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


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!

Let Truth be your Compass

Don’t underestimate the power of truth.

In order to speak  what you might regard as the truth , you must let go of the outcome.

You have to say what I think, biased as I am, as I am going to live with the consequences no matter what they are. You might have to pay a price for that.

You get to pay a price for everything, anyways. You get to choose to pay a price of the poison you choose to take.

So if you want to stand up for something, stand up for your truth.

It will shape you. People will respond and object and tell you why you are biased moron, and you will be less of that in the future. And you will be able to be able to communicate and withstand pressure, and you will be a force to contend with.

I was reflecting on how I struggle with expressing my true thoughts and feelings about the current situation I am in which I am not exceptionally comfortable with. This has brought some internal conflict which also trickles onto the approach I should take in the future. This comes very timely as it is extremely important to keep pursuing the WHY and then fighting for it, refining it along the way. Glad I stumbled on this ‘reality check’ by Jordan Peterson which is absolutely true, we pay a price ANYWAYS, so lets might as well pay the price for choosing what we absolutely believe in.

Responsibility (In Men) – Jordan Peterson


Women know what they have to do, biologically. At their very basic level, i.e. it is in-built in them to nurture a young child. They tend not to have this problem when it comes to being responsible.

Men have to figure out what they have to do, and if they have nothing worth living for, they stay Peter Pan. Because the alternative to valued responsibility is impulsive low class pleasure.

A man has to decide what he’s going to do. It gives him meaning. 

On a personal note, this recent listlessness I have been feeling comes a little with not knowing exactly what’s going to happen in the near future after the end of the current gig which I so passionately have been pursuing. This no-man’s land has put me in a place that is confusing but also anxiety inducing. In order to move out of this zone I have to take full responsibility of what I want to do. 



Dr. Jordan B Peterson is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, a clinical psychologist, a public speaker, and a creator of Self Authoring.

The Real Cause of Depression – Johann Hari

Johann Eduard Hari is a Swiss-British writer and journalist. Hari has written for publications including The Independent and The Huffington Post and has written books on the topics of depression, the war on drugs, and the monarchy.  Johann suggests that depression isn’t caused by a chemical imbalance in our brains but by crucial changes in the way we are living. For Johann, this opens up new potential paths out of depression and anxiety – ones that are very different to the paths we have been offered before.

After 13 years of taking pills for his depression and not getting any better, Johann did research over the next few years and found the solution for it – and a simple one, being part of a community.

Our culture is being less and less good at meeting our psychological needs, even though we have been getting better at meeting our physical needs – i.e.

A study by Gallup shows that 87% of people are disengaged at work. https://news.gallup.com/poll/241649/employee-engagement-rise.aspx

Depression is periods of hopelessness spreading even further.

The more you think life is about extrinsic values, that it is about money, status etc the more you get anxious.

Living extrinsically does NOT meet your needs.

Instead, being connected like you are part of having meaningful relationships meets your needs.

Our whole culture is getting us to forget and ignore intrinsic values, and to live on junk values.

Childhood Trauma can play a big part in some of this anxiety – A study by Vincent Filiti

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic

What we’ve done with Depression, is to be told we are broken.

We should have been saying your pain makes sense, lets listen to that pain. 

You’re not a machine with broken parts. You’re a human being with unmet needs. 



What is Success to you?

On this interview by Jay Shetty on Ray Dalio, successful billionaire investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist, this question and the way Ray answered it really struck me.

What is success to you?

“I realised I didn’t care as much about the Success as much as I did about the journey.

Once I reached the level of success, the peak, there was a new peak to climb.

Your preference of your ‘Life Arc changes constantly’

Operating consistently with that ‘Life Arc’, is what success is.

It’s not the money. Money loses its marginal utility after a certain value.

There’s very little correlation between money and the level you have beyond a subsistence level.

The highest element is community, who you are with, and with meaningful work.

My definition of success is evolving well and contributing to that evolution. “

I thought that Ray had put it in perspective that as we all chase the next thing, it is true that when we reach the peak, we then very quickly want to move to the next one. Its a constant journey of seeking new peaks and the journey and preparation that is the most meaningful. The struggle is the fun part and I recall the journey of starting up enterprises such as Citizen Farm, and Bicycle Barista, from ground-up being so fulfilling, and often when the ship is sailing smoothly, one almost has that sense of gratitude, but yet emptyness also.

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