New Year Lessons: Naps, Trains and Weddings

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While others are well on their way to jump starting new years resolutions, I’m still trying to figure out how 2012 is already here! But, I’d be lying if I said I’m not also taking time to reflect on 2011 and set goals (finally) for 2012. Except, this year, I decided to use coffee shop lessons as an inspiration.

This year my goal is to write down one lesson I’ve learned each day. But before tackling that goal, I want to reflect on a few lessons I learned in coffee shops during 2011.

1. Two women, appearing to be close friends, coincidentally visit the same coffee shop at the same time. The women engage in conversation while waiting in line,  not taking long to share personal details.

“When I dream, I’m always young and single,” one of them said. “But I would never tell my husband that.”

Lesson: It’s important to have close friends. Every conversation adds a new  layer to the relationship.

2. A woman shared a glimpse of her life a few years ago. Her husband was forced to retire due to injury, she lost her job and so did her sister. Her mom became ill and the family dog passed away — all within two months. She allowed herself to be sad, but not for long. Realizing their break from obligations, the three moved to be closer to and help their mother. Had they not lost their jobs, they would have needed to hire someone to help.

Lesson:  Bad things happen; sometimes all at the same time. But, it’s a matter of perspective and how we react to the situation that really matters.

3. During a brief exchange with a barista, one woman said, “I’ve found my running pace improves with short, quick steps.”

Lesson: Exactly what she said.

4. A mother of the bride was discussing details with her daughter’s wedding planner. As the conversation builds, she begins speaking quicker with each word, as if paying the planner by the minute. “So much goes into planning,” she said. “We have the horse and carriage and now I’m thinking we are going to need to plow the field for the buses to get through.”

Really?

Lesson: Our society places too much emphasis on the details of the wedding and not enough on the meaning of the wedding. I can’t help but think of how the money paying for these lavish affairs might be spent otherwise to help fulfill the basic needs of others.

 

5. One man sits down, while another approaches the counter to order. He then returns to the table, coffee mug in hand. “Think my wife will like this one?” he said, holding up a red and white striped mug.

“I don’t know which one she would like better, but that one is cracked.”

“Probably a good reason not to get it.”

Lesson: Some things aren’t meant to be.

6.  Two businessmen are meeting to discuss, well, their children. “My daughter’s dorm was hit by the hurricane,” one of them said. “Her Resident Assistant helped get her through the terrible experience.” He went on, sharing his daughter’s experience had resulted in her volunteering for relief effort clean up and signing up to be a Resident Assistant in 2012.

Lesson: Sometimes opportunities appear when we least expect them.

7. A man rushed in to the coffee shop, noticeably frustrated. Another man passing by recognized him and they made small talk. When asked about being upset the man said, “I decided to leave the office and grab coffee before biting someone’s head off.”

Lesson: We all have these days. It’s best to accept it, buy a cup of coffee and move on.

8. A young college student sitting by herself breaks concentration to say hi to a young man as he sits near her. During their conversation she tells him about a time her family took a vacation abroad. Her mom was separated from her in a large crowd getting on a train. Her and her brother stared at the train as it departed with their mom aboard and no way of contacting her. They waited for the next train, rode to the next stop and didn’t find their mother until returning to their hotel two hours later.

Lesson: Keep family close – literally.

9. On more than one occasion, conversations focused on having trouble finding a perfect gift.  One man shared he was at a loss trying to think of something his 90 year-old mother would need. Another woman juggled gift ideas for her father-in-law. After deep discussion, it was settled – the mother would be getting a generator (she’s lost power five times in the past year) and the father-in-law, football tickets.

Lesson: Spend less time wondering “what to give” and more perfecting the act of “how to give”.

10. I walk past a man on the way in, keep an eye on him over my shoulder while visiting and smile at him upon leaving. The man sat in the middle of the coffee shop; swallowed by an oversized, dark brown leather chair. His body sank as his head lay back, resting on the back of the chair.  He was sound asleep, mouth wide open, for the full two hours I was there (and maybe longer).

Lesson: When the opportunity presents itself, take a nap.

Keeping these lessons in my back pocket, I’m raising my mug. Cheers to you for a wonderful 2012!

Better late than never.

Interested in reading other blog posts about new year lessons? Here are a few of my recent favorites:

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Living is Learning

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I recently sat near two business women who were exchanging insights about how to be successful in their work, which happened to be consulting. The woman appearing more experienced in this field was sharing an experience of how she once had an opportunity to speak to a group of surgeons.

While preparing her year-end presentation, she said she wanted to start by asking the intellectual, hard working group what they had learned that year. She paused for a second, and went on to say she decided to leave that question out.

“Mostly because I don’t even know how I would answer the question,” she told the younger professional. “We are always learning. Every day.”

How true.

What’s interesting about the concept of learning is that it never ends. We’re not always keen to accepting or admiting the fact we are learning, but try to be — for those teaching you. Think about it…. when you are given the opportunity to teach someone something new, it’s a nice feeling. Sometimes it becomes your turn to let someone else be the teacher while you sit back and enjoy the learning experience.

As the year 2011 is quickly coming to a close, this conversation caused me to reflect and think of the learnings I’ve had in one year. A few of those include: there are some things in life we cannot control; family is most important; never take sunshine for granted; and strangers are people, too.

What about you? If the woman asked what you have learned this year and you were in the audience, what would your answer be?

Stay curious with an open mind and you will learn even more.