Tag Archives: Starbucks

If You Want Something, You’ve Got to Reach Out and Take It

Several months ago when I was still a student at George Mason, I was sitting in one of the coffeehouses on campus. Well, actually, it was the Starbucks. I differentiate Starbucks from coffeehouses because I know that some folks don’t necessarily see Starbucks as a coffeehouse anymore. Nonetheless, I was sitting in Starbucks, probably writing a post. In fact, I think it may have even been a Monday and I was working on a post for the list of biases in judgment and decision-making. Anyway, not entirely relevant.

As I was sitting there, I noticed a stranger ask a table of two if he could use one of their computers to charge his phone (they didn’t have their computers out). Invariably, I knew he was going to make his way to me and ask if he could use my laptop to charge his phone (he happened to have his USB charger, but not a charger that plugged into the wall). When both of the girls declined and he turned to me to ask if I’d be okay with it, thoughts of espionage raced through my mind. I think this was about the time that I had just spend a weekend watching a number of episodes from Alias, so “spy-stuff” was on my mind. Eventually, I caved and let him use my laptop to charge his phone.

As his phone was charging and he was waiting for his ride to arrive, we chatted briefly. I don’t remember how we got onto the subject of politics, but we did. He told me that he’d written a couple of books of poetry and sent them to the White House — to President Barack Obama. He also had written one to former President Clinton. I was quite shocked that he had been so bold as to send books of poetry to the 44th and the 42nd presidents of the United States. In fact, he even gave me a signed copy of the one he sent to Pres. Obama. More than that, he received responses from both of the presidents. In an updated edition of the book he sent to Pres. Obama, he had a picture of the letter he received from Pres. Obama.

Shortly after this, our conversation ended as his ride arrived. When he left, I got to thinking about the gusto it might have taken to drum up the courage to write a book of poetry and send it off to the President of the United States. Many of us may balk in anxiety at the kind of response we might get (if we even get a response!). Paralyzed by fear, we fail to reach for our dreams. If you want something, you’ve got to reach out and take it. This is exactly what this gentleman was doing. He wanted to write something for the President and he did — and he sent it to him!

I bet there’s something in your life that you’ve been putting on hold. Something that you’ve thought, ‘Oh well, I’ll do that later,’ or ‘I’ll wait to do that until I’m ready.’ I contend that TODAY is that day. Today, you are ready to do the thing you’ve been waiting to do. Don’t wait for your future. Reach out and seize it – today!

The Habits of Societies: The Power of Habit, Part 3b

In Part 1a, we had an introduction Duhigg’s book on habits. In Part 1b, we looked at some of the highlights and the key points from the first section (on individuals) of the book. In Part 2, we looked some of the stories that Duhigg shared in the second section about Michael PhelpsAlcoaStarbucks, and the Rhode Island Hospital.  In yesterday’s post, we began our examination of the last section on societies by looking at Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rick Warren. In today’s post, we’ll look at the last chapter of the last section.

The last chapter juxtaposes the stories of Angie Bachmann and Brian Thomas. Bachmann’s story leads us on a journey of the development of a compulsive gambler and all the happenings that follow. Thomas’ story is the accidental murder of his wife. It seems strange that an adjective like accidental would precede a word like murder, but in this case, it seems to fit.

Duhigg uses these two stories to espouse the view that under different circumstances, we should be responsible for the consequences of our habits. To be honest, I didn’t see the oft-used conservative viewpoint that folks need to take ‘personal responsibility‘ coming. Nonetheless, Duhigg makes a pretty good case for it. In the case of Thomas’, there wasn’t much that he could have done to prevent the accidental murder. He “wasn’t himself” when it happened. Of course, Bachmann “wasn’t herself” when she was gambling, but the argument then becomes that Bachmann knew that she had a problem and knew that there were things she could do to prevent herself from destroying her life.

At first, I struggled with this viewpoint. I strongly believe that the environment plays a big part in the way we behave as people in society. Of course, Duhigg does acknowledge this. I’m just saying that I think, even today, we might be underestimating the importance that the environment plays on our ability to make decisions for ourselves.

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After sitting back and reflecting on the last section of this chapter, I’m more ambiguous about what I think. When I read it, I remember thinking that Duhigg made a really convincing case that we need to take personal responsibility for our habits. But in reflecting on some of the other contrary evidence, I don’t know that everyone has the strength/willpower to simply change their habit when their environment continues to support their old habits. For instance, I’m thinking about someone who’s gotten mixed up in recreational drugs. If someone’s trying to change their life such that they no longer use recreational drugs, it’s going to be important that their environment change along with them. Meaning, if they stop using drugs, but they’re still hanging out will all of the same friends (who use drugs) and go to places where drugs are used, it’s going to be very difficult to maintain one’s goal of staying clean. There’s also the neuropsychological component where the chemicals in the drug cause certain reactions in the brain making it that much more difficult to give up.

Like I said, I’m ambiguous as to what exactly I think on this topic, but if you’re interested, I highly recommend reading the last chapter of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Duhigg makes an excellent case for personal responsibility.

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

The Habits of Societies: The Power of Habit, Part 3a

In Part 1a, we had an introduction Duhigg’s book on habits. In Part 1b, we looked at some of the highlights and the key points from the first section (on individuals) of the book. In yesterday’s post, we looked some of the stories that Duhigg shared in the second section about Michael Phelps, Alcoa, Starbucks, and the Rhode Island Hospital.  In today’s post, we’ll look at the last section of the book on societies.

Because of my sense that I’m meant to be a leader of a very large organization, I was particularly excited to get to the section on societies. It certainly did not disappoint. There were only two chapters in this section. The first chapter talked about movements: the civil rights movement in the 1960s and Rick Warren. With regard to the civil rights movement, Duhigg tells the story of how we came to know Rosa Parks. I was shocked to learn that Parks wasn’t the only (nor was she the first!) black person to take a stand (metaphorically) against the injustice in the South. In fact, there had been others like her who tried to remain in their seats on the bus, but no movements formed after their decision to remain steadfast.

Part of the reason that Parks created such a stir was because of how connected she was to her community. When people learned that Parks had been arrested, people wanted to help. Simply wanting to help wasn’t enough. As we learn, all of this willingness to help had to be funneled into a new activity: civil disobedience. There’s a particular powerful passage that I want to share. In my reading of the passage, it makes me think that this was one of the important turning points of civil rights movement:

As the bus boycott expanded from a few days into a week, and then a month, and then two months, the commitment of the Montgomery’s black community began to wane.

The police commissioner, citing an ordinance that required taxicabs to charge a minimum fare, threatened to arrest cabbies who drove blacks to work at a discount. The boycott’s leaders responded by signing up two hundred volunteers to participate in a carpool. Police started issuing tickets and harassing people at carpool meeting spots. Drivers began dropping out. “It became more and more difficult to catch a ride,” King later wrote. “Complaints began to rise. From early morning to late at night my telephone rang and my doorbell was seldom silent. I began to have doubts about the ability of the Negro community to continue the struggle.”

One night, while King was preaching at his church, an usher ran up with an urgent message. A bomb had exploded at King’s house while his wife and infant daughter were inside. King rushed home and was greeted by a crowd of several hundred blacks as well as the mayor and the chief of police. His family had not been injured, but the front windows of his home were shattered and there was a crater in his porch. If anyone had been in the front rooms of the house when the bomb went off, they could have been killed.

As King surveyed the damage, more and more blacks arrived. Policemen started telling the crowds to disperse. Someone shoved a cop. A bottle flew through the air. One of the policemen swung a baton. The police chief, who months earlier had publicly declared his support for the racist White Citizen’s Council, pulled King aside and asked him to do something — anything — to stop a riot from breaking out.

King walked to his porch.

“Don’t do anything panicky,” he shouted to the crowd. “Don’t get your weapons. He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword.”

The crowd grew still.

“We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us,” King said. “We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.'”

“We must meet hate with love,” King [said].

Powerful.

The parts about Rick Warren were equally powerful, but when contrasted with the life/death matters of the civil rights movement, it’s hard to see it in the same light.

Because I’ve shared an excerpt from this book about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, I thought it best to talk about the last chapter of the section in a different post. Look for it tomorrow.

The Habits of Successful Organizations: The Power of Habit, Part 2

In Part 1a, we had an introduction Duhigg’s book on habits. In yesterday’s post, we looked at some of the highlights and the key points from the first section (on individuals) of the book. In today’s post, we’ll look at the second section of the book and pull out some of the key highlights on successful organizations.

Upon reading the first chapter of this section, I was a bit surprised that there was a story about Michael Phelps. Although, in the context of the information on keystone habits, it makes sense. In fact, like with Tony Dungy in yesterday’s post, I was surprised that I’d never heard about Michael Phelps winning a gold medal in the 200m butterfly in the 2008 Olympics without the use of his vision. Duhigg’s retelling of the story is actually quite compelling and helps to illustrate the point of “small wins.”

There’s also a great story of Paul O’Neill a former Secretary of the Treasury who was also the Chairman amd CEO of Alcoa, one of the largest aluminum producers on the planet. When O’Neill took over as the CEO of Alcoa, it was worth $3 billion. When he left, it was worth almost ten times as much ($27.53 billion). Many folks would be interested to know how he did it. The short answer: safety. O’Neill used this focus on safety to change the culture of the organization (and the by extension, the habits!), which allowed profits to soar.

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If you’ve ever worked at Starbucks, you know some of the secret ingredients: service with a smile and the LATTE method of handling unpleasant situations. Duhigg explains how becoming a Starbucks employee changed someone’s life by giving them the life skills they hadn’t learned elsewhere. This made me think: why don’t we teach students these kinds of skills in school? This kind of emotional intelligence is just as important as learning about history and science. Some may even argue that it’s more important.

There were three other really compelling stories in this section: there was one about the King’s Cross fire in London Underground over 25 years ago, there was one about issues between nurses and doctors in the Rhode Island Hospital, and the last was about how Target is able to know when someone’s pregnant before they are. You probably read about the Target story last year and if you’re old enough, you probably remember the King’s Cross fire and some of the aftermath that ensued. Reading about the King’s Cross fire was particularly compelling for me because of what I perceived as common rifts that are seen in organizations all the time. The problem with the rifts of the workers at King’s Cross was that it cost people their lives. The story of the Rhode Island Hospital had a similar vein in that it *potentially* cost someone their life because of the rift between the nurses and the doctors.

Some of these stories of tragedy reminded me of the idea I had about treating one’s workforce not as liabilities, but as assets. I wrote about this a couple of days ago with some help from Henry Blodget.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at the habits of societies.

Sometimes, You Really Never Know What the Day Will Bring

Tonight was a bit unexpected. One event (the apartment across the hall having its floors finished) led to a series of events that caused me to end up at a place I probably wouldn’t have foreseen going to, at the start of the day. Since the smell in my apartment was unbearable, after class, I ended up on a roundabout walk looking for a place to eat.

My original plan was just to grab something quick nearby and then head to the Starbucks to catch up on things. Well, that didn’t happen. After walking for about 2 miles, I ate dinner at a local Chili’s, but not before finding a rather artsy place. From the outside, the artsy place looked like it was more a café than it was a place to eat, so that’s why I walked to the Chili’s.

After scarfing down some Shrimp tacos, I headed back to the artsy place, where it also happened to be Open Mic night! (So much for catching up on things, right?) I had a fantastic time. Sure, my plan was to catch up on things, but sometimes, you have to roll with things and let life take you where you’ve got to be. Not only did I have a great time, I’ve found a local artsy place that I can walk to whenever I’m in the mood for that kind of vibe.

Two more things I want to say:

1. The place I went to Epicure Cafe. Fantastic place. I highly recommend it. It’s not the kind of place you’d expect to find in a strip mall, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised. They are highly rated on Yelp! and were feature in Northern Virginia Magazine!

2. I had never seen someone “be” a one-man band. It was captivating and I have a lot of respect for someone who can keep track of all the different things you’d have to keep track of in order to play a one-man band — and play it well! If you’ve never seen a one-man band, here’s a great example:

 

Could This Have Happened in Any Other Country: Only In America

A few years ago in a coffee shop “,” there was a man who was so desperate, we’ll call him , that he decided he was going to steal the money out of the tip jar, (which contained less than $5.00 — thus, Desperado). Another man, we’ll call him , saw what Desperado was trying to do and chased after him. Hero and Desperado struggled outside until Desperado was able to break free. Desperado raced to his car and tried to make a quick getaway. In doing so, he ‘accidentally’ backed over Hero. Hero was rushed to the hospital, but succumbed to his head injuries and passed away.

Now, given that this happened in “far, far away,” Hero’s estate decided it would be most appropriate to file a lawsuit claiming that the coffee shop was at fault! Only in “far, far away,” would Hero’s family sue the coffee shop (because they’re actually part of a larger corporation with oodles of money) and not Desperado. It is clear that “far, far away’s” legal system needs some adjusting.

While I have introduced this as a fictitious scenario that took place in a fictitious land, — in the USA — recently! In 2008, a Desperado-character really did try to steal money from the tip jar and a Hero-character really did try to stop him. The Desperado-character really did “accidentally” run over the Hero-character who later succumbed to the head trauma. And, the Hero-character’s family really is suing the coffee shop (Starbucks), and !

I think that there are a number of noteworthy things here and I’ll try to summarize them briefly.

  1. How can you accidentally run someone over? I don’t mean to be funny, but if you’re engaged in criminal activity, isn’t your intent somewhat, say, criminal, so in trying to get away from the scene of the crime, wouldn’t that just be lumped in with the criminality of it all? I can understand the semantics in that the Desperado-character was maybe backing his car out of a parking space and the Hero-character just happened to be on the ground behind his car, but still — it seems a bit strange that in every article I’ve read about this, it’s bluntly stated that the running over of the Hero-character was accidental.
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  2. I’m not going to talk about the absurdity that some lawyer actually thinks that they can make a case against Starbucks in this scenario (they’re really just doing their job, right?), but more importantly, I think it’s absurd that the legal system is set-up such that this is even a possible outcome! I’ve heard of a number of , but this one seems to go beyond the bounds of frivolousness. Why? Because they’re not even suing the human directly responsible for the death! It’s clear that the prime directive is to gain retribution (in the form of money, of course), for the death of the Hero-character.
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  3. Is our society in that much trouble, really? I realize that this happened in 2008 and some may attribute this happening to the , but this scenario played out in March of 2008. At that point, and statistically, was similar to where it had been for the last few months. The tip jar apparently had less than $5. I suppose stealing from a tip jar at Starbucks is infinitely easier than , (unless you’re interested in stealing the pen attached to the counter?), but is that really what we’re coming to as a society?