The Starbucks Urge: A Downside to Life in the Fast Lane

A French friend once admitted that the thing she missed most about home was coffee.   To clear up confusion, she confirmed that, yes, we Americans technically have coffee, but the entire experience of drinking a cup of coffee was non-existent.   She explained that instead of sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee, we pick a drink up at Starbucks and guzzle it during our morning commute. 

By American standards, this is the proper coffee consumption procedure.  If you were to sit down in the Starbucks to have your coffee, you would be wasting precious minutes of your time.  To increase productivity, it is essential for you to multi-task your coffee drinking with your drive to work.  And once you arrive at work, God forbid you should consider taking a coffee break.

The coffee machine may appear to be there for your enjoyment, but if you do not immediately carry your cup back to your desk, you are lazy and wasting company resources.   By current American standards, your coffee break is not only a bit of personal unproductive guilt but also a way for others to confirm your inferiority.

Your coworkers believe that those who work constantly will rise above those who take time out for coffee.   In their eyes, every added cup affirms your incompetence and lack of dedication.  So as to avoid the harsh judgment of their watchful eyes, you will continue to slave instead of enjoy.

The great Americans who we strive to emulate are famous for their tremendous work ethic.  Any Oscar winning actress will tell you that she had to work 18 hour days when shooting the award worthy film.  All start-up founders went through a period where they did not sleep for months.  And Zuckerberg?  Rumor has it that he has not slept in five years – every aspect of his life is work.  When looking solely at the numbers, more work seems to win every time.

However, if you are not working on an enormous project and still feel obliged to achieve nonstop productivity, you may be suffering from a classic American issue, which we will call The Starbucks Urge.   The Starbucks Urge is the American tendency to want to integrate work into all parts of the day, namely the time they use to drink coffee.  But there is absolutely no reason why you should feel guilty about taking a moment to drink a cup of coffee, away from work.

As Americans, we have created an illusion that every man should work to his full ability at all times. From the time you wake up, you are expected to begin work. Breakfast is not just eating but answering emails. Happy hour is not just having a drink but networking. Going to bed is not just spending some time with your girlfriend but reviewing reports for the next day of work.

Failure to meet this objective is just laziness. Americans have even gone as far as to criticize other countries for lack of productivity:  Italians spend more time with their families than at work, Indians have several teatimes a day,  Spaniards use multiple daylight hours to eat, Russians take an entire month of vacation.

On the other hand, isn’t that what every American is after?  Ask any working person, and they will tell you that the real motivation behind their quest for financial success is to spend more time with their family, to have more room for leisure activities, and to take a vacation.

Looking at these intended end goals, it is sad to think that we have lost focus on what is really important to us.  Everything in society is telling us to move faster - get out of that Starbucks and back to work.  However, if we do not take advantage of the opportunities to enjoy life now, we will continue to replace life with work even after success is obtained.

We all know that more work equals more money in your wallet.  But if you cannot take a moment to enjoy life through a cup of coffee, you begin to wonder what you are really after.  Slow down.  Do not wait to enjoy your life.  Ignore all pressures to integrate work into every part of your life.

You can begin by eating breakfast with your phone off, going to a bar without your boss’s company, and giving your girl some attention in bed.  You will be a few steps closer to your end objective and much more focused on what is really important to you.  Slow down and take time to enjoy a cup of coffee.