Monday, December 17, 2012

Inspiration Outside The Coffee Box

I just read a few blogs and they inspired me to write about something that I have been thinking about and working on this past year.  The blogs were by Nick Cho & James Hoffmann.  Nick's blog is here & James's is here.  I have not really paid much attention to "coffee blogs" lately, but a Twitter alert led me to them.  I was intrigued by Nick's thoughts as they explore a very different path than one that most specialty coffee professionals have been on the past several years.  Regardless of agreeing or disagreeing, these are the types of thoughts that might be considered out of the coffee box.  Then I read James's blog which also has some very good points.  And I might add that they are always so eloquently presented.  I am so jealous of people who are able to write so well.  Like a pro golfer who makes a 300 yard drive look effortless.  He talks about the World Coffee Research project, which is once again, an idea that is outside that coffee box.

This past year I have found myself a little uninspired by the specialty coffee industry.  Now don't get me wrong.  I still love what I do and enjoy spending time with my friends and colleagues in the specialty coffee industry, but I feel like the industry has been in sort of a rut.  The most revolutionary developments have been pour overs and multi-roaster shops? Saturday, I had some coffee with my buddy Tyler Wells from Handsome Coffee and we talked about these things.  It was great to get his perspective as a roaster-retailer.

So with all of that said, I set out on a mission earlier this year.  I made a list of people, products and brands that I admire.  There was no criteria for selection, other than I wanted to learn more.  Oh, and that they were outside the coffee industry.  They include everything from Nobel Energy to Home Slice Pizza to Yeti Coolers.  My goal was to find inspiration.  To rekindle that fire that I had 10 or 15 years ago, as the SCAA was creating barista classes and Gold Cup certifications.  Back in the days when I felt like I was learning so much that I would never retain any of it.  I got on the phone and started requesting meetings with people.  I did my best to explain my goals and offered to meet for coffee or beer.  This way, the time commitment was minimal and if the person I was meeting wanted to bail after a pint, no problem.  I was also very clear that if they were not interested or did not have time that I would not take that personally.

I made a very long list, assuming that I might get one meeting for every ten phone calls.  Much to my surprise it was exactly the opposite.  These CEO's, business operators and entrepreneurs were not only willing to meet, but invested a substantial amount of time.  The stories that I have heard and the things I have been learning are EXACTLY what I was looking for.  Everyone has a story and often times they are fascinating.  I have a whole new level of inspiration and so many creative ideas that I have problems shutting my brain off long enough to sleep some nights.

I try to schedule one meeting every month and do my best to take diligent notes.  My hope that I can create some coherent thoughts and share some valuable ideas & lessons with other people who might be on a similar path of discovery.  Now I must say that writing is one of the things I enjoy least in life.  It is always a slow, painful process for me to write down or type out my thoughts.  For this reason, I am going to do my best to force myself to write something about each meeting, every month.  So bear with me as I do my best to share my search for inspiration.

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