Saturday, May 10, 2008

How I Became a Starbucks Stalker - Pt. 6

The five minute drive over to the Starbucks passed without much substantive conversation. We made idle chit chat; more my talking more as a result of my nervousness and I suppose in a desperate attempt to apologize for my unloading, so to speak, minutes earlier. J was accommodating, allowing me to calm my nerves by babbling on about the weather, birds, traffic and a sundry of really mindless subjects.

After I insisted on paying for our new cups of coffee we made our way over to the table and sat down. “I want to revisit something you said earlier,” he said. My nervousness instantly returned. I felt like a little boy sitting in front of the principal. “Why do you think your business is in trouble?”

“Well we need more customers. Simple as that really,” I responded. Sounded simple – in fact still sounds simple recalling it all these years later.

“You know in the brief time that I have known you, I had no idea that you owned a company. Did you know that?” It was a question that was asked but it was obvious it wasn’t supposed to be answered. “Think about all the people you have met these past few weeks. How many of them work for all sorts of companies and all the while you never shared with anyone you owned a company did you? An impressive one I might add from the looks of your office.” He smiled because he could see the pride welling up inside of me.

“Now don’t get me wrong. Most people could care less what you do.” My smile instantly vanished. “You see most people are so caught up in their own craziness that they rarely look beyond themselves to see others. Yet in these few weeks you have managed to do that. You have learned to focus. You have learned to be aware. You have learned that a well placed question at the right moment can tell you more about a person than you ever imagined. Their hopes and dreams. What they are truly passionate about. Tell me I am wrong,” he said defiantly. “Tell me about who you’ve met since our first encounter.”

My mind scrabbled. There had been so many. Madge of course! There were multiple entrepreneurs such as myself. There were teachers, crossing guards, insurance salesmen, ad executives, salespeople of all sorts. I had met mothers and sons, fathers and sons. He just sat there looking like Garfield the cat after a bowl of lasagna. As my mind wandered and I gave him names and details about this person and that person my heart began to pound. I really had met a log of people from all walks of life. Some that surely would be interested in what I had to offer and others that were just plain neat to know- even if it was for a few minutes.

“Boy you have discovered something that most people wait a lifetime to discover and even then so many never do. You my friend found a way to make a connection. You found a way to make a momentary impact on the people you met each time you did it. You brought them out of their myopicism and made them wake up and pay attention – maybe for the first time in a long time. You did this. You didn’t even realize you were doing it did you?” I sat there dumbfounded. “You did it and never pushed yourself on anyone. You didn’t say 'hey look at me and what I do.' You simply connected for the sake of connecting and it felt good didn’t it?”

It had felt incredible admittedly though the true depth of what I had done and what I had apparently learned didn’t actually sink in until that very moment. A smile broke out all over my face. “You connected with people that will remember you. Heck in the time we have just been sitting here you have had more people say good morning to you than they have me.” It was true. “But you still have more to learn my friend. Connecting is just the first step. Making a more relevant and permanent impact is the bigger opportunity.”

“Bigger opportunity,” I sheepishly asked.

“Yes.” He reached over and put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed. Memories of those special at-a-boy moments with my dad or favorite teachers came rushing back. “You can’t make the kind of impact that you are destined to make locked away in some dark office my boy. The people are out here,” he said gesturing around Starbucks. “And out there,” he pointed out towards the street which I understood to mean the world.

“That is great J and I appreciate that, I really do. But how on Earth can this help me with my business,” I asked him.

“Let’s just save that for tomorrow shall we?”

With that he said good morning to a young couple that had settled in two tables over.


Arlin K. Pauler said...

At the risk of sounding archaic, this is a “way cool trip” - muse. While it is true that we all have own inter guidance, this is one of those rare times when I can hear mine while riding along on someone else’s muse. I am getting a lot out of what you and J have to say. The story is giving me both entertainment and insight into my own development as a Human Being.
Ripple on, Arlin.

Steve Harper said...


Thanks as always. It does mean a lot to me to know someone is getting something from this. It's a fun experience to write about and I had hoped that the points wouldn't get lost in my story telling ability (or lack of as some might say).

Thanks my friend. Let's catch up soon via phone - the next few weeks are crazy for me but towards the end of May?