Author Archives: aloveforthebean

About aloveforthebean

I'm a Starbucks partner who writes about all kinds of things. It's all good, as long as it inspires people to see things differently so they can grow. My musings are entirely my own.

Big Problems vs. Big Ideas: A Showdown

At my company, we have a saying we’re a little obsessed with. “Problems are a good thing.”

It’s been a cultural slogan born around an attitude we have that problems are not bad – they are not something to be swept under the rug. In fact, in order to solve a problem, you first have to be willing to see it. Only then can you do something about it.

This line of thinking (and acting) has purveyed our company culture for years. Problems have, in a sense, earned a place of grandeur, and towered over a mighty kingdom.

Small problems, medium problems, bite-sized problems. Global problems, national problems, local problems. Any problem will do. If it’s a big problem, even better – more reason to get rambunctious, rip an A3 out of the desk drawer (or Dropbox folder), and get to work. You have considerable work ahead of you! Prepare to spend the coming weeks (or months) conducting an elaborate needs analysis, articulating a jargon-laden problem statement, and implementing a sizable series of countermeasures.

Sounds sexy, doesn’t it?

I can assure you, it’s not.

Let me relate it a bit more clearly. Picture this:

You’re back in your high school days, and you’ve just come home from a long day of classes and pulled out your geometry homework. Staring you in the face is a the most complicated proof you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s just a simple math problem, right?

There it is again…that word “problem.”

You sit down at your cluttered desk and get to work, referencing your textbook, and the lesson notes from your class earlier in the day. You may even phone a friend for help.

You give it a real, concerted effort, but you just can’t do it. You puzzle through the first lines, but then you get stuck. Problem 3/4 solved.

How do you feel?

Thought so. I’m guessing your response summoned words such as frustrated, drained, annoyed, confused, and irritated.

Welcome to the problem-focused life.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Picture this instead:

After months of careful planning and scheming, dozens of evenings spent at your cluttered desk after work making arrangements, you surprise your family with a gift: you’re all headed for Disney World the next morning.

You wake up, descend upon the Magic Kingdom with reverence, and in a frenzy of excitement, declare your intentions to hit to every single major attraction in the park in one single day. It’s an intoxicating idea, right?

An entire day filled with laughter, slightly questionable behavior, and shameless determination ensues.

But despite all the fun, despite giving it a real, concerted effort, you just can’t do it. You beef-up a half-truth about Aunt Nessie’s knee problem to score a wheel chair and reach the front of the lines at the major rides, but it’s still not enough. Your big idea is only 3/4 achieved.

How do you feel?

Thought so. “Like an awesome, overly-zealous rock star who had the time of their life” was my answer, too.

Welcome to the idea-focused life.

If problems are a good thing, ideas are an even better thing.

Big ideas are intoxicating. They’re energizing. They light us up, they set our world on fire. They inspire creativity, risk taking, and bold thinking. They pull us forward into a beautiful, imagined future that makes us want to take action.

And best of all, big ideas help us to solve our big problems along the way.

A big idea about hitting all the rides in one day has dozens of challenges and problems riddled within it. But it offers a much sexier container for our problems to live in than an A3. Instead of plaguing our thoughts with the burden of populating a template, it unleashed our imagination and gave us permission to dream.

I’ve experienced the magic of a big idea. I’ve felt it fill me up with inspiration, motivation, and drive.

I’ve also experienced the drain of a big problem, and felt it fill me up with anxiety, worry, and dread.

So I’m proposing a showdown, an adios to Big Problems and a welcoming of his successor, Big Ideas.

Feeling skeptical about letting go of your problem-focused ways? Don’t take my word for it, try the new leader on for size. The below activity will help you get there.


Get crackin’, master imaginer; the big ideas are calling.


The below can be activity can be completed in as quickly as ten minutes, or in as much as several hours. Use it as you wish.

Do it with a team or with colleagues if you have them. Do it with a spouse or a household if you have one. Do it alone if that feels appropriate. Answer these questions to start the dreaming:

  • What things annoy you to no end? What would make them go away?
  • What would you do in your job, in your household, with that client, if you ruled the world?
  • What would you work on if you had a guaranteed “get out of jail free” card with anyone you might piss off in the process?

Write down everything that comes to mind. The bigger the better. If you makes you gasp, you win the prize. If it seems impossible, you win the grand prize. No censoring – put all the ideas down.

Which ones get your juices going? Which ones have you already thinking in fifty more directions, about all the really cool implications it would have and all the related, exciting things it makes you think about?

Hone in on that one.

Then ask yourself:

  • What are some of the problems you would have to overcome to make that happen? Big ones? Little ones?
  • Which ones can you control? Influence? Not control?

These are likely problems you’ve already thought about a million times. But now, POW! They have a sexy container. Where there once were nagging little voices floating around in the abyss of your overworked brain, now there is prioritization and a clear plan of action emerging, fueled by the fire of a compelling vision: a big idea.


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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Uncategorized




The date on which an event took place the previous year.

At least that how Webster’s defines it.

It’s astounding how quickly anniversaries usher themselves in each passing year.

At Starbucks, people hear “Anniversary” and they think one thing.


…or something along those lines.

I’ve never been sure if it’s the cedary, spicy notes of the coffee contained within that draws us near, if it’s that beautiful, earthy-brown Siren that is always etched on the bag, or if it’s the impending arrival of Autumn. Maybe it’s a combination of the three.

When you work in retail, living a season ahead is just part of the scenery. Each holiday, each theme, each featured coffee or beverage flavor seems to arrive a little too early.

You spend so much time planning and preparing and learning about what’s coming, that by the time it actually gets here, you feel like you’ve already lived it. Pumpkin Spice planning begins in May or June. Christmas is a hot topic before July is over. It can be a little jading.

It’s a bit like the way that August, though a thoroughly heat-ridden and beach-bathed component of summer, is a month that signals the end of a season. (Writer Jana Eleanor explores this idea quite eloquently in her post “Read ‘Tuck Everlasting’ This August”. Seriously – you should read it. The post. And the book).

This August, summer came slamming to a close for me when I sat in a regional meeting a few weeks ago and took those first, glorious sips of this year’s Anniversary Blend.


It was bitter-sweet.

The moment. Not the coffee.

The coffee was spectacular. A heavily spiced, complex body that dazzled with layers of flavor, each a unique expression of the impending season. It reminded me of the multitude of colors that Autumn paints the leaves of one single tree. It’s a single cup of coffee, with many colors to her story.

Our partners are what color those stories.

You brew up this coffee, you bring out this bag – everyone starts talking.

What stories does Anniversary Blend stir out of you?

Join the conversation and tell me what your Anniversary story is all about.

Special thanks goes to @cyndidrapeau for hosting the incredible Anniversary Blend tasting that inspired my post. Image courtesy of


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That voice

It showed up at the most unexpected time.

Tennis shoes on, a Shaun T fitness program blaring in my living room while I begrudgingly bounce around to his commands and work my ass off (literally). There I heard it.

“You got this.”

Excuse me? Did my psyche just encourage me??

What the hell is happening here?!

I’m miserable. I’m sweaty. I feel zapped of every ounce of energy. From the heat outside, the horses that I ride. Everything. I’m over it. This is the last thing I want to be doing.

“You can do it, just finish it.”

It’s not the internal talk-track that I’m used to. It’s certainly not the one that I carried around with me for the last twenty some-odd years. It catches me so off guard that I can barely focus back on what I’m supposed to be doing (which, by the way, was some ridiculous spider-lunge-push-up-all-in-one move that felt more complicated than throwing together one of the double-tall, two-pump sugar-free vanilla extra-foamy soy lattes that I served for so many years).

Just where exactly did that encouraging voice come from?

And then it hits me. It came from over a year and a half of hard work. Not always perfect work. Not always perfectly regular work. But a dedicated, intentional practice. A 1.5 year practice of meditation.

Now for those of you reading who don’t know a lot about the topic, I’d first like to say calm down. It’s not nearly as hippy-dippy woo-woo as you think.

The easiest way I have to describe the practice and why you should care about it, is to consider the idea that your mind is much like a completely untrained, 8-week old puppy. How do I know that? By the fact that, for many of you reading this, you’ve probably never (or at least rarely) heard that inner voice of yours give you kind words of encouragement. Or at least you hear that kind of thing a lot less often than you would like. True story? Ok, then keep reading. And back to the puppy metaphor (sorry, kitten lovers).

This puppy brain of yours…it runs amok. It pisses and shits everywhere. At times it can be adorable. At times it can even be useful (ever try to pick up a member of the opposite sex? Grab a puppy. Congratulations, you’re a magnet!). But by and large, it’s completely out of control.

Meditation is about becoming aware of that, and changing that. Intentionally.

It’s about becoming increasingly more aware of this out of control puppy, and building your awareness and ability to recognize said puppy-monster.

And, just as importantly, it’s about training puppy-monster to behave like you want it to. To be more useful. To fetch the paper for you. To pick up your slippers for you. To clean up after itself (ok, maybe that last one was asking too much, but you get my point).

I may have had no idea what the hell I was doing for the last 1.5 years, but I did it as consistently as I could manage. I meditated, close to every day. At times I felt like a failure, and like I was doing it wrong. At times I felt like I wasn’t doing it nearly enough. But I felt like I was supposed to be doing it. Something about it still felt intrinsically right. So I kept going. I had no idea where this road was leading me, I just knew that my gut told me it was leading me somewhere good.

That somewhere was an idle Thursday evening, when I realized in a sweat-laden instant that all my training hours had paid off. They made a difference. They counted for something.

I may not have the next Lassie yet, or the next Canine Companions guide-dog, but I do have progress.

What has that voice been saying to you lately? Do you like what you hear?

If you don’t, then change it. I double-dog dare you.

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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Uncategorized


Feeling inadequate about things that are not important

It’s the same as not being invited to the party that you don’t want to go to.

Why do we WASTE such precious ENERGY over these things??

This concept has come up for me a lot lately. A LOT.

Maybe it’s a product of my 20s. Maybe it’s just a product of life. But I have a feeling I’m not the only one who gets struck by these sentiments, or who wastes energy on these feelings.

It’s that feeling when you find yourself chasing something down, changing something about yourself, questioning something about yourself, or coveting something because somehow, intentionally or unintentionally, other people’s priorities and stack-ranked importances have rubbed off on you.

Suddenly, your wardrobe isn’t good enough and doesn’t have enough summer dresses, just because your best friend always looks like she walked straight off of the Jackie Kennedy catwalk. Forget the fact that summer dresses tend to look ridiculous on you, that you’re way more comfortable in shorts, and that all you happen to own are things in the less-than-runway-ready category. Suddenly her priorities, and subtle judgments of your style, have you wasting your energy on wishing you could update your wardrobe. Or, worse yet, have you spending your money on clothes you can’t afford that you’ll hardly wear because at the end of the day, they’re just not you.

It happens at work, too. Especially when you work on a team of seven other highly talented people who do exactly what you do. Only the job that you each do is not carved in stone, has no right answers, and a no one right way of doing anything. It’s a breeding ground for feeling inadequate. You hear about how someone did this or that, made this impact or that, and you think to yourself “Wow, why haven’t I done that?” which quickly turns into “What is wrong with me? I must suck!” Forget the fact that you’ve been rocking the job in your own unique ways, making headway and having a positive effect on the things that you deemed important to you – the things that play to your strengths, or the needs of your specific clients, or that you just plain have fun doing. Suddenly, someone else’s priorities and areas of success have you wasting your energy wishing you could be better at things you have no reason to focus on. Or, worse yet, have you feeling paralyzed and doubting yourself, your abilities, and what you ARE good at, even though at the end of the day, their strengths are just not yours.

It’s ridiculous.

It’s a wastee.

It’s a reality.

And the only thing I have working in my favor is awareness.

It doesn’t make it any easier to overcome these little thoughts and feelings that creep into my head. But it does give me a fighting chance.

And if you catch yourself thinking these things, you have a fighting chance, too.

So talk about it when it happens. Share it. Because it takes courage to overcome it. And when you share your story, you’ll not only help yourself overcome what is challenging you, but you’ll be helping someone else along the way.

Like when you tell me you own tales of how you’ve struggled with this concept, and you tell me the kinds of things that have helped you overcome feeling inadequate about things that are not important to you.

What’s worked for you? What’s helped you? What’s hurt you?

I’m listening.


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What Boston Taught Me

These are the things I learned and/or remembered as I have attempted to reconcile the most intensely overwhelming 24 hours of my life. I hope they bring some amount of peace to yours.


1) Friends mean everything. And by friends, I mean the broadest definition of the word. Family, siblings, parents, acquaintances, everyone you have ever met in your life. They. All. Matter. Life matters. Spirit matters. It is ALL that matters. The rest is just bullshit. The rest is just noise.


2) Without these ugly, hard, difficult, challenging, testing, trying moments, we lose sight of number one. We become entangled in a world where how much money we have or what shoes we can by or how the clothes in our closet make us feel become all consuming. We become engrossed in a reality where fashion and TV and work and a million, stupidly insignificant things take up almost every modicum of our energy and brain space. As a human race, we, or God, or spirit, or source or whatever you call the divine, have not figured out another way to keep deeply, unshakably connected to number one without intensely overwhelming, incomprehensible moments. It is for this reason alone that they exist.


3) The phrases “intensely overwhelming” and “incomprehensible” can apply to both good and bad, highs and lows, tragedies and silver linings. A peak is just as full of punch and kick as a pit. A low is just as soaked with unfathomable qualities as a highlight. The point is to love them all.


4) Strength looks different than most people think it does. Reactions are reactions are reactions. We are all soulful warriors. We are all strong. Sometimes letting it all go and bathing in the waters that have involuntarily surrounded us through our uncontrollable tears is the strongest thing you can do. Sometimes retreat is your best tactic, sometimes standing ground is what you are called to do. Sometimes it’s about lighting a fire and raging on. It’s all one big, beautiful, glorious mess. There are no right answers. Do what feels right for you. Live your strength. Call on others for theirs.


5) Life changes in an instant. Every instant. We just don’t usually notice the instances. We fail to pay attention. The universe has to scream to remind us that these, her most basic laws, still exist. Everything is changing, in every single instant. The big instants make us remember.


6) Expectations suck. They are the ever-present trickster of the egoic mind and keep us out of acceptance and loving of only exactly what is. No matter how we fight, we cannot defeat them. And yet the aim to rid oneself of expectations is one of the loftiest goals there is. I dare you to keep on trying.


7) Shit doesn’t always make sense. In fact it rarely ever does, and anytime we think we have it all figured out and it all makes sense, is really just an illusion. A necessary illusion. An illusion that, for the most part, is typically healthy. However an illusion is an illusion. So let it all go. It doesn’t have to make sense in order for you to have faith.


8) Faith means believing that it is what it is. It is what it is meant to be. That stepping into the unknown and embracing, wholly, lovingly, will only lead to greater expressions of love, light, and peace. It means removing judgment of good and bad. It means removing the need for control, for making everything make sense. Our obsession with number seven often keeps us out of number eight. Give up the need to make sense. Embrace the heart’s unending desire to just. Have. Faith.


9) Everyone has loved. Everyone has lost. Everyone’s deepest nature is to seek happiness and simply be. Even the lost. Even the weary. Even the so-called evil and weak. Even the forgotten. Even those who create war and tear down others in their disturbances of peace. Our job is only to love them anyway. Our job is simply to love everything, relying on or faith to guide our way.


10) Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate again. Over-communicate. Communicate what? Communicate loving. Tell people how much you love them every damn minute of every single day. It’s what brings number one into tangible reality.


11) Silence and stillness tell you everything you need to know about what is going on inside of you. They reveal the dis-ease, the unsteadiness. They unmask the bandaids and the bullshit of every relationship, expectation, dependance, hope and dream you’ve ever experienced. They connect you to the present. They connect you to the now. They are often uncomfortable. They are always your friend. They steadfastly point the way towards healing. And faith. All you need is the courage to greet them.


12) Animals live with far more love and far fewer words than we will ever fully know and comprehend. They remain individual and unique souls each one of them, and yet so perfectly reflect back so much of ourselves, like bright reflective mirrors in our lives. They waste and worry not on the future. They agonize and regret not the past. They simply love and accept what is in front of them, to the best of their ability. This is true in all of nature. And we forget that we are a part of nature. Minute by minute, day by day we see ourselves as different, and drive ourselves apart as if we are not the same as this great creation within which our lives arise. I can assure you, we are all one in this same great universe. Live from your heart. Not your mouth. Not your mind.


13) Your life will contain a myriad of experiences, of things you never would believe you’d done, would happen to you, or were possible in this existence. Sometimes they will even wrap up into neat little 24-hour periods, or other equally compressed time-periods. In this colorful tapestry, there will be many firsts. There will be many lasts. There will be surprises upon surprises. Some things that you may cultivate and work towards for years, decades, lifetimes. Some things that just may happen. Get used to it. Uncertainty and change are the only constants. That doesn’t mean they have to be scary. A life lived with a determination to see the world unfold into each unknown only to reveal more love, light, and peace than the moment before is a life lived beautifully.


14) Flowers will continue blooming, birds will continue signing, rain will continue falling. Always. The worst thing you can do is to let them win. And by them, I mean anyone who tries to spread fear, or darkness, or hate. And by win, I mean become so distracted in the destruction that you forget to enjoy the ever-expanding beauty of each moment. The budding magnolia in her shades of white and purple cares not whether you stop to admire her branches laden with flowers. The cardinal with his melodic song cares not if you stop to hear the sound of your breath echo the sound of his voice. The rain and her steady blanket of droplets cares not if you stop to feel their subtle contact with your skin.  Your soul, however, cares greatly. Light up the darkness with your light. Laugh even if you still hurt inside. Sing loudly. Continue to find joy in everything.


15) Goodbyes will never be easy. Say them anyway.


16) Breathe in. Breathe out. Simply be. That’s all you have to do. You were born as love, light, and peace anyway. The trick is to die the same way.


Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Uncategorized


About Me

What is your name (real or otherwise)? Aloveforthebean. My dear friend Paul Pinto perfers to call me Jill Jillian. Either one will do.

Describe your writing style in three words. Contemplative. Connected. Inspiring.

How long have you been writing online? Just over a year and a half.

Which, if any, other writing challenges do you participate in? None yet, but destiny’s calling. I’m intrigued at the idea of weaving a fiction theme into my musings on coffee.

Describe one way in which you could improve your writing. Doing more of it. Expressing more in fewer words. Yes, I realize that is two ways. Did I mention I tend to be a rule breaker?

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? Create a graveyard – a place where you save all the beloved sentences, paragraphs, and moments of genius that, despite how attached and in love with them you are, still despreately need to be edited out of whatever you are writing. Knowing they are preserved somewhere makes removing them a much less painful process.

Who is your favorite author?  At the moment, Junot Diaz.

How do you make time to write? Often unsuccessfully. Success usually starts by a conscious decision to ban myself from things like Facebook, Twitter, and work email (because yes, unbelieavably enough, even work takes on an unbelievable level of appeal when it can serve as a distraction from actually writing). Then that first conscious decision is accompanied by a second one, and that is to let go of the need to get other mundane things done, like grocery shopping or cleaning my apartment.

Give us one word we should consider using as a prompt. Remember–it must have a third definition. Allowing my horses to be my inspiration (and the bill I just footed to the equine dentist), try “FLOAT” on for size:


noun \ˈflōt\

Definition of FLOAT
1: an act or instance of floating
2: something that floats in or on the surface of a fluid: as
a : a device (as a cork) buoying up the baited end of a fishing line
b : a floating platform anchored near a shoreline for use by swimmers or boats
c : a hollow ball that floats at the end of a lever in a cistern, tank, or boiler and regulates the liquid level
d : a sac containing air or gas and buoying up the body of a plant or animal
e : a watertight structure giving an airplane buoyancy on water
3: a tool or apparatus for smoothing a surface (as of wet concrete)

Direct us to one blog post of yours that we shouldn’t miss reading.

Thank you for the inspiration,!

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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Uncategorized


Living at the Mercy

Each night in Origin as we traveled back to the hotel on our buses, we engaged in reflection and discussion about our day.

Sometimes our sentiments were uplifting, and shared of the passion that we felt or the excitement and the energy that infused us. Other times our sentiments were heavy, full of deeper levels of contemplation, of appreciation for the lives lived that make coffee possible.

One of the words that struck me at the end of the third day, and that has continued to resonate in my consciousness, is Mercy.

You see, in coffee farming, numbers are everything. Where the peg falls on this board determines your livelihood. It is the difference between a good year, and a bad year. It dictates if you can put food on your table to feed your family, and buy the fertilizer you need to feed your crops, in an attempt to do it all again next year.

In coffee, you live at the mercy.

You are at the mercy of the coffee leaf rust fungus, that can plague your crops when it is dry.

You are at the mercy of the american leaf spot fungus, that can plague your crops when it is wet.

You are at the mercy of the nematoads, that can plague your crop from the ground.

You are at the mercy of the broca beetle, and its eggs that destroy your beans.

You are at the mercy of the market, and volatile swings in coffee prices.

You are at the mercy of the laborers, and their ability to pick only ripe cherries.

Youare at the mercy of the rain gods, and their providing the water that you need.

You are at the mercy of the co-op, and access to the wet mill for processing.

You are at the mercy of the city, and her constant calling to sell off your land for development.

You are at the mercy of the coffee board, and the soundness of the advice given out to your region.

You are at the mercy of the exporter, and the agreement he negotiates on your lot.

You are at the mercy of your children, and their commitment to be a part of it all.

You are at the mercy.

Do you ever think about it? How closely each one of us actually lives to this life, without even knowing it or appreciating it? The idea that any of us lives in a state of less mercy than our coffee farmers is simply an idea of illusion.

We are all connected in this sate of living at the mercy, much more deeply than any of us care to realize or remember. That paycheck you rely on from your employer? You are living at that businesses’ mercy. That hurricane that devastated your family’s home? You are living at nature’s mercy. That person you rely on for childcare? You are living at a young woman’s mercy. That market crash that devastated your retirement savings? You are living at the economy’s mercy.

The only difference between you and the farmers, is the courage that they have to live life at the mercy so purely, so overtly, so completely.

No frills. No safety net. No escape plan. You have every inch of your skin in the game.

It’s no wonder the Costa Rican’s live by the saying “Pura Vida.” Their farmers live the purest, most courageous life I can imagine.


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