30 Days of Blog - Day 23 - Why should you listen to a champion?

Welcome to day 23 of 30. It seems like the time is flying by, though every day I have had to seek out the time to write this blog. There have been some good comments on what I have been writing, so it seems that at least some of you are enjoying the content here. 

Today's topic came up in conversation the other day. I often have moments of self doubt, wondering why people would want to read what I have to say. You may know it is often hard to put your inner thoughts out in the world to be scrutinized. So when this concern came up in discussion, I had to look deeper into what I have to offer. The questions that come to mind are something like "What makes you worth listening to?" or "Why should I care what you say even if you won some competition?" There are of course a few things to take into consideration here. Hang in there, it's weird for me to essentially be writing about myself. 

First would be the simple ability to write and articulate ideas in an easily understood way. Does the person writing have a good voice that makes compelling arguments? Do they pursue the truth rather than hype? Are they willing the accept when they were wrong? I like to think I have all of these things, even though admitting you were wrong about something can be hard. 

We have had to accept we were wrong numerous times in the last decade, simply because so many of our notions of how coffee should be made have changed drastically. Would you have accepted a flat burr shop grinder for making espresso 10 years ago? Doubtful. I wouldn't have either. There are so many examples of times I was wrong it's not funny. Luckily I have learned from those mistakes (I mean, I think I have at least). Mistakes and self assessment are hugely valuable in the learning process because we gain a more intimate knowledge and can use it to better our understanding of just about anything. 

These learning experiences are just that. Experience. 

Next, let's face it, many of you are listening to me because I won the WBC (a century or so ago). What is it that a barista champion has to offer in knowledge? The simple nature of being able to win a competition like that has a huge amount of experience behind it. In my case I competed for 8 years before winning the thing. You can look at the additional opportunities given to a champion as perspectives and uncommon experiences that might surpass many others. The insight that was gained through those years of competition definitely added to my personal experience. 

But here is the thing. There are plenty of people who write and educate who have never won the WBC, and a number who have never even competed. There is one who makes me wonder if they even worked as a barista before. Then of course there are also people from a scientific background who may not have even worked in coffee before. 

Everyone who provides resources of information (like this one?) have different levels of experience and expertise. Not all may be incredibly valuable, but everyone's perspective is useful to understand a topic, and to have a more robust understanding of theories surrounding it. 

The point here is that you need to discern whether a particular piece of information is useful to you or not. You should seek out various points of view on specific ideas, and then do your own testing and find what rings true for your methods. I rarely accept a new concept without first testing it to understand its performance. Take for instance weighing your espresso shots. I did not adopt this method of making espresso easily, and even though I can and do use it sometimes, I still make the majority of my shots without a scale. That is of course unless the scale is built into the equipment, in which case I use the machine they way it was meant to be used (That means I use scales almost 100% of the time on my gravimetric Black Eagle). 

Now I will say that when I trust the person who is giving new information I am more likely to accept their knowledge initially. Call it bias if you will, but when a person gives good and provable concepts time and time again they earn my trust that they are not trying to pull a fast one.

Or just talking out of their ass, if you will.

My goal for this blog is largely to put my point of view out there. I believe it is based in common sense and reasonable approaches to coffee. I have indeed had enormous amounts of experience in cafes, roasting operations, coffee farms, trade shows, competitions, and educational environments. Hopefully you are taking more than the fact that I know a whole lot about coffee. Hopefully I am putting a voice to some things you agree with, and at the same time giving a thoughtful point of view on things you don't agree on. Who knows, maybe I will be one of those people you trust for information in the long run!

I think that's enough about me and why I'm writing. Tomorrow will be a little more coffee focused, I promise.

Thanks for reading as always,

Pete

Posted on September 28, 2017 and filed under Blog.