Never Look Down at the Cup

When I was in college, I worked at a popular Mexican restaurant. Every Friday night, I’d watch my friend who was a cocktail server maneuver around the packed lobby delivering drinks to customers who were waiting to be seated. One day I asked her, “How do you carry those trays of drinks through all those people with no accidents?”

“Easy,” she said. “When I worked at a breakfast restaurant and had to carry full cups of hot coffee, one of the waitresses told me, ‘Never look at the cup.’ That’s the trick.”

In other words, if you have faith in your competence you’ll have no need to check yourself and you’ll do fine. Thanks to her advice, I have successfully carried thousands of cups of steaming tea down the stairs to my office without ever spilling a drop. But one day, I was at a friend’s house and offered to carry the mugs of coffee to her table. Because I was in someone else’s home and wanting to do well, I doubted myself. I looked at the cups, and they immediately began sloshing dangerously close to the rims. I looked away quickly.

This past year, so many of us artists and entrepreneurs were faced with new challenges that tempted us to check ourselves, whether it was delivering a class virtually for the first time, or redesigning a program to accommodate pandemic protocols, or figuring out how to safely offer our live events outside and socially distanced.

We might have lost sleep over these changes, or preemptively apologized for whatever mistakes we assumed we might make, or lowered our prices because we felt unsure, or quit doing parts of our business altogether because we didn’t think we could do them as well as we had before.

Most of my successes this last year, though, came about because I reminded myself that I’m good at what I do. I’m highly trained and highly experienced. I’m creative enough to overcome the challenges and skilled enough to work past the glitches. In other words, I didn’t look down at the cup.

We will never be through with challenges. If it’s not the pandemic, it will be something else. But we can do this. A little faith saves a lot of worry.

Teresa R. Funke

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