Life’s too short for mediocre coffee: a wake-up call about what really matters

It was February 2013 and in just 24 hours I’d had a series of powerful moments of clarity.

Those last few months I‘d been getting a lot of grief on a project; a guy I’d partnered with had proved to be unprofessional and unreliable. It had got so bad I was having sleepless nights.

And then I — suddenly — realised. What was I doing? Why was I putting up with this rubbish?

I knew I’d had enough of chasing him and of hearing his false promises. I decided to walk away. It was more important to erase the toxicity than stay for the money. It felt good.

That same week on a trip to New York, I’d opted for a cheap tourist hotel to keep costs down. The trouble was, it wasn’t me. It was a miserable place and I had a sense of foreboding each time I walked through the doors.

As soon as I’d arrived at the hotel it didn’t feel right. A dirty side entrance, an oppressive temporary lobby while the hotel underwent a refit. No soul. No bar. No heart.

The room was okay but it filled me with melancholy when I went in there. I felt restricted.

So enough was enough.

I checked out, and I booked into The Ace Hotel.

I’d read about The Ace in Fast Company magazine — now was my chance to experience it. When I arrived I was met with a lobby full of people like me (okay, much cooler than me) hanging out, working at their laptops. It had a vibe, it had a heart and I had my next moment of clarity.

And yes I know we shouldn’t be seduced by cool hotels, but that place gave me a spring in my step. And more than a spring, it made me FLY…!

Yes, the room cost more money. And perhaps more money than I could really afford, but I could FEEL the difference.

It was warm, to the cold sterile experience of the soulless hotel.

A reminder that the right place and space matters.

The cloud lifted and I felt reinvigorated, happier and instantly more productive.

Everything fell into place after that… that hotel fuelled my best work, my meetings went well and the ideas flowed.

That first morning at The Ace I went downstairs for breakfast. I remember it vividly — certainly memorable not forgettable. It was busy, buzzy, loud, I could have sat there all day. I closed my eyes and listened to the multi-track soundtrack and took it all in. I could hear ten, fourteen voices simultaneously. Snatches of conversations. English and Spanish. The clatter of the kitchen. The Girl From Ipanema playing through speakers.

It was the perfect soundtrack to start my morning.

As I sat there with my bacon and egg, I remembered who I am and what I stand for. Right there and then I tuned in to what really matters: the projects I wanted to work on, the relationships I wanted to nurture, and the experiences I wanted to have.

After breakfast I walked across the lobby to an outpost of Stumptown coffee. I counted twenty people waiting in line, but I decided to join them.

It was quite a wait, but my patience was rewarded with my best coffee in the city.

And then I remembered:

“Life is too short for mediocre coffee”.

Whether it’s erasing toxicity from your life, refusing to tolerate a mediocre experience, or making sure you live your life true to who you are, I was reminded in those 24 hours what is really important in life. To stay true, to not compromise on what really matters. To be the real you, to put ‘you’ at the heart of everything you do.

…And also, never, ever, to drink bad coffee.

Ian Sanders

Energising Teams. Crafting Stories. Lighting Sparks.




Sparking change through story. Energising people at work. Author of 365 Ways to Have a Good Day (out Nov 2021). Fuelled by coffee, curiosity, walking.

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Sparking change through story. Energising people at work. Author of 365 Ways to Have a Good Day (out Nov 2021). Fuelled by coffee, curiosity, walking.

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