I just finished reading Starbucked by Taylor Clark. In his book, he describes the rise of the Starbucks corporation. One of the lamented points is how as the company grew from a handful of stores in Seattle to the tens of thousands of locations it currently has and growing more each day, is the loss of quality in the drinks themselves. When it started, baristas were proud craftsmen and craftswomen who artfully constructed the perfect cappuccino. While the company is great in the sense that as a business in a capitalist society, it makes a LOT of money from a handful of beans, some milk and a white cup with a mermaid on it. It has lost that sense of awe about the perfection of coffee it offered to its early customers.

So you want to start a “mom & pop” coffee shop? Here is some good news. Starbucks has paved the way for you. I don’t mean that  you should model your store after them…don’t do it!! Be YOU! They have brought coffee to the masses. People now know what a Latte, a Cappuccino etc are. So they have done some of your marketing for you. Now the world is looking for a real barista who can make a decent cup of coffee. Rent a location right next to a Starbucks if you can. Then be better than they are at the things that count. YOU can have better coffee. YOU can have better pastries. (Bake them yourself or contract with a local baker…just don’t be like the big company and ship them in frozen.)Make your location inviting to sit and stay awhile instead of moving people through the line as fast as possible.

YOU can change much more quickly as your customers needs/wants change. (Let’s face it, no one actually needs a tall, double shot, caramel macchiato.) If you find that your niche customer really prefers Jazz music over the top 40 stuff, then buy a few Jazz CD’s or put your Pandora/Spotify station on Jazz. YOU don’t need corporate approval. YOU can add chairs or a sofa. YOU can delete or add a drink if you want to. Most importantly be YOU!

 

 

Today has been an interesting one. I have had quite a few conversations about the future of higher education. Some with former students, some with friends, and  some with current and past university administrators. One thing seems to stick out with each of these groups. That is that we cannot continue the status quo and survive.

 

The end of the year is full of predictions of the future, putting away of regrets of the past and January 1st brings hope for something better in 2016. The truth is though that each day rolls into the next at 11:59 each night when that clock flips one more minute. Each day we make choices that help determine what our tomorrows will look like. Today, you can make choices. Will you read a book that will inspire you? Will you watch daytime TV while more firmly imprinting your butt print into the couch? Will you write a blog post or let another day go by with “dead air” of sorts on your blog? (Preaching to myself there.) Will you sign up for that college class? Will you start learning a new language? Will you cook at home instead of going out and thereby save some money toward that vacation you want to take this summer? Will you surprise your spouse with roses? The choices are endless but each one has meaning. What will you choose to do today? Will it make your tomorrow better or worse?

 

Life is crazy right now. Crazy isn’t an all bad thing though. Sometimes having too many irons in the fire can be stressful, but at the same time it means that things will get done. What are you working on in your life that will bring you closer to your goals for the future?

 

Your core beliefs affect how you interact on a daily basis. They will be fundamental influences in the way you do business. This is one of the reasons why it is so crucial to really understand what you believe. Our beliefs don’t always fit into nice, clean, neat check boxes.

Pro-Life/Pro-Choice

Christian/Muslim/Jew/Atheist

Republican/Democrat/Libertarian

Gay/Straight

Black/White/Latino/Asian

We want people to fit nicely into categories, but they often don’t. Each person is a unique individual with a unique set of beliefs and circumstances. Our first goal should be to understand our own beliefs, then we can begin to try to understand those of the people we deal with each day.

Understanding of our belief system helps us unearth what makes us tick. It helps us see why some things upset us that maybe don’t seem to upset most of society or conversely, we see no problem with things that society in general seems to be against. While understanding out belief doesn’t change that, it does give us a beginning framework or lens through which we can view the world a little more objectively.

Example: I come from a belief and culture based on Judeo/Christian values. My belief is that the Holy Bible is scripture given to us from God. I believe that Jesus was a real person who came to earth to become a sacrifice for sin. Through belief in Him, we have life with Him in heaven for eternity. You might wonder how that affects my daily life? When I see antisemitism it makes me angry. Now, let us give a hypothetical. Say I had been born into a Muslim community. I had been taught that the Jews are the root of all evil and should be driven from the earth. I believed that the Jewish state of Israel should be pushed into the sea. Then, would I still be upset when I hear an antisemitic account? No, I would likely cheer for the one who carried out said act. As it is, coming from my biblical belief system, I find any act of violence against an innocent party to be abhorrent. (Which brings a whole other argument to the table. What is innocent?)

Know what you believe and why so that you can answer those who might question your motives. Even if you disagree, they will likely respect your stand if you can articulate it well. (That doesn’t mean shouting them down.)

 
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