Many people asked me how I came up with this idea and the truth is.....I didn't. The cuppa challenge concept is the genius of Jason Elkins from 100 Cups Consulting in Tennessee, USA. Jason learnt long ago the power of making authentic connections with people as a way of doing business and made it into his business model. Jason's idea was to do 100 cups over a set period of time (not everyday - don't be crazy).
I didn't want to copy his idea so I spoke to him about doing a cuppa challenge instead - a cup a day, every day for a month. He had two things to say to me. First "awesome! go for it". Second "what's a cuppa?". Language barriers aside, Jason agreed to mentor me through the process and what a process it was. Here are the top 6 things I learned from doing the cuppa challenge:
I found that listening to someone, truly listening, required me to use much more than my ears. I entered this challenge with the intention to deeply understand and receive the person in front of me. I wanted to hear about their journey, their needs, wants, desires and, if they were open to sharing it, their pain. Listening on this level meant I took in much more than their words. I watched their facial expressions, I heard the tone of their voice, I saw their body language. I noticed what they were NOT saying, I could sense when they were uncomfortable and if they were truly feeling heard and seen. I realised that listening is a full body experience. For me personally, it is a spiritual experience. A sacred gift of receiving someone’s heart. By keeping a space open for them to empty words longing to be released I realised that I also was providing a gift. The gift of being truly present with them.
I’m as guilty as the next person of not being present with people when they’re speaking. Sometimes I’d be waiting for them to stop speaking so I can say something I felt I needed to say. Perhaps I’d interrupt and change the subject to something I want to talk about. Perhaps I’d make nodding movements while I was off in my head thinking about something else. What made me present in these conversations was my intention. I went into these meetings with a plan to capture the essence of the person I was talking to. I realised that in this state of being present and attentive, I was a better person. I remained interested in them, I shared my experiences as they became relative to the conversation, I asked questions to learn more, I offered help where appropriate. In the face of people’s pain, I expressed empathy and if I could relate to the situation I would share the insights I’d learned on my journey if they could be of help. If I couldn’t relate I shut my trap and remained supportive. I came to see how much being heard helped to heal. They didn’t need my advice, I was already doing enough by being truly present.
Some people’s stories flowed out of them like rivers rushing to the sea. It was like they had been longing for someone to finally show a genuine interest in them, their story and their dreams. For these people, most of my prewritten questions didn’t get asked. It was much more important to me to follow the flow of their dialogue and go with the ride. Some had so much to say their words flew at me like a torrent but I remained intrigued. In those situations I ditched my canoe for a white water rafting boat. There was almost a kind of anxiety in their voice that they may not get out everything they needed to say. I felt close to wanting to calm them down and assure them that I wasn’t going anywhere.
Others were intrigued to meet me but cautious of sharing their story with me. Their words tickled more like a stream. This is when my prewritten questions helped to ease some anxiety around awkward silence. Some were so closed off, it made me wonder why they volunteered for a chat. I decided to remain open to the idea that perhaps this conversation was one of many to come where slowly but surely the dam would weaken and overtime all of who they are might flow to me as our relationship deepened.
Many of the people I spoke to whispered to me that they had a book in the works. I wonder if it would be such a scary thing to admit if people realised just how common wanting to write a book is? Some had written a few chapters, some just had an idea. When I mentioned I am a book editor and would be happy to review their writing, a look of panic and terror appeared on some of their faces. It wasn’t that I’d dared to ask to help. It was the idea that the book could actually come to life that seemed to scare the living daylight out of them. There was something comforting about it remaining in the ‘project’ phase. The same was true of people who shared a dream with me. Grand, huge, world changing visions that remained inspiring as a dream and became terrifying at the mention of ways to start bringing them to life. I can relate in many ways actually. To actually declare yourself to the world in the form of meaningful action takes great courage.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m out of practice or if there are tips to listening that I still need to learn but I was shattered after almost every chat. It didn’t help that I let some of them run for 2-3 hours (when I intended it to be a 1-hour chat) and the people who needed to talk to me for 2-3 hours were the people who had the most to say (rapids city). I think the main reason I was so tired after listening was because of my first point. Listening is a full body experience. You are giving your full, undivided attention. That attention takes energy and perhaps that’s why most conversations are two-way, so that both people give and receive energy. In an interview scenario, it is expected that the person being interviewed will talk for the majority of the time. Perhaps that’s why a 1-hour limit needs to be a MUST for this sort of networking. Otherwise you will be a well-liked puddle on the floor. There may be ways for me to keep energised in the chats but mostly I think it’s just part of the package. The reward is an authentic connection that can be built upon. A connection created from a loving intention to serve is likely to come back to you in the form of referrals. This reduces your need to do projectional marketing that often feels fake for service orientated people.
As previously mentioned, I approached the cuppa challenge more like a series of interviews than chats which was one of my biggest mistakes. I wanted to learn about their journey, passions and dreams which is lovely but I denied the people I spoke to a very precious gift. My story, my journey, my passion. For some of the chats I found there was a natural opportunity to speak to my experiences but for many of the meetings I had, people walked away none the wiser about me. I thought I had shown that I valued myself by having clear intentions, goals, and outcomes around the meetings. I had a list of questions I made sure I asked (for data collection), I got required permissions, registrations of interest etc but of all the outcomes I wrote down none of them included ensuring the person I met with knew me and my vision.
Until recently I might have been okay with that. I would have said that I am, by nature, more interested in other people than myself. However, I have a very big vision. A vision that unites the mothers of the globe. I am someone who has had very interesting and intriguing experiences. By not sharing my heart with these brave souls who poured their life story out to me, I short changed them on my gold. They possibly walked away wondering what the point of our meet up was. In focusing on others I lost sight of myself. I’m not saying that I should have ranted about myself but I should never have let those people walk away from me without ensuring they knew my heart, the way I came to know theirs. It was, in that sense, a highly hypocritical experience that I will not repeat.
Having Jason mentor me through my cuppa challenge was a lifesaver. I was able to spill every awkward moment, express frustrations and re-frame my mindset as I went along. Having someone cheer me on and show genuine interest in what I was learning kept me energised and committed. Jason has continued to wave pom poms for me long after the cuppa challenge finished. To find someone who learns from you as much as you learn from them is a real treasure. I’m very happy to live in an age where oceans and countries needn’t be a barrier to creating deep connections that fill your heart, give you strength and keep you moving. So if you were thinking of working with Jason….back off he’s mine (just kidding), consider yourself lucky for having come across him and don’t miss out on having a cup (virtual or in person) with this remarkable man. www.100cups.coffee