After 37 years of explaining this to people individually, it’s time to address it publicly: I don’t drink coffee.
There’s nothing morally objectionable to me about coffee. I don’t have any religious conviction against it. I don’t have health concerns, and I’m not too cheap to buy it. There’s just one simple reason why I’m not a coffee drinker — to me, coffee tastes bad.
Think back to the first time you tried coffee, perhaps as a child or early in your teens. Can you honestly say you enjoyed your first sip? Or did it taste like rancid, bitter dirt water? Did you smile with delight? Or did you grimace, shake your head and say to yourself, “Why would anyone drink this stuff?”
There is a reason people drink coffee, of course. If you became a coffee drinker, something compelled you to take a second sip and then a third. Eventually, you overcame your distaste and made coffee a regular part of your life.
So why did you take that second sip? Probably because it made you feel good. Not the caffeine jolt — if you first tried coffee as a child or a teen, you probably didn’t need the stimulant. What made you feel good was the idea of being a coffee drinker. You felt cool, sophisticated and grown up. Your parents drank coffee, your friends drank coffee, and people on TV drank coffee. So, bitter though it was, you continued to drink it. Not because you wanted to drink the coffee, but because you wanted to be part of the coffee culture.
So why didn’t I follow this same path? Maybe it’s because my parents didn’t drink coffee. Perhaps I lack the patience to acquire a taste for it. Or maybe I just have a high tolerance to social pressure. No matter how hip or sophisticated a beverage might seem, if it tastes terrible, I’m not likely to drink it.
I’m an outlier, though: Coffee is everywhere, and many people around me drink it religiously. And so I find myself wondering: Do they know this stuff tastes bad? Do they care? And how did a drink that tastes so wretched become so entrenched in our society?
I find myself asking these sorts of questions a lot, and not just about breakfast beverages. There are all sorts of unpleasant things in life, culture, government and business that we seem to accept without question. So why do we put up with them?
From time to time, it’s worth looking at your career, your organization or your business and asking a basic question: Am I participating in things I dislike? And if so, why?
It’s also worth asking if you’re forcing your customers to swallow products or experiences they don’t enjoy. Are you packing the itinerary when they want free time? Are you dragging them through educational attractions when they’d rather be shopping?
At conferences and events, are you forcing attendees to sit through boring sponsor presentations? Are you feeding them bland banquet food? Are you keeping them out too late or making them get up too early?
The older I get, the more I realize that life is too short to keep swallowing things that taste bad. So you can keep your coffee. I’ll be drinking Coke instead.