Reflections from my 10 Day meditation retreat

Life is but an endless cycle of suffering and joy. We have to accept it, when we were born into this world we were set up for this cycle.

Suffering is simply a mental state, we create the concept of suffering in our minds.

We too have the authority to reframe that same concept of suffering into joy.

We cannot predict the future, and the more we think of about it, and the more we try to cling on to our posessions, the more we sorrow we cause for ourselves.

What we CAN do is focus on ourselves in the present by being a better person. We would have known that we have done our best, and that’s the best that we can do.

So lets focus on this and when we have a strong and trained mind and body, it may be possible that one day we could break out of this cycle when we reach enlightenment. ūüėČ

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Our rooms, also called kutis

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Ejoying a cuppa w vissen and evo, this is the coffee shop where we have our daily catchups with Ahjan Clyde

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The pond where the BCDC hall overlooks

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The BCDC meditation hall

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One of my favourite places to meditate in the compound , the bamboo forest

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Every Tuesday’s precession with the community at the Wat Sri Boonrung Temple

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Every Tuesday’s precession with the community at the Wat Sri Boonrung Temple

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Beautiful farms surrounding the BCDC centre

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Evening sunset around Fang

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Triangle lake in Fang, with floating houses

‘Folks, this ain’t normal’

Joel F. Salatin¬†(born February 24, 1957) is an American¬†farmer, lecturer, and author whose books include¬†Folks, This Ain’t Normal;¬†You Can Farm; and¬†Salad Bar Beef. – Wikipedia.

I chanced upon Joel F Salatin during my readings on Regenerative Agriculture, and I was happy to hear about his thoughts on what shifts are required to shift the food system to a regenerative one. Below are some exerpts by Joel, from the video interview at Google.

Googler: It is still not economically viable for many people to Farm the way we want to and live that lifestyle of pureness. How does one deal with this struggle?

‘We have taken our western grecko Roman-linearised-individualised-compartmentalised- way of thinking to a philisolphical apartheid, and I think that those of us that want to come back together in a eastern wholistic, come together, and live in our teepees, have our medicine man should be able to opt out of the greater cultural that normalcy may not vanish from this side of our world.¬†

‘It is a struggle, but, keep to it. The more people do it the more it gets easier, but it takes someone to start. Keep going’.

Googler: How do you break a cycle where capital flows to the people who own the system etc- people in the Govt?

Joel: ‘I believe that the greatest innovation & opportunity is when we allow people to self-actualize their own individual expression…rather than trying to regulate out what we don’t like, if we allow the people who want to eat differently and buy differently, and create a different landscape for their grandchildren, it would completely topple the Big Ag companies. The reason they are allowed to continue their position at the top is because they are protected from competition at the bottom.¬†

Googler: Many entrepreneurial start ups morph into wall-street-ified companies that lose their disctinctives. And in the process, the business chews up its workers and founders in an attempt to dominate something. Does middle ground exist?..What values are more important than growth? Especially since, cancer is growth.

Joel: We didn’t want to get gobbled up, be bought over and turned into something else. What is it that defines us? We created a 10 liner-mantra. i.e. We would never have a ‘sales target’, you begin looking at people as commodities. All growth has to come from second-hand, word of mouth. If sales drop off- we need to look internally. Something we may not be doing well etc. We will never patent or copyright, and have to stay one step ahead of the copiers.

 

Being in nature

“When you spend too much time in an urban environment, you start to magnify your problems and your sense of self-importance. The scale of the architecture is human, and where-ever you go things cater to your needs. We have no frustration tolerance because everything revolves around us.

But in the countryside, nature puts you in your place. You walk in nature and you are an ant amongst the towering gum trees and the craggy mountains. You come back after six months of being away on a farm, and in the busy., paths you have painstakingly carved and slashed have vanished. Nature does not care if you hit the unsubscribed button and fly off to Boca Raton.

But yet your spirit soars. There is a certain bliss in being reminded of your smallness, your mortality. When you know you can’t control everything, you start to let go of the reins that never led to anything much anyway, and your incessant worrying mind starts to relax and stops drowning out your emotions and the senses of your body.

When you walk, there you are just walking.

When you ear, there you are, just eating.” Crystal Lim-Lange

https://thecrystalbawl.wordpress.com/

Thanks for sharing this Crystal, it’s a beautifully written piece and I had to share it!

Being a Linchpin – Seth Godin

Seth¬†is an entrepreneur, best-selling author,¬†and¬†speaker. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written 18 best-selling books, including The Dip,Linchpin, Purple Cow, Tribes,¬†and¬†What¬†To Do¬†When It’s Your Turn (And¬†It’s Always Your Turn).

My good mate Bryan who created https://bryanvictor.com/ introduced Seth’s podcast to me. What really stood about about Seth is his level headed-ness and almost no BS answer that achieving your goals are non-complicated, there are no shortcuts, and we live in an ecosystem where people can help us get to where we want to be. We just need to put in the work, intelligently. Here are some pointers from his interview. Happy Sunday!

  1. Being a Linchpin
  • The problem is that people are seduced into thinking that they should fit in more in the system.
  • Through the school system & the¬† industrial system, people are taught to fit in.
  • On the flip side social media throws in ‘quick wins’ technique
  • People are starting to feel broken because the promises are not kept on both sides
  • If someone can tell you how to do your job, we can find someone cheaper, better and faster to replace you.
  • You have a choice. Either be the replaceable cog in the pyramid who gets paid as little as possible, or be the founder owner, or, be the linchpin, the people who figures out what to do next.
  • There is a real good reason to be afraid, it is for survival. You will need some of that, when you get into competition. But it is less relevant today. To do the things you want to do – like public speaking, etc you need to hack it.
  • The work is the point, the process is the point.

2. How to get into that ‘space’¬†

  • Being proactive. Putting yourself there into the space which may be uncomfortable, but extremely positive and opens up opportunities for yourself.
  • Working in a space of some ‘fear’ keeps us on our toes.

3. Choosing happiness

  • People are happy when they have agency in their life. When they can take control.
  • How can I do things in the world to leave a better trail.
  • The world does not like being hustled, how do I do things so I get my fair share.
  • Its how you choose to react. You have a choice to react, you can either choose to be curious, or by angry at any given moment.
  • The world responds really well to people who people who take responsibility, and give away credit.
  • If you can’t find a fit in an organisation that accepts that, there is another one that wants you.

4. How do you define success?

  • Turning down a billion dollars in stock options because he knew how to do that, but what would change for the better if he did.
  • Don’t do it for money, do it because its meaningful
  • This might not work, there might be no shortcuts, but you might be able to see a different way through.
  • How can you live a life where you don’t need a fineprint, or a lawyer. As you build so much trust with people.
  • The goal is to build that trust – putting things into the world with the promise that I made

5. How do you remove self-talk? 

  • When your limiting mindset loop gets started when you get certain triggers, how do you stop the reinforcing loop?
  • Congitive Behaviour Therapy helps to put things in a distance and reflect on them.
  • The minute you start saying – here we go again, we can reprogramme the cycle.
  • Be present. Not to run away from the things that scare us, but to dance with them instead.

 

6. How do you put ‘getting better’ into a process

  • If you have enough ‘bad’ content, it is a great start because the environment will help you make it better.
  • There is very little relevance about ‘Talent’, as we are in a culture where someone else can make things better for you.
  • You can put yourself into a culture that helps you make things better.
  • People get better in compounding ways, because they edit, they make improvements in their writing etc.
  • Get into an iterative cycle, do more, do projects, get feedback, improve.
  • You can simulate a bootstrap with people around you. i.e. a mastermind group.
  • If you think you have a shortcut, you are WRONG.
  • Seth had written 3000 direct emails before he got the hang of it.
  • This economy is a connection economy, its not about who trusts you and how you can put things together, with what resources you can access. That is ignored by too many people.
  • There may be a few people who will prod, provoke and encourage.

 

7. Should you follow your passion?

  • Reframing following your passion to- choose to LOVE the thing we DO
  • We don’t find the passion, we CREATE it
  • Programme into yourself, this mindset
  • Hack the fear in your head – fear of death, fear of being alone. Accept the fact that it’s all going to go away.

 

 

 

Rationalising why I did not get my IPPT gold

3 weeks ago our group was told we could take our individual physical proficiency test (IPPT) when we headed back to camp for a briefing. I and most of the officers gladly chose to sign up for it, for some obvious reasons haha. I decided that despite a short timeline I would try out to aim to get a Gold. Something I had not have since my active days 10 years ago.

Long story short, we found out days before that it was canned. I definitely was disappointed because I didn’t want all that training to go to naught. Quickly I chose to book a test at one of the more challenging locations, where I had not managed to get a gold in the last 5 attempts.

So I had created a training programme with little or no experience in following one, and tried to get the shortest route to meet my targets to get gold, which I now felt was more achievable.

Race day.

First I did not have breakfast.

Push ups were a disappointment. On my first attempt I only had 30 counted pushups . My average was 50-55 when I did it regularly.

Sit-ups, I did 33. My average maxed out at 40.

2.4 run

From my training, the fastest I have reached was 9:08.

I clocked a 10:14.

In totally I had of 82 points, just missing gold by 3 points.

From my training I thought that had prepared myself mentally. Here’s why I think I did not get my Gold.

1. Lack of sticking through the training programme religiously.

– as much as I can give excuses on how busy I was and how many things got in the way. The fact remains that I was only about 50% close to the schedule. The last few days before the IPPT I let it slip.

2. Lack of preparation for race day.

A few things I could have done better. Slept a little earlier. Had breakfast earlier. Then I wouldn’t have run out of energy. I could have reached camp earlier. The wait was dreadful and it was energy sapping too.

3. Lack of a winners mentality

I did not PUSH hard enough. No other way to put it or excuse to give. Mentally I had relaxed.

So what am I going to do to redeem myself?

1. Try again

I plan to book the next test next week.

2. Train hard

Need to nail the key activities like push ups and sit-ups. Then the run requirements will be less intensive

3. Be prepared for race day

Sleep earlier, wake up earlier, have breakfast early.

4. Push an additional 10% on race day

If I work for it, I will get my gold, I believe I will. Hoo yah.

Create clarity through the spring cleaning of one‚Äôs mind

Anxiety is caused by thinking about a future that has not happened. Will we get hired in our future job? How will we do in our exams? Chances are we always tend to play the negative outcomes in our mind. Having a tense moment, worrying about the multiple things happening at once ie moving abroad, and not being able to get a job, jumping into an unfamiliar new industry, not doing anything with the projects I have had wanted to do, brought a surge of anxiety over me.

I looked at the book rack I had and thought, well well, aren’t there these 15 books that I’ve been wanting to read but never got down to touching them ever. It seems many of the projects which I have been keen to work on or explore have ended up this way. Becoming white elephants.

I don’t want to continue producing white elements. I want to start producing real world results. In order to start, I need to empty my list and start building it up.

At that very moment, I decided to remove all my books at keep them in my cabinet. This is what I felt- taking on many things on my plate cosnstantly gets me distracted. In the ends all the bits and pieces tend not to have a solid end result/deliverable. What if I chose to focus on completing one activity at a time. To have depth instead of breadth? Would this habit change the way I operate?

At that very moment when I played the audio book on zen za meditation, the words below was spoken.

It basically said, chris. Stop trying to understand and learn everything about anything. Start by understanding yourself.

However in order to do that, you need to do something quite counterintuitive. You need to remove all thoughts about the future. Your dreams, goals, etc. You need to completely empty your mind.

And when you do, practise sitting, (ie medication) and slowly, you may allow whatever necessary thoughts into your mind.

This was a moment that spoke to me. The universe had given me my answer.

This is what I needed to do next. To empty my mind, my thoughts and my expectations.

On a practical sense, of course there are things that were still needed to be done and projects needed to be completed. Ie job research etc. What I would need to do is list them out and work on them as projects. Not putting any expectation about the future of these projects but focusing on doing each of them well. Only then will I not dwell too much about the future, but be able to focus on good work in the present moment.

A check-in with myself

In Jan 19 – I had the following items listed on my wall

  1. Create a Personal Brand
  2. Write a book by 31 Nov 2019
  3. Create a Framework
  4. Start Focusing on Adult-Learning

In April 19, (4 Months ago) I had a coaching session with Danny to gain mental clarity. Here was what I had put down

What I want to achieve ****

  • Having mental clarity. Which is to know what my goals are.
  • Ideal life is one of being involved in nature. Surfing, water etc.
  • Farm to table ‚Äď being able to eat naturally good food

Next Steps

– The Plan

  1. Research ‚Äď Do an indepth study of the topic (April-June)
  2. Create a proof of concept (July – Nov) – This includes writing a book and publishing it in Dec.
  3. Monitor plan ‚Äď Be accountable to someone. Check in on that plan weekly.

That did not go as planned. And here’s the new plan.

New plan

  1. Focus on Creating a Sustainability consultant’s package by End of August

– Utilizing current skillsets and experience to create a viable product ‚Äď Engagement & Projects

– Writing a book about being a Farmer (1 month ‚Äď August). Complete End August.

 

2. Focus on Job Search for 2020.

– Create CV, Portfolio

– Job Search

– Gain skillset required

 

I’m not sure if i’m getting better clarity or getting more confused. Plan after plan, idea after idea, my focus keeps changing. With the constantly shifting goalpost, I think its time to calm myself down and focus on the long term plan.¬†

When I shared with Bryan what a ‘Good Job’ Meant for me, he asked me to list down what good meant to me. It was a great exercise because it helped me to define what I am truly looking for.

Constraints
– Income: $42000 ~ $66000/year
– location: Singapore (by 1 Feb 2020), then Vancouver on (Dec 2020?).

Definition of a Good Job
1. Company culture of respect, trust, growth mindset like a lab.
(What question would you ask the people working there to test for this?)
2. Being able to create new ideas/innovations to exercise my design thinking/Creative/problem solving muscles, being able to Work on new projects every 6 – 12 months.
3. Agriculture / Food/ Environment/ psychology/ related field
4. Being able to work independently- ie not in a regimented style, being micromanaged, Given time and trust to execute plans.
5. No office cubicle. Outdoor element preferred.
6. Flexible working hours preferred.

So just putting it out there. Im gonna need to stick to my plan…!! Gahhh!

Raising Emotional Awareness – Forest School by Darren

” There has ever been a session where the entire session was spent right at this carpark. The children did not make it out of here.” – Darren

“What? 2 hours just discussing what to do? How did this affect them?” – Me

“They learnt about negotiation. They learnt about give and take. It was so painful for them, and they learnt quickly, so the sessions that followed after that were much speedier, as they did not want to struggle again”. – Darren

This was my first time hearing about a Child-Led activity through Forest School Singapore’s Darren Quek.

“Have we decided where to go?”¬† – Coach asked

“To the Playground! …No! I don’t want to go to the playground!”- One child disagreed. After much banter an compromise, the group decided on one direction.

Enroute to the playground,  just about 5 minutes into the walk. Lay some concrete sacks stacked onto wooden palettes. Likely building material for future development in the park. The children naturally ventured in. They started picking up small pebbles and rocks and play-fighting with them. Using branches they did sword fighting. A brave kid tried to scale the mountain of sacks, which was taller than he was.

This was Children’s imagination in its natural form – unhinged and free. Organic and dynamic.

Darren, a humble, young and when speaking, seemingly rough on the edges shared why he wanted to start Forest School. Coming from an Early childhood background, he felt that outdoor education was lacking. He then enrolled himself into Forest School training and trained in Japan under a sinseh, who taught him more than the Forest School Pedagogy.

Darren had struggled running the business. He had experienced a steep growth once, and in his blog post “Becoming small”¬†he talks about how, at the peak of growth he gained wisdom and took a bold move not to let growth for the sake of growth take over.

“We saw the amount of strain on the team and the environment had Forest School expanded so haphazardly,¬†following the same business economic model that have driven our world into the unequal and selfish state that we are, on a corporate level. The decision was made to¬†keep Forest School Singapore small and mobile, without any further full-time staff. “

Darren shared that it is important to be accountable to one’s direction. We spoke about the social enterprise community. He mentioned to respect whichever decision one should make – if one chooses to go commercial as Edible Gardens had done, it is absolutely fine. Sitting on the fence and holding on to a fantasy whilst reality bites on the other hand isn’t going to work out.

As I draw to the end of the session, they end off with a get together. Coach asks

“What did you like about today?”

Some kids gave answers which could not be rationalised, like ‘blah blah’, I thought was interesting that they were not pressured to answer what they did not want to.

Others, shared more heartfelt moment, like how they loved the session and did not want it to end. The coaches chipped in, and used the opportune moment to explain how certain previous actions could have been unkind to their friends, using them as teachable lessons.

A Excerpt from The Forest School blog summarizes my experience with the School.

“In Forest School, we let the children voice their displeasure directly to each other, as kids are naturally impulsive and they should not suppress their emotions. Usually, when they are given the space to communicate to one another in their own way, they start to recognise that the context of their emotions are sometimes unwarranted, or that things are not always black and white and they learn to see things from their friends‚Äô point of view instead. “

First and foremost, I would like to thank Darren for taking time off on a Sunday morning to bring me along, and to have patiently and thoughtfully share with me his journey of setting up, running Forest School. I would no doubt highly recommend any child to attend Forest School for all the benefits it brings to a child’s awareness and development!

 

Lead yourself to Lead others better

Leadership roles had come too easy to me.

From being the cell group leader of church, to the Assistant Lead of NCC, to President of the Photography club, Innovation club, Platoon Commander of NDU, Manager of Muffinry Lead of Bicycle Barista & GM of Edible Gardens.

I’ve often wondered why am I put in these positions, when I feel that I:

1. Do not have the technical/subject matter skills to lead the organisation.

2. Am a generally not a confident/loud speaking person – you would think of most leaders.

In a recent interview by World No 1 Rugby Team’s the All Blacks Coach – Graham Henry on his Captain Kirean Read, GH said about Kirean’s Leadership. “To be able to lead such a big team of this significance, one has to be able to first Lead himself pretty well.

When Interviewed about his Leadership style, Kirean read mentioned

“When leading, you need to be yourself and have very clear values that mirror and portray the way you lead; otherwise you will miss the right path in which to take your team. ” – University of Canterbury¬†

I could then see the links of why I had been chosen for a few reasons such as showing enthusiasm, being consistent, responsible etc.

However, I am not happy with the result of my current leadership status. There are PLENTY more things I want to work on and I am laying them here so that I can be accountable to myself.

It starts by leading myself, and doing the little things well, so I can then do the big things well.

  1. Timeliness – to be punctual.
  2. Financially educated – to be able to have systems in place for managing finances
  3. Prepared – to prepare more – in chef school we call this Mise En Place. 95% of all work is in preparation, and 5% is in execution.
  4. Merticulous – winging it only gets you this far. The real work is in the details. Errors glare out like a sore thumb.
  5. Process driven – Every activity ultimately leads to a series of actions, which can be broken down into small steps. No matter what ‘level’ you are at, the better you have these process organised the more prepared you become.
  6. Self Awareness –
  7. Self Belief – I often forget that I have done what tens of thousands of others are not willing to do and explore. There is merit in the risk that I have taken and I need to continue feeding this.

Looking forward to improving self!

Lessons from Running a Cafe Business

Having run multiple coffee joints through different permutations – i.e. A hostel-run cafe in Sydney, opening an actual brick and motar cafe, A Bicycle Cart serving Espresso, through to being an avid Cafe-hopper in the mecca of Third-Wave-Coffee Australia, I have learnt, through many many challenging lessons, and hundreds of thousands of espresso shots later some lessons that would enable you to increase the chances of running a successful cafe. I’m not guaranteeing that it will succeed, but this are the foundational – must haves, for which without it the chances of success would be very very slim.

There are 3 building blocks that I have observed which are foundational to running a Successful Cafe.

a. Soul

b. Having the right tools

c. Consistency

Coffee

a. Soul 

Soul in my definition is the the essence of the space. It is the experience, feeling, emotion that you want every guest to experience. 

  • The Vision. There are usually significantly emotional reasons more than practical reasons why people love visiting cafes, and maybe times some of the cafes they have visited in some other part of the world becomes strong inspiration for a cafe they wish to open. But at the root of it all should stem a strong vision, the heart beat of the place, whether it is to provide a cosy enclave for burnt out office workers. Or to provide a space that recreates the hospitable sunny Aussie cafe vibes (in my case).
  • The Vibe – The attention to details matter way more than you think. All 5 senses matter way more than you think. A cafe is a safe space where people travel to visit to feel a sense of safety, where they can read in peace, have heart to heart conversations, or be by themselves to contemplate. Every little touch from the style, volume of music. (Playlists playing with Radio/Streaming with Ads signals to the customer you aren’t thoughtful enough about the little things!). The quality and density of the furniture, its consistency, how comfortable your butt feels. I am not saying that every cafe has to be decked with designer furniture, high quality stero systems. The Vibe should exude the intent of the vision of the Brand which is usually closely related to the owner. There are plenty of lovely and rustic hole-in-the-wall cafes (Literally) in Sydney & Melbourne & I loved how casual I could be, sitting in a back-alley on a overturned plastic milk crate, basking in the early spring light rays, just doing my own thing.¬† The most important lesson I learnt is that you have to be confident of the vibe you are going for, but often a half concerted effort ends up giving the consumer that the experience is going to be as diluted as the coffee they would be about to receive.
  • Culture – What is the team culture you want to create to your team? Who will end up becoming your biggest, and most powerful ambassadors. Imagine a cafe where the first thing you see if the staff is crouching on his stool, looking at his phone. The customer has to make the first move to respond. That’s simply poor professionalism, this immediately presents a red flag to the customer. This common cafe disease comes from an underlying culture that allows a fairly laxed environment. A cafe that has staff grinning from teeth to teeth, greeting guests confidently, is one that tells a story. It indicates that staff are feeling comfortable in their work environment, that their manager/supervisors have been empowering them. I have found the work culture in Australia extremely professional and nurturing. A few things done extremely right that make staff feel great are: providing meals for staff – this is a HUGE morale booster. Staff get to save money AND being fed by their professional kitchen makes the staff feel great. Ensuring staff go for scheduled breaks, and do not disturb them during these breaks. Paying staff promptly is definitely a sign of consistency and being timely.

b. Having the right tools

Invest in the right tools. They will be with you for a long time, and you will see every strength and flaw in them. Reliable tools are always a bonus. 

  • Equipment – Fact, professional kitchen equipment is expensive. That is because they are built to withstand the constant abuses. One would easily expect to be set back $100 000-$500 000, for professional kitchen & coffee equipment, (excluding renovations!). If you think, I’ve got a home-mixer, or oven, and it should be fine to start..I can assure you I have burnt enough Kitchen-Aid motors and killed multiple ovens to assure you they don’t. I have my beef with Second hand-equipment also, having bootstrapped for multiple setups, I can only advise not to. Having great equipment support is also great. Some appliance manufacturers would only send someone down by creating an appointment through an operator, and that could be days later.
  • Good design – Never underestimate the power of smart design. When serving up to 2000 customers a day, you definitely want to not be running around like headless chickens. Every action should be coordinated into a samurai-like precision. The flow of where the order goes in, to where the barista sees his order, to the wait staff knowing exactly where and when to deliver the beverage too. A fantastic system is one where staff do not have to speak too much to one another (It can get frantic and disorienting during a service). A good way to ensure before setting up is to do a dry-run of steps etc by creating a work-flow process map. The rule of thumb is: the less steps the better. This involves lots of pre-planning, dry runs. Funny story: Once, we came into work the very next day with a ‘bloody’ floor as the frozen blueberries had melted from the freezer. To our Horror, someone had accidentally turned off the Freezer the evening before instead of turning off the main switch for the fans. It was not so funny then..but it could have been avoided through better design. i.e. having the freezer switch away from the other switches.
  • People – I’ve put people under tools for a reason. As much as I am a strong believer of people being individuals with unique personalities, strengths, and abilities. In the context of a cafe: they are part of a bigger role and they each have a very very specialised role. Hiring for the right role is extremely important. This is one thing you can’t ‘wing’. A Trained Head Chef would have busted his ass for 10 years in the heat of kitchens and you can’t just replace him with a still–in-university student who knows how to cook aglio olio for his girlfriend. You truly get what you pay for. Employees are part of a bigger ‘machine’ and they, like any tool, are required to be chosen to maximise longevity, Cafe owners wish that all their good staff can stay forever, if possible. They will need to be sharpened and honed – by means of personal development, going for upskilling etc, and most importantly, maintained, through constant emotional support, nurturing as any good manager would. People don’t always get along, and staff turnover is a part and parcel of the F&B business. My recommendation is it doesn’t matter how small or insignificant your cafe is, setting high standards, and expecting staff to meet them, and waiting longer to choose the right candidate always outweighs emotional and depsperate hires. It sometimes is better to disappoint a customer than to serve him a sub-par product. People are complex, and I’m sure I will write about them more in future posts.

c. Consistency

People only remember how something tastes based on the last time they had a memory of the experience. They tend not to point out the average quality of times they have been to a place. In fact, the food industry, it can be extremely unforgiving. One inconsistent experience (due to forces of God event, some small silly mistake) can render a customer giving a poor review and never coming back. As a trained chef, I try to be understanding about my expectations coming into a cafe/restaurant however most consumers out there aren’t.

  • Consistency in Food & Drink: For a barista, understanding that there are potentially THOUSANDS of variables that could affect the flavour of a product. From the specific date the bean has been aged to, to factors one has little control over i.e. the weather changes during the processing of the coffee bean. To have a consistent product at every part of the day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, is extremely crucial. Customers often don’t know exactly how to explain a certain taste etc, but they know, they will know if something is inconsistent. I am saying this because I am extremely inconsistent, sometimes I would be more generous than other times by giving more ice-cream etc. This can get difficult to manage as you often forget what the benchmark is. Of course on the flip side if every single process is over-SOPed, and everything is just based off manuals, then would it leave no place for craftsmanship? Which requires thousands and thousands of hours and practise. My experience with the context in running a cafe in Singapore – is if your workforce has an existing talent pool that allows such incredible crafsmanship and hiring is no issue, as with the case in Australia, sure, go for it. However if you don’t then you may want to trust processes instead. Ugly and boring visuals, and some form of basic training would be more consistent that trying to hire the next hot-shot barista.
  • Consistency in Service – In the restaurant context, the restaurant team is usually split into the Front of House, and the Back of House. The Front of House team usually comprises the host/front desk, the Floor Manager, Servers, and Barista/Bar Tenders. The Back of house usually comprises the kitchen crew, dishwashers etc. I won’t go into detail, but just like food, the experience in service is extremely extremely important. It is something I feel is not done well enough here in most cafes & restaurants. But it is done extremely well in Australia where the job is taken with so much pride and every host makes the guest feel on top of the world.

 

In my next post, I will be writing on:

  1. The Romanticism of owning a Cafe

Stay tuned!

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