I have decided that I suffer from a new kind of syndrome, a very 21st century condition. It leads to anxiety, low self-esteem and even, dare I say it, an issue with drink. I have decided to call it “Coffee Shop Paralysis”. I guess that I must have suffered for some time but it took an extraordinary event for me to finally realise that I was a sufferer and, as a result, have decided to seek help.
During October, I was lucky enough to find myself working in Seattle, the home of Starbucks. I love coffee and decided to make the pilgrimage down to the world famous Pike’s Place Market, the home of “Fish Philosophy” and the site of the first Starbucks. It has a shabby chic cool about it and apparently is the only Starbucks in the world that is allowed to use the slightly more revealing original logo.
Pike’s Place, by the way, is amazing and if you ever get the chance, is a must see spot in Seattle. It is an assault on the senses; sounds, smells, sights. It is a gastro paradise but do watch out for the flying fish!
So there I am queuing at the aforementioned coffee mecca; I’m surrounded by aficionados, people who clearly know the menu inside out, people for whom ordering a coffee is an art form! As I wait my turn, I hear one modern day poet after another order mocha, chocca, latte, frappe, light, soya, half n half, extra hot, sprinkle topped creations with the fluency and nuance of the sharpest rap artists; street poets of the caffeine age!
As they order, pay and receive their complex creations and I get nearer and nearer to the front of the queue my palms begin to moisten and that familiar minor twitch in my left eye begins to surface. I am feeling sick with fear, embarrassment, almost self-loathing. How can I, in this temple of the roasted ground bean possibly just order a small black coffee, my brain confused even by whether I want an Americano or a filtered. At that moment I froze and two places from the front of the line, having waited for over twenty minutes, I turned and fled, went back to my hotel and poured myself a free coffee from the foyer complimentary selection; simple.
It has got me thinking. When did coffee become so complicated, why is simplicity so not in fashion? I wonder whether, as we hurtle headlong towards the 22nd century, we have created endless rods for ourselves; whether we now culturally believe that the world has to be more complicated than it really is.I see so many people and organisations over complicating what I believe should be elegantly simple issues, particularly around human leadership, development and education.
As I look at my modern day heroes, Sir Ken Robinson, and latterly Prof. Steve Peters, who I was lucky enough to see speak at a recent London Business Forum event, I realise that they have something in common: their ability to make issues that are perceived to be complex, effortlessly simple and therefore actionable.
So it is, that from here on in, I have decided to spend my time in search of simple…
I feel a book coming on!