The Work Ethic Lives!

I posted on my blog (9-15-13 in the archives) a post titled, “The Work Ethic and the Dignity of Excellence.” The piece features two demonstrated practitioners of excellence: Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, and my own dad. The post reflects my belief that there are two fundamental criteria for evaluating a fellow human being:

  1. The content of his or her character.
  2. Their commitment to “excellence,” particularly when it comes to their trade/livelihood – their contribution to their family and society, as it were.

In striving for excellence, it matters not what the work entails. The question is: “How effectively and efficiently do they do their job?” I have just as much respect for a tradesperson who strives for and achieves excellence in their work as I do for a college-educated professional who exhibits a similar attitude toward their profession. As with the professions, the trades demand accuracy and care from their workers. Often, the public safety is at stake.


Yesterday’s “A” Team Baristas at Starbucks Coffee:
The Work Ethic on Display!

Yesterday, Labor Day, my wife and I went into a very holiday-busy Starbucks at nearby Santana Row. There was a long line which moved surprisingly quickly. When we got near the head of the line, I saw why. The youthful head barista was very ably assisted by two other young fellows who worked with enthusiasm and clockwork precision as the crazy assortment of orders flowed across the counter and onto the pick-up table in rapid succession. One young girl decided she did not want the blob of “whip” on her beverage; the young barista said, “No problem,” popped the lid, scooped the whip, replaced the lid, and returned it with a smile.

I have never, ever seen a barista station operate so efficiently. When the young man placed my latte on the table, I attracted his and his helpers’ attention and told them, “I’ve been watching you work; you guys are GOOD – definitely the Starbuck’s ‘A’ team.” They paused, momentarily, and a surprised smile materialized; I could tell they appreciated the fact that someone noticed and cared about the way they did their job. They were working hard and fast behind that counter, hands flying and feet moving almost as if their motions were part of a well-rehearsed routine; there was no bumping and tripping over one another as is often the case. When the head barista was ready for a canister of soy milk for the beverage he had just started, there it was, held out by one of the two helpers – the barista equivalent of a choreographed ballet. I have seen many baristas during my frequent coffee sojourns that look as if they would rather be doing anything else. I have also seen some good ones, working hard and fast with furrowed brow, but these guys actually seemed to be enjoying themselves – reveling in the precision assembly-line they had created. They were most definitely in a groove – under tough, busy conditions. The really good ones always make it look easy.

What a lift to my day (Linda’s too) to have that experience yesterday, a day that began on a decidedly down-note for the two of us. With our beverages in hand, we sat down to people-watch at the Row for a half-hour before walking to the nearby movie theatre to watch a movie… which added even more joy to our day.

As we left Starbucks through the front door after picking up our coffees and complimenting our baristas on their work ethic, I jokingly said to Linda, “I should reserve judgment until I taste my latte!” It was very good – no surprise.