Julien L. Balmer

The Person Behind The Mug: 4 Ways My Barista Has Changed My Life

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I am a business owner, and therefore, coffee is my drug.

The truth about being an entrepreneur is there is no “truth” to being an entrepreneur. There are people who work from dingy, windowless offices, while others work from their pristine, sunlit skyscrapers.

There are warehouses, home offices, studios, basements and beaches in Bali. Then, there is me at the Whole Foods coffee bar.

In the hours I am not speaking to groups or coaching clients for my business, I am typing words on a page. I am a people-holic who paradoxically loves the quiet writer’s life.

Therein lies the conundrum: How can I make progress in my sometimes-isolated work life, while still getting a meaningful social fix? Easy: Befriend the barista!

After 12 months of getting to know him, I can say confidently my barista is, quite literally, everything.

1. My Parent

There are days when I walk into the coffee bar and choose martyrdom.

I’m tired; it’s already 4 pm, and I haven't done anything. I must look disheveled and miserable because my barista gives me one look and hands over the (much larger) 20-ounce version of my drink.

“I think today is free coffee day, right?”

Just like that, I'm gifted the biggest, most delicious cup of coffee ever.

2. My Teacher

One thing I know for sure is my barista works hard. Really hard.

I came to find he commutes two hours to work each day, often in preparation for a 6 am shift. He pursues other jobs and artistic passions in his “free time,” and he has never once used the phrase, “I’m tired,” in conversation with me.

He serves hundreds of customers each day, but I often hear him using a customer’s first name instead of "Sir" or "Miss."

When I'm exhausted, I often make a mental note about his multitasking, and get back to work.

3. My Oprah

You get a latte! You get a latte! You get it. I feel as excited as the guests on Oprah's show when I walk into my coffee bar.

“Bridget! You’re here! Woo hoo!” All this is followed by smiles, laughs and feeling like we somehow all belong there.

Suddenly, working alone doesn't seem so lonely.

4. My Friend

Rewind to the beginning of September, when I was preparing to leave for a long vacation.

I have typical pre-vacation jitters, and I'm nervous about everything from taking the flight to the frightening amount of work I’ll eventually return to. Pack. No, unpack! Pack. Repeat.

Then, I hear my phone ding. I see a text that reads: "Bridget! I wanted to wish you good luck and enjoyment on your trip tomorrow! Take a lot of pictures to show us at the coffee bar! I’m sure you’ll be exhausted when you return, but I will be at work to serve you your daily dose of caffeine, with a 16 ounce blended espresso, with no syrup and almond milk."

I often joke with my best friends that these baristas are consistently the very best part of my daily work routine.

It turns out the joke’s on me because they are. The best part is, it has (almost) nothing to do with the coffee.