Monday, May 05, 2008

How I Became a Starbucks Stalker - Pt. 5

I had been under enormous pressure at work. Our company, a start-up at the time, was losing cash, what little of it we had and losing it fast. Six months earlier, I had been living high on the hog as one of the nation's most recognizable young talents in the Xerox agency stable. Now, having left Xerox, I was trying to start another company in the same industry but without the same outdated approach Xerox insisted I subscribe to. We were making headway, slowly but not fast enough.

(I had driven past the Starbucks several mornings in a row now, insisting that my time would be better spent figuring out how to right my struggling ship. No time for coffee chit-chat when I needed to most be spending my time figuring out how to motivate my team and find more sales. At least that was what I would tell myself. The pang in my heart still shot through me each morning as I tried to ignore the urge to turn into the driveway that led to Starbucks. I felt alone and scared about my future and would have given my hind teeth to see a friend like J for a little pick me up convo (a Steveism by the way), but I insisted on heading into the office, long before anyone else, so I could resume my stressing. As if looking at papers in a dark office was going to help right?

It had been at least two weeks since Madge and I had last seen each other. We ended up having several delightful conversations and expanding our range of acquaintances at that Starbucks - jointly introducing on another to strangers became sort of our game. Game or not, we had met a lot of fun and interesting people. At last we met, she was headed to Colorado and then maybe over to California to a spa she had read about in a magazine. All the while, still no word or sign of J anywhere.

Then one day it happened. I was at the office very early one morning when there was a tap on the front door. Given that it was dark outside and still very early, I nearly peed my pants when the tap occurred; it scared me to death. I had one of those Fred Sanford moments - you know "They're coming for me Weezy!" (Sanford and Sons television program from the seventies for my younger readers). I peeked around the corner of my office out into the lobby and there with his big muggy grin stood my old friend J. He was holding two to-go cups of Starbucks coffee.

We sat down in my office and he proceeded to chew me out for making him hunt me down. I thought some nerve, you are the one that up and disappeared but I said nothing and held my tongue. "What's going on with you Steve? You were making such fine progress." His tone was filled with both caring and disappointment.

I shared with him my work dilemma and the fact my company was on the precipice of possibly not making it. I whined on and on for what seemed like an eternity about making the wrong moves at the wrong time, under capitalization and a stress level of having to get more sales if we were ever going to make payroll, let alone survive period. He listened intently and the look on his face showed he felt my pain. He understood and seemed to empathize with my plight.

"The secret to your success is right in front of your face you know?" A momentary flash went through my my mind - maybe J is a rich investor looking for a promising company to invest in. I smiled and he smiled back. "No, I am not a rich investor unfortunately otherwise I would be investing in you my boy in a flash." A stunned look crossed my face. He was a mind reader.

"The secret is very simple and you have been uncovering it since you and I first met," he said as he took a long sip of his coffee.

The moment passed like molasses. I nearly screamed, "What secret? What on Earth do you mean J?" All of a sudden my polite, unassuming manner turned angry. I was dealing with real world problems here - maybe not on order of world importance but pretty damn significant to my world. I was tired of games. I was tired of quippy anecdotes and talking in circles. I didn't give him time to answer. I just fired off, "I've met you, Madge and a bunch of people. Great people all of you but honestly don't see how any of you can help my situation. I don't see the relevance of how just sitting down and chatting with someone can fix what for me, is so obviously broken."

He simply sat there....smiling. He sipped his coffee and when it was obvious I had finally gotten all that I needed to say out, he said, "People Steve. It's your ability to connect with people. That's the secret you have been missing all these years. It's the secret that can and will help you get whatever it is that you want. My coffee is a little cold. Why don't we go get a warm up."

With that, he was up and halfway out the door. I simply followed.


To my readers, thank you to each of you for such amazing emails and phone conversations this past week. This series has drawn out a bit and I was worried that some of you might have a problem with that. As I near the end of its completion I hope that you will be patient with me a few more days as I finish up. My posts this week may be a little hap-hazard as I am traveling to Las Vegas to do a speech and a Ripple for a delightful company. Please be patient with me as I will get this series wrapped up as time allows.


terri said...

I, for one, have loved the series and however long it takes, it's worth the wait.

jag said...

I've been enjoying the series, Steve... Take the time you need - we'll be here!

BTW, seems our paths have narrowly missed each other once again. I was in Las Vegas last week - just flew back on Friday! :-)

Pace e bene,

Artie Gold said...

Cool stuff. Of course, living in a little eddy of a backwater of deep nerd stuff as I am at the moment, I'm trying to figure out how to relate this to my immediate existence -- if only to get me through the shortest of short terms.

Though it seems that "doing business" and "doing things" should exhibit come commonality, that is something that has escaped my short term vision.

In any event...thanks!

Lisa G. said...

Please don't be conderned - this is truly an engaging read. Some stories simply have more chapters, and you are doing this one justice by giving it the time and space needed to bring it to completion. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I see very little relevance to this series. I don't see the point of this story or what it has to do with The Ripple Effect. I do however suggest you don't take your other "fans" advice and make this your next book. Your story telling ability needs serious work.


Hope to return to your blog someday when you repost something relevant.

Mel said...


I hope you don't take the comments of Mr./Ms. Anonymous seriously. It really irritates me that someone would dare post such negative comments on a BLOG that is so inspirational on so many levels. I, like so many of your readers LOVE what you are doing with this series. I could read your way of telling stories every day if you would post them.

As for Mr./Ms. Anonymous...Ripple Off!


Arlin K. Pauler said...

In the for what it may be worth department; here’s an excerpt from “Love Is Letting Of Fear” by Dr. Jerry Jampolsky. I think it helps us understand how to CONNECT with folks like Mr/Mrs. Anonymous and how to transform their hostile energy in to positive “Ripples”. Seems to me this is our calling as Ripple Agents of Well-Being.

“Although Love is always what we really want, we are often afraid of Love without consciously knowing it, and so we may act both blind and deaf to Love's presence. Yet, as we help ourselves and each other let go of fear, we begin to experience a personal transformation. We start to see beyond our old reality as defined by the physical senses, and we enter a state of clarity in which we discover that all minds are joined, that we share a common Self, and that inner peace and Love are in fact all that are real.

Steve, this is what your “Ripple” message seems to be calling all of us to – transform indifference and negativity into ripples of goodness by making real connections with real Human Beings.
Keep up your “Great Work”, Arlin.

Kathy said...

Looks like Anonymous just doesn't really get what "rippling" is all about anyway. Some people just have a harder time getting it!


Kristen said...

You keep doing what you are doing Mr. Ripple. Having seen you LIVE yesterday you are amazing. Let's just say that it was one of the best presentations I have ever seen. Your stories and the passion in which you deliver them is so inspirational.

Hope our company brings you back some day soon.