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We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Unexpected life lessons and a song about milk

Another glorrrrrrrious day!

So I threatened hinted the other day that I was going to write about the super awesome cafe I discovered in Vancouver.

And I am. Partly because the whole experience was just too fabulous to keep to myself and the writer in me wants some scribbling time.

But mostly because I learned some cool Life Lessons which have Useful Applications both for business and for Life In General. Yes, I’m feeling a bit giddy today, but letting your inner goofball have its say is also related to one of the lessons.

The funny part is that I came to Vancouver specifically to receive such lessons. That’s one of the reasons why I signed up for Michael Port‘s Beyond Booked Solid program — to immerse myself in transformative business concepts and subject my poor brain to an intense mental whupping workout.

Success! I picked up a ton of great stuff from Michael and from the course, not to mention a massive binder full of notes and exclamation points.

And, by the way, if you’re wondering … was the $1100 price tag for two days of study reasonable? Oh boy, was it ever. If I even partially implement one of the 30+ genius lightbulb moments I got from this course, that sum will eventually seem laughable. The program was absolutely fantastic.

So I learned amazing, useful things about business and about creativity and about kindness (some of Michael’s favorite topics) from the seminar — but I also learned about these things in the cafe.

Oh, the cafe!

Stumbling into someone else’s joy zone …

Here’s how I found the awesomest cafe in Vancouver. It was about six-thirty in the evening and I was wiped out from the intense day of learning and processing.

Oh, and from the exhausting task of sitting in a chair all day. And from carrying around my laptop and notebook and that enormous binder of worksheets and insights. I was ready to plop down in the very first place that had wireless internet and wasn’t a Starbucks.

Which is harder than you might think since the first one I ran across was a Starbucks and the second and third ones didn’t have wi-fi.

And I know this is probably going to start fights across the internet, but I have to stop this post for a second and speak my mind on two topics:

      1. Support independent businesses.
      If you’re an independent small business owner — even if you don’t think of yourself as one because it’s just you and your laptop and maybe a cat — step up and support your fellow creative, independent neighborhood person who is working himself (or herself) ragged, pouring heart and soul into giving you a human experience.
      2. Don’t be a moron.
      If you do own an independent cafe and there is a Starbucks across the street, for the love of all that is good, have wireless internet. You’re basically telling people who want to support you that they might as well go somewhere else.

Okay, done with my rant. I continued in my quest, wondering just how long I’d be willing to lug my computer around before giving up and just sitting on my friend’s porch until she came home.

And then… Caffe Rustico! There were colorful signs in the windows. There was wifi. Yes! There was a gorgeous middle-aged Italian man behind the counter — in the best mood ever — who sang out “Did you have a glorrrrrrrious day?” as I entered.

All my cranky, bitter, annoyance just kind of melted and I realized that actually life is pretty great. And then he sang me a little song about milk.

It really was a glorrrrrrrious day.

The way to my heart …. sing me a song about milk.

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of making me a hard-boiled egg knows quite well (perhaps too well) that I have a little egg song to sing on such occasions. Some people think that’s weird. That’s their problem.

So you can imagine how delighted I was when this guy — Mario — sang me the skim milk song. It was heaven. Heaven!

Also, is there a woman alive who doesn’t like being enthusiastically referred to as bella signorina? Exactly. I thought not.

And Mario had this kind of cheerful, authentic interaction with every single person who walked through the door. If they weren’t old friends when they arrived, they were by the time they walked out the door.

It was like being transported to the kind of place that Cher might have done the accounting for in Moonstruck, only with some Pacific Northwest elements (hipsters! local organic produce!).

I was in love.

Five useful life lessons:

Here’s what I learned. Five lessons.

And really, these are all equally applicable to business or personal, to what you do at work or what you do at the gym, to who you are “officially” and to who you are with your friends and family.

1. Be Human.

We already talked about this in the Betty Boop is my business coach post but it’s worth going over.

What made this cafe so attractive was that it was alive. The exchanges were personal and from the heart instead of being conventional and superficial. Every single aspect of this caffe was consciously designed to help you feel comfortable and welcome.

I could have been having this incredibly boring exchange:
Chain coffee shop employee: “Here’s your beverage. Have a nice day now.”
Me: “Thank you. Likewise.”

But instead I got to have this exchange:
Mario: “How was your day? Was it WONderful?”
Me: “Pretty fantastic. What about yours?”
Mario: “Oh, so good … I gave myself a headache, it was so good!”
Me: Tries not to spit milk. “Ah. I had that day yesterday.”

2. Be Accessible.

Here’s how smart Caffe Rustico is:

  • They have a website.
  • The website address is CaffeRustico.com which is exactly what it should be: their name plus .com. No embarrassing .net or anything like that.
  • Their website follows the Be Human rule we just talked about (check out their wonderfully human About page for inspiration).
  • It’s an interactive site (yay, WordPress!) which means you can comment on any page.
  • They have a Facebook group. And yes, I expect you all to join it!
  • I didn’t have to wonder whether or not they had a website. They “told me” about all of this by putting all the relevant information on a (prominently displayed) sign.

3. Be you.

Uniqueness is sexy. That’s just the way it is.

I know this seems scary … and the fear of “I can’t just be me!” keeps showing up in conversations in our non-icky self-promotion for people who hate self-promotion course.

Think about it this way. It’s kind of like what Michael Port calls the Red Velvet Rope. The more you you are, the easier it is for other people to self-select in or out of your circle.

For example, I work with a duck. Some people don’t get it. That’s cool. That means I don’t ever have to work with anyone who thinks it’s weird to have a duck as a business partner.

You don’t like Selma? Good. You’re probably not even reading this blog. It’s perfect.

The people who do get it think I’m the coolest person ever. Which means I don’t have to go out and market myself or sell what I do. I just show up as myself and the right people say yes.

Same thing with this cafe. They were doing their “hey, we like to listen to Italian music and wave our arms and talk to everyone about everything” thing and working it.

They weren’t trying to be an efficient, branded box store. And it worked.

Forget trying to be something you aren’t. Use what you’ve got and let your freak flag fly.

4. Be Caring.

Spread some love. Smile. Take interest in the people who approach you and email you and fill out customer service forms.

Give people what they want (as long as this is safe and comfortable for you, of course). In the case of Caffe Rustico this might mean using local produce, playing music that doesn’t drown out conversation, or having super high quality coffee.

They do all these things, because they’re smart, and because they care.

Here’s another aspect of this: part of giving people what they want also means giving them what they want to know.

For example, one of the reasons the Caffe Rustico website is so awesome is that it gives you answers to all the questions that bring someone to a website to begin with. There’s a googlemap and information about what you’ll be able to eat.

Common sense, right? But it comes from a genuine desire to be helpful, and a shocking number of people somehow skip this part.

5. Be awesome. Awesomeness gets rewarded.

Two days I was there. And both days I bought a sandwich.

The first time though it wasn’t because I wanted one. It’s just that I was going to buy something anyway the next day for lunch, and I really, really wanted to throw money at this cafe, so I ordered take-away for the next day.

The sandwich was fantastic. Bellissimo! Worthy of a glorrrrrrious day!

Ooh, and it came with a little tub of pasta that was ridiculously yummy and also was a surprise since I hadn’t known I was getting it — the owner just threw it in (Seth would approve).

So the next day I bought a sandwich for the plane, knowing it might be the highlight of my day. And pasta for dinner which was so good that I kind of want to move to Vancouver. Plus I told all my Vancouverite friends that they have to start hanging out there All The Time.

And now I’m telling you.

Because who knows, maybe just thinking about it will make your day just that tiny bit closer to being absolutely glorrrrrrrious. You will have a glorrrrious day! I wish it for you.

18 Responses to Unexpected life lessons and a song about milk

  1. It’s so great to see this kind of example! We don’t have to wish we could experience this because we can create it for ourselves by how we treat others. By creating it for others, we also create it for ourselves.

    On a side note (which is how you know this is the most important part) it’s funny how people say they want to succeed but they are unwilling to do what it truly takes to succeed. They want the rewards of success without the effort and the fear. Being yourself can be scary, but it’s necessary. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

  2. Lisa
    Twitter: lisafirke

    I had lunch with a good friend today, at a Julius Meinl that some folks thing is a bit pretentious, and it may be. Still, I can tell you the coffee is delicious and it’s served on a silver platter and there are some days when a person can use that kind of validation.

    So, yes, Havi, a glorrrrrrious day, made better by this full-hearted post. And I’m going to make a note for myself here that I need to write my own post about this guy who runs a gas station in the place I used to live. Who told everyone to have “a sparkling day.” Which they did, after talking to him.

    Lisas last blog post..Words I like today

  3. Karen JL
    Twitter: KarenJL

    Talk about word of mouth marketing, eh?

    Main and 16th…got it!

    I suppose you didn’t get to see our famous 2 Starbucks downtown that are kitty-corner from each other! And they are both always *full* of people. Crazy.

    I shall embrace my freak! (There’s lots to embrace) :)

    Karen JLs last blog post..Which Animation Student Are You?

  4. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    @Michael – Exactly. And yeah, if a side note isn’t for sneaking in the main point, I don’t know what is.

    When I used to teach language learning, it always used to intrigue me that people would *say* they wanted to learn French or Arabic or whatever. But what they meant was that they wanted to wake up one morning and *speak* French or Arabic like a native.

    The “doing the work” part is where we come in, trying to make implementation that much more fun or at least that much more appealing, but yeah, not everyone wants to do it. Because it *is* scary. :)

    @Lisa – I can’t wait to read your post about the “sparkling day” guy.

    Ooh, and I should add that even grumpy or bitchy or downright obnoxious can be an effective brand, if it’s honest and authentic and perceived as funny or charming rather than just annoying.

    @Karen – More like “word of me and my big mouth marketing” in this case! Right on.

    Now you’ll know where to find me next time I’m in town and we can have a glorrrrious conversation in person! And things with pesto!

  5. I like that analogy: wake up and suddenly speak a new language. Yes, that’s it. I’ve learned that heading right into the fear is where the power is, but sometimes the fear itself feels overpowering. I bet you are awesome at what you do.

    Michael Martine, Blog Consultants last blog post..Special Assignment: Men With Pens Blog Design – It’s Dying Time

  6. dear havi & selma

    oui vey! but i cannot help but second michael’s stated analogy appreciation …

    is one of THOSE DAYS when zingers land in droves :)

    thanks for adding to-the-pile …

    — joyce

  7. Lovely post – the one thing that I’d add to the list is:

    6. Be Patient
    No matter how totally wonderfully awesome, kind or caring you are, nothing happens overnight. Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up or get cranky because people aren’t running into your coffee shop in droves.

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Picking a Goal and Pursuing It: Harrison McLeod Interview

  8. rudy kehler says:

    I’ve been there. I agree. Completely.

  9. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Alex – That’s a very useful addition. Thank you. You are absolutely right — it relates to what we were talking about in the comments of yesterday’s post. That it isn’t about attitude, it’s about attitude AND strategy AND working on your stuff AND developing trust AND being in the process.

    I think there is way too much pressure that people put on themselves .. that if we “hold the space” everything will happen. When in fact, there is a lot of work that needs to be done both “in the hard” and “in the soft” for something to work. And it’s not just a matter of having the right attitude.

    Of course if I were going to write a list of “how to run a successful coffee shop” there would be way, way more than six points. There is a whole chapter on organization and systems, and another chapter on cashflow and another chapter on hiring … and so on.

    But I get carried away. In terms of creating atmosphere with intention, your point is spot on … that you want to do work on creating the space without putting pressure on yourself to have everything “work” right away.

    Every labor of love is a work in progress, which is something some of us (me) tend to forget sometimes.

  10. I’m hyper-aware of the patience thing right now because I never have any and it’s something that’s constantly coming up as something I should remember. Then I grumble for a while, complain about why should I work hard “now” if I have to wait for “then” and finally just get to it. (It’s kind of like my fear process – lots of complaining and moaning and then getting over myself and just doing it.)

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Picking a Goal and Pursuing It: Harrison McLeod Interview

  11. I still think even CaffeRustico.net would be way less embarrassing than what this one guy did. SantaClaus.com was already taken, so he bought S-Claus2.net!

    Hunter Nuttalls last blog post..Best Blogging Interview Of The Century

  12. Richard says:

    The “people, support local businesses!” and “local businesses, help people support you!” mini rant made my day.

    Right on the nose, Havi, as usual …

  13. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    @Alex – I know … sometimes it’s hard to even believe that the now can lead to a then, or — conversely — to remember that it’s okay to rest and take your time now, because otherwise when you get to “then” you’ll be too burnt out to appreciate it.

    Which is why we yoga types keep harping on the “process” part of things, because otherwise no one would ever have fun at all with all the waiting for everything to get better.

    Like your thoughts on patience. :)

    @Hunter – Oh, that’s brilliant. The thing that gets me the most is when someone I really like buys a crappy domain name (.info or something something home.com) because they didn’t want to bother me by asking first.

    I’m thinking, bother me! Bother me! Just don’t tell me you already bought it. Argh.

    Ooh, recently saw an ad for a consulting company that biggifies restaurants and THEIR website was a .info. Blind leading the blind.

  14. Pace says:

    Woo! I am indeed having a glorrrrrrrrious day! I hope you are too! Being able to check off all five of these things makes me really happy.

    Now for the hard part: convincing Kyeli to record a song about milk so we can send you the MP3. (;

    Paces last blog post..How to relinquish your manhood in one easy step

  15. Sonia Simone
    Twitter: soniasimone

    Love this post, it’s so near & dear to me. Just because you started a business doesn’t mean you got turned into a robot! Be goofy and real and human and adorable!

    Sonia Simones last blog post..The Top 10 Writing Blogs for 2008/2009

  16. […] seem to be stalling tactics related to something we aren’t doing, and which are really ourĀ glorrrrrrrrrrrriousĀ selves doing what we do best: making this up as we go […]

  17. Alex Damien says:

    Great post! It was very useful that you listed all the technical and personal things that make a business something you want to encourage. thank you so much for this post. I am enjoying your blog a lot and think you are a very interesting person.
    Keep on rocking!

    Alex Damiens last blog post..Corruption Of The Self

  18. Karen J says:

    Happy 6 years later, Havi!
    (and Hurray! for your “If this seemed like your thing, you might like these too:” dealie-widget ~ a very effective Time Machine, I must say.)

    Cautionary note, though – unfortunately, “caffe rustico dot com” seems to be badly infected now… ahhh well, Time changes everything… and Life goes on. Your points are still glorrrrriously true {smile} and {dance}!
    Karen J recently posted… Life Advice from Mike Rowe

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