Don't Look at the Coffee

Do you remember this story from early in the year? Back when nearly all of 2017 was ahead of us, I told you about my days of spilling coffee, the trick to never spilling it again, and how that same tactic can help you achieve your goals. Now that only two months remain in 2017, here is a refreshed version of that story to fortify you (and me!) for what we want to accomplish by year’s end.



When I was a waitress (way back before they were called servers, and when every cup of coffee came with saucer under it), I struggled to get a full cup of coffee from one side of the dining room to the other without spilling any into the saucer – and customers strongly disliked getting a saucer full of coffee with a cup that was half empty.

I wasn’t sure why I struggled so much with this simple task. I would stare at the filled cup and, with each careful step, try to keep my hand steady. But no matter how hard I tried, I arrived at their table with a lot of coffee in the saucer and a little coffee in the cup.

One day, a customer watched me bring her coffee to the table, arriving – as I always did – with a stash of napkins ready to sop up the spill. As I set down her half-empty cup, she said, “Honey. The trick is to never look at the coffee. Always keep your eyes on your destination. Your hand will be steady and no coffee will spill.”

I never looked down at the cup again. And I successfully navigated many a dining room with a hot coffee, setting it down with a full cup and a dry saucer in front of a grateful customer.

When I’m working with organizations that are implementing change, I always share this coffee story with them, because when we find ourselves navigating a movement for great change, things can get messy, sloppy, and feel out of control.

And when we get frightened by the prospect of spillage and mess, it is really easy to suddenly stop looking at where we are hoping to arrive and become obsessed with trying to “keep it all in the cup”. With a focus limited to what feels messy, we stare down at our task(s) instead of keeping our eyes on our destination.

Are you (or your organization) embarking on transformational change? Are you striving toward a destination? Are you undertaking something important for the greater good of the whole?

Here’s my promise: Stop watching so closely for the places where things get messy and, instead, do a proactive check for obstacles, chart your course, keep your eye on the destination, and step forward – you’ll make less of a mess getting there.

If you spill a few drops along the way, you can easily dab them up and continue moving forward. Even if you spill the whole dang cup, you can determine where you went wrong, then regroup and go again. But if you arrive at your aim with only half your intentions in the cup and the other half wasted, that probably isn’t going to bring your desired outcomes.

A Real-Life Example…

I’ve applied this principle so many times in my own life. My new Dynamics of Self podcast is a perfect example.

I bought the equipment to produce this podcast over 2 years ago. But every time I sat down to start, I became overwhelmed by all the cables and unfamiliar pieces of equipment, and all the technological support I needed. Instead of looking at the destination – a weekly podcast where I could share my stories, insights, and humor with an even wider audience – I looked at the foreign, tangled mess in front of me, felt insecure and uncertain, and packed it away again.

But I’ve learned that, just like with that cup of coffee, if I have my eye on the destination yet am still struggling with my way there, there is usually someone around who can step in and say, “Hey, I have some experience that can help you.”

In terms of getting this podcast off the ground, that person was Andrea Buchtel of Drea, as she is known, simply said, “Let’s just get on a Skype call and set all that stuff up together.” Inside of 10 minutes, that mess of cables and weird-looking items was set up, and I was making my first recording.

How About You?

In your life, right now, where is there a big mess – and maybe even an overwhelming gap – between where you are and where you want to go? Who is hanging out on the sidelines, like my customer at the restaurant or Drea of, who can help you get from here to there with minimal mess?

If you or your organization is ready to set out toward the change you most need and desire for the good of the whole, but you want someone to walk with you and help you keep your eyes on the destination, give me a call, and let’s go! I will even bring a cloth to dab up any spills.

Until next time, remember: Keep your eyes on where you want to end up.


P.S. If you know someone who may be interested in my podcasts, please forward this to them, or let them know to sign up with their favorite podcast app or at

And for those of you who love to read, check out my book, Let Go of the Rock - a new look at the dynamics of self management!