How Much Is It Worth?

When I worked in private aviation and sold time on Warren Buffet's fleet of jets, I learned a lot about the way that incredibly successful people think about their most valuable possessions. The reason that a successful businessman paid tens of thousands of dollars for a single flight with his family was not so he could tell people he was flying private, but so that he could know without question that his vacation started 15 minutes after arrived at the airport and their plane was in the sky. The question that my former clients asked themselves before stroking a rather larger check to me was not "Can I afford to fly private?" but "How much additional happiness will this create?"

If we look at a transaction, not in terms of dollars, but in units of happiness acquired, it can change the entire outlook on the thought of "How much is this worth?"  There are experiences and moments that can never be truly valued based on the number of units of happiness captured or conversely, the number of units of hardship or annoyance avoided.

In a small way, I was thinking about this over my third cup of coffee this morning. When we moved into our new apartment earlier this year, it was an arduous process. Between the coop board and the moving company and delays in new furniture shipments, it wasn't the smoothest few weeks. But in that time, I made a purchase that has proven to be the most valuable thing that I bought all year. I splurged and spent more on a coffee maker than I ever had before. I went top of the line and get all the bells and whistles. And while it felt a little bit silly walking out of the store knowing how much I just spent in dollars to buy an appliance that had another option 1/10th the price, it was my splurge and I wasn't apologizing.

A solid 10 months later, I have enjoyed a freshly ground pot of coffee waiting for me every morning when I wake up. Most mornings I don't even hear my alarm because I am already up from the smell of freshly ground Sumatra wafting through the apartment. In the quiet of the morning I can savor that first cup and focus on the day ahead. It is effortless and all about units of happiness acquired and as such, it is also the purchase that I made this year that, I don't care how much it cost but I do know how much it is worth.

Some Thoughts on Hustle

Last night I was invited to speak to the graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University studying to receive their Masters of Entertainment Industry Management. It was a fairly free flowing conversation with out very many prepared remarks and a lot of great questions by the students. This morning, over my third cup of very black coffee, I am reminded at how much has taken place in my career so far and how, despite the sometimes hard to see trend lines in each project and initiative, the hustle has not been in vain. Some of the stories that I shared last night, I had forgotten happened until the question was asked. Some of the advice I gave last night after the session to some of the folks that came up to talk to me one on one was advice that someone else had once given to me.

There are a lot of reasons that I hustle. Some that I talk about, most that I don't because they are just for me to know. But one thing that I am more and more convinced of is this: the deeper your conviction as to The Why behind what you do and how well you do it is directly proportional to the depth of your emotional, mental, and physical efforts to get to your Why.

Hustling for hustling's sake is a ridiculous exercise in masochism. Hustling with a series of benchmarks and goals in mind is the unstoppable fuel behind becoming your best.

The Two Day Breakfast Taco

"Good things come to those that wait" goes the saying. And, while there might be some truth to that, I prefer Abraham Lincoln's version, "Good things do come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle." And, this weekend, in a bit of a culinary hustle, I found an amazing new take on my favorite morning meal: The Two Day Breakfast Taco. Not wanting to keep my new found discovery selfishly to myself, here is the recipe:

DAY ONE: Go out for BBQ with great friends. Order 1/4lb pulled pork or beef brisket more than you need. Take home in a to-go bag.

DAY TWO: Make Breakfast Tacos with the left over BBQ from Day One.

Enjoy pulled pork and beef brisket Breakfast Tacos with sunny side up eggs, avocado, tomatoes, cheese, and a little sour cream. Highly recommend pairing with a large cup of black coffee.

The Buffet of Awesome

On Thanksgiving, I fill my plate. Stacking white meat on top of dark, sweet potatoes on top of stuffing, by the time I take my first bite, my plate has some impressive height and width. At the Whole Foods salad bar buffet, I fill my to-go box with just about as much green leafy goodness with a side of craisins as I can.

When I pour my morning coffee, I fill my cup to the top, no room for milk or any other substance to detract from how coffee was meant to be consumed: black.

As I look at the way I consume, I realized one thing: the amount I consume is decided when I pick the vessel to transport my meal or coffee. The idea of only filling half my plate or pouring a half cup of coffee doesn't resonate with me.  And as such, I've learned that, if I want to have a lighter lunch, I need to grab the smaller to-go box or if I want to twitch a little less in the 10 o'clock hour, I should use a smaller cup for my coffee.

But, in this realization, the thought also came to me that the amount of awesome that we get out of any day, week, or new opportunity is directly proportional to the vessel of our expectations. Whatever size plate we show up with, we'll fill. Whatever size cup we carry into it, we'll get all the way up to the brim.

So, if that is the case, why not show up with a big plate and a huge mug and have ourselves a feast?

When you expect more than others you will work harder than others to make sure you get everything that you can see. When you carry a bigger plate to the buffet of awesome, it may take you a little longer to fill it up, but you'll be able to see how to fit a little bit more cranberry sauce on your plate and, if we're being honest, isn't that what makes this buffet called life so great?

Best Breakfast Tacos in NYC?

I think I may have found them. The long awaited search could be over. Today, I had the best Breakfast Tacos I've ever had outside of Texas. My search has been documented HERE and HERE to find Breakfast Tacos in NYC, but today might be the day I call it off. Today, I made the best Breakfast Tacos ever.

Three eggs, one link of fresh chorizo, grilled tomatoes, green peppers, and mushrooms, with sharp white cheddar cheese in flour tortillas.

So good I felt bad not inviting anyone over to eat them with me.

So good I might just give up on other people doing it right and rely only on Citerella to keep stocking fresh chorizo.

So good, the world's cutest beggar almost made me share.

Home First, Then Abroad?

Did you watch the KONY2012 video, get mad, and then share it online a few weeks ago? Did you read the reports about Trayvon Martin and then feel a similar level of outrage and share it online this week? I woke up this morning and poured my first cup of coffee and came across two articles that gave me pause. The first a terrific read in The Atlantic about the "White Savior Industrial Complex" and how it is the fastest growing trend in the privileged communities in America. (Yes I am talking to all of us that made sure to get a picture of us with some cute kids in a third world country and use it as a Facebook Profile picture.) Taking aim at KONY2012, Nick Kristof, and Oprah, it is worth taking some time to read through this eloquent rant about the convenient approach that we take towards going good, as opposed to the inconvenient work that it takes to make real change.

The Atlantic: The White Savior Industrial Complex

There is a lot in there to chew on and think about any kind of work that we believe in and want to see done abroad. But then, as I poured my second cup of coffee, I came across a piece reminding me that the killing of the young and the innocent isn't just something that happens "over there." The death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of an over zealous neighborhood watchman who thought he "looked suspicious" is a tragedy on a lot of levels. What is even more tragic is that this kind of stereotyping still happens in our country. But what is the worst is that the same people that got ramped up and mobilized about innocent kids being killed across the ocean have been pretty quiet about it happening in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

White People, You'll Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin

I want to say that what KONY2012 has brought to light is a bigger story because it has been going on for years and that Trayvon Martin's murder is an isolated incident. What I want to say is that Invisible Children (an awesome organization by the way) has been building their audience for years and that is why they were able to bring such a voice to KONY2012 and there wasn't a group rallied to roll out the call for justice in the Trayvon Martin case. But I don't think those ideas are actually what I want to say at all.

As I pour my third cup of coffee, I'm realizing what I found myself asking this morning about these two points of view is this: is it sexier and easier to think about a problem that is half way around the world than it is to think about and doing something about a problem that we all know exists right here at home?

Systematic Coffee

My Dad has a lot sayings. A couple of gems are, "Gotta make list," "Winning isn't everything but losing sure stinks," & "Gotta have a system." As a former Barista, I am still amazed at the systems Starbucks uses to pander to the every whim of the fickle American consumer. One of the first things you learn in Barista training, shortly after the brainwashing and Howard Schultz worship service, is how to call out drink orders. Since everyone has to earn their spot on the bar, the first position you learn is order taking. Once you take the order, you call it out to the person on the bar. The person on the bar, in between frothing soy milk and squirting raspberry into a tween's cream based mocha frappuccino, has to scribble down on the side of a cup the order. The order takers job is to translate what the customer says into Barista speak and the official system of drink ordering to make it easy for the guy on the bar to scribble down.

So, when a soccer mom on her cell phone says, "Um, yeah, can I have a latte, a medium? Oh and make it with skim milk and put some hazelnut in it. And two Splenda. And also, make it decaf."

The order takers translation, going in the order of the boxes on the side of the cup is: "Grande decaf nonfat hazelnut 2 Splenda latte."

So, if you want to order like a pro, figure out your drink based on the boxes on the side of a cup.

Or, if you want to enjoy coffee the way it's meant to be consumed, order the way I do: "Viente Bold. Black."

VIA: The Tallest Midget

I have an obsession. It is not a secret to most. I love Starbucks. Since last week, I have been asked on multiple occasions, "What do you think of VIA?" (the new instant coffee from Starbucks.) I will be honest, I was extremely skeptical. There is nothing quite like a fresh brewed cup served by a friendly, or perhaps aloof, Barista. But, when the manager of my Starbucks ( handed me three packs and said to let her know what I thought, I gave it a shot.
Here is what I found; it all comes down to the water. At your local Starbucks, they use triple filtered water that is as good as most bottled water (not as good as Fiji, but that is for another blog.) When I gave the VIA a chance, it was with hot tap water. The coffee was almost as strong as the in store brewed cup, but there was something missing and I am going to blame that on the water.
But, the real discover, and the one that I would like to share with you is this: bottled water + VIA = really good on the go Iced Coffee. Take an 8oz water bottle and one VIA package, shake it up, and there you go.
As Brian Cuban said this morning, instant coffee is like diet cola, it is still diet. And as Michael Arrington said, being the best instant coffee is like being the tallest midget.
All in all, I will still be going every morning to my Starbucks and getting my Venti Drip, Black. But, for those times when I am on the road, I will be reaching into my bag and pulling out my free packs of VIA (I have been given one everyday for the past week at my Starbucks, they love me) and shaking up some Iced Coffee to tide me over until the next Starbucks appears on the horizon, four blocks away.