respect.
  • Cup of Coffee#4 - someone in your inner ring: this is a "safe" person who allows you to be yourself and with whom you can share your deepest struggles and joys.  I have found these conversations occur most often at the end of the day and are often around a beverage other than coffee.  This is where you get to ask the really hard questions, where you might get some really tough feedback, and where it is okay to let your guard down.  These are conversations which you enter into with complete candor and openness (often referred to as "vault" conversations).
As I look back at the past several weeks, there are many times I get to have all four cups of coffee in a single day...and there are times where they are spread out over a week's worth of conversations.  What I do know is that they do not happen without some planning...and without my invitation.  How many cups of coffee will you have today?

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