Lately I’ve had the opportunity to work a few regular barista shifts thanks to my wonderful friends at The French Press. The first day or two were a little shaky, but once I brushed that dirt off my shoulder I had more fun with coffee than I’ve had in quite a long time.

There were so many things at play that gave me an energy that I’d been lacking for a while - the almost meditative feeling of dialing in at 5a.m. with the morning fog still hanging in the air, the first regular who walks through the door who’s just so thankful to have a coffee shop like yours in his daily routine, the energy you feel when there’s a line out the door and the whole place is bumping.

It’s so easy to forget how we feel when we’re at our best; forget what triggers bring out things in us that have gradually become hidden over the years. The things that made us fall in love with coffee in the first place.

These triggers are different for everyone. For some it may be the mellow hum of the roasting drum turning around and around, for others the off-beat but somehow musical sound of slurping at the cupping table...for me, it’s the social energy of a busy cafe (that’s the friendly, outgoing side in me) coupled with the connection I feel to my tools(that’s the introverted, gear-head side of me). Making espresso without all the people and energy is still fun, but there’s always a little something missing. On the flip side I’m much more introverted and private than most people assume, and getting behind the bar allows me to really exercise my social muscles in a way that’s just perfect for me. This is my sweet spot.

Everyone’s got a sweet spot but sadly, most of us don’t operate within that sweet spot as much as we should. It’s the curse of success. As we progress in our careers we tend to get pulled further and further away from the things we love - further and further away from the things that set us on this journey in the first place. It’s not intentional. There is no ill will at play. It’s just how the world works right?

People who are the best at certain things are recognized for their talent by being pulled away from those things to do more “important” stuff.

We welcome the change as it comes. I mean who’s going to turn down an opportunity for a promotion? More money, more responsibility, and the promise of some kind of career path that could support you in the long run...I know I sure didn’t. You get pumped and thrive in your new zone, so much so that you get another promotion, and another, and another!

You work in the office now with the big boys and girls. Maybe you have your own desk. Maybe you have a fancy title that proclaims you’re the “head” or “director” of something. You probably even traded in your ‘96 Civic for a 325is so you can cruise to work in style and luxury. Most importantly: You love your job and where this career has taken you. You’re happy. Or are you?

Reset to Zero.

Step outside your current role and find a way to travel back in time to the things that made you fall in love with coffee. I’m not talking about working one measly bar shift a month, or even a week. I’m talking about full immersion. Figure out a way to peel away from your responsibilities and spend at least a three weeks chest deep in your first love.

At the end of those three weeks see how you feel. I bet you’ll feel refreshed, motivated, and probably more in love with coffee than you’ve been in a long time. This energy doesn't end with that three weeks...you’ll probably be more enthusiastic and amped-up to tackle your big-kid job than ever before.

There are a million reasons to not do this. You have so much important stuff to do, you couldn’t possibly pull away from your duties for three weeks and do something else...people need you! Well if you’re the director or head of any department and you haven’t set up your team to live without you for a few weeks, maybe you need to re-evaluate your performance.

At the end of the day maintaining a strong connection with the things that brought you into this industry are important. It sure beats the hell out of the band-aid approach of taking a vacation for motivation and revitalization.

Give it a try. I bet you’ll be amped.

-Chris Baca

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