An article by Dr. Heidi Lepper, Ph.D.

Barrista Baby!

Everything in life comes down to a skill. Learning to relate to each other is a skill. Listening is a skill. Remaining calm and controlling anger is a skill set. A good emotional skill set allows us to cope well with adversity instead of withering into tears. Similarly, the ways in which we deal with pain of all sorts, our understanding of the world and our place in it, and even whether or not we let the weather impact our moods is a function of learned emotional skills. You either have them or you do not.

However, it is important to understand, we cannot protect ourselves from bad experiences in life. And that's okay. In fact, we learn best from the negative experiences that happen to all of us. And appreciating this is itself a skill, and is the very epitome of positive thinking.

New skills to be learned in a new job

Now use your imagination with me. Let's say you get a brand new job as a Starbuck's barista. You feel very unsure of yourself and vastly incompetent at first. I know this to be true because during college I worked at a place similar to Starbuck's (once upon a time Starbuck's did not exist in every city!). I felt confused by all the different drink options; I was intimidated by the hissing steam machine! Customers were not patient with me while I learned, for in fact at the time I did not even drink coffee!

We generally have two styles in dealing with these inferior feelings at first.

  • We become more uptight and concerned and we become very nervous about the learning process; or,
  • We may go the other way and take the attitude that we already know how to do everything and do not actually have to be taught anything (the epitome of defensiveness to be sure)!

Regardless, you are new to Starbuck's and indeed you have new skills to be learned. You need to be taught these skills by those more experienced than you, you need to stay engaged in the job and positive in belief that you will learn and become more competent as a barista. Then in a few months you are old hat and can whip out any drink on command and now with a wonderful smile on your face because it has all gotten quite easy.

I am confident you agree with this process and I am confident you can relate. This is the process is the same in any new job. We have to learn the skills required of that particular position. What is vitally important however is that you stay engaged with the new job for if you don't you will not learn the required skills. Moreover, you need to actually get up and go to work! Of course, you do so because you want to get paid. And to keep getting a paycheck and those all important tips you will need to be a good barista. Fail and you will not be there for long and your income and possibly even your lifestyle will be jeopardized.

Listening, learning and being non-defensive are critical life skills

Learning the skills required of life and living while developing a healthy personality (defined largely as freedom from worry and depression, a non-defensive and open style, as well as acceptance and tolerance of self and others) is truly no different than acquiring the skills of a good barista.

Listening, learning and being non-defensive are critical to staying positive and engaged over time (as new memories need to be formed and that is a time based biological process). Unfortunately, we do not get paid to learn the skills of a healthy and happy life. While there's no external incentive such as money, there is a basic understanding within all of us that our choices and lifestyles are essential factors in whether we do things right and whether others will find us likeable.

The consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle are:

  • We get sick more often and more severely;
  • Our personal relationships are not nearly as fulfilling and rich;
  • Our work is boring or overwhelming;
  • Our families irritate us or overwhelm us; and,
  • We become more and more rigid in our views and how we display those views.

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Copyright © 2009 Dr. Heidi Lepper, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.