I don’t drink tea…neither hot tea nor iced tea. I (apparently) make a very nice cup of tea but I dislike the smell let alone the taste. Everyone in my family drinks a lot of tea. Just not me.
I do drink coffee. No milk. Just coffee. I gave up milk in my coffee when I was doing my PhD. There was a communal fridge to store milk for the whole lab. There was just never any milk in the fridge. Black coffee was the obvious answer.
Originally my coffee was just instant. But over time I have become hooked on real coffee at home…and everywhere else. And worse still, because I only ever drink it straight – no frothy milk, flavour or sugar – I am far too fussy about which brand I drink. My favourite version is double espresso. Has been, is and will be.
I was on site in the UK all last week. We had a global strategy and training meeting. I attended. I participated. I presented. I socialised. I learned. I drank coffee.
I was struck at the meeting by the emphasis on learning. Getting better at doing what we do, and in some cases what we have been doing for a long time. Sometimes it is too easy to assume we are good at something…or as good as we are going to get. Always a watch out moment for me for sure. If I ever find myself thinking that way – about anything – I immediately resolve to get better…to learn something new. To stretch higher or further.
In one of the breaks in our meeting I wandered over to an independent coffee shop nearby for a change (and for a nicer cup of coffee). And yes – I asked for a double espresso.
As I stood there and drank (they never last long)…I complimented the barista on my coffee, and commented how often my double espressos vary in size. And how that made no sense to me. His answer?
That a double espresso should be the same size as a single espresso but twice the strength, as opposed to the same strength but twice as big. And that not many coffee shops understood this fact…hence the variation I experienced.
I was staggered. And still am. This fact about my favourite coffee (for well over 20 years) had never occurred to me…let alone been explained to me. But it was obvious and explained everything. Despite having drunk double espresso several times a day for many years, and despite even having a mental rank order of coffee brands, I had just learned something brand new that will help me every day…well at least will help me enjoy every day that little bit more.
I told lots of people that story during the week. Some knew. Some didn’t. Many laughed. Some were bemused. A couple even thanked me. I always emphasised how I had learned something new…on a topic of great importance to me, and despite deep and personal expertise built over two decades.
Back in our meeting after my coffee, I listened just that little bit more attentively to everything being said. I wanted to learn. I knew there would be new techniques, ideas, technologies, insights. I was determined to leave with more knowledge than I arrived…as well as more caffeine.
And learn I did. From presentations, from questions, from discussions and from people. About social media in our work, about success in drug discovery, about team work, about our partner’s challenges and about myself.
Learning and getting better is good…essential even. Good news, though, is that new learning can be very impactful…very quickly.