Follow Your Compass

At one point in my life, I had serious dreams and pseudo business plans for opening my own coffee shop.  There would be pegs on the wall with ceramic mugs, labeled for each of my regulars.  The plan was presented in my senior thesis at NYU, where I brought four cups of coffee – from Starbucks, the retired MudTruck, a local NYC street corner coffee cart, and my senior year dorm room.  Each was used to demonstrate how one cup can inspire vastly different cultures and communities.

I am not joking.  I love coffee, and I love all it represents.

So when a board member took me for a magical visit to the Compass Coffee Roastery a few months ago, I was in caffeinated heaven.  The incredible founders, Michael and Harrison, weaved their way through the space, indulging my questions on how they source new beans, how they make decisions on company growth, how syrups get made, and how many cups they each drink a day.  They are smart and savvy, engaged in the DC community in a creative and inspiring way.

But they weren’t the stars of my visit.  M was.

There he was, unexpected and standing behind Michael and Harrison as they greeted me at the door, looking official and impressive as he guided other employees through the store.  Seeing former students is the joy of my professional life, watching someone you saw blossom throughout college being the fully blown grown-up they had been working so hard to become.  M. graduated from GW a few years ago, a former engagement intern who hustled his way through college with a lot on his plate.  Following a first consulting gig that did nothing for his soul, he found himself in a local Compass for a few months as he killed time between jobs.  He built relationships with the people that worked there and a short-term barista job morphed and evolved into a full-time space he now gets to occupy at the ever-growing company.  M. is a mensch, a sweet soul, the best of the best.

When we met again, just yesterday, M. made the comment that all of the engagement and coffee dates he took on as part of his Hillel engagement intern role were ultimately leading him to his current job at Compass – building relationships, tracking growth, drinking lots of coffee.  It reminded me of my own path, how that coffee shop dream and senior thesis has led me to a job where coffee and conversations and community are at the heart of my work.

What direction might your own personal compass be pointing you in?  And how can you be a part of helping others use their own?

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