My new (but probably not new to you) favorite word…



Free prize for the best example.



If I ran Starbucks I’d ask why they are trying to be like Smoothie King?

Its Saturday morning and I’m at Starbucks. It’s no secret Starbucks has hit on hard times of late. Their displays this summer look far more like something from Smoothie King or Krispy Kreme than what was once the most buzzed about coffee house in town. And then there’s Via, the “instant” coffee they constantly ask us to ask them about. And Trying to get Internet at Starbucks takes longer than a special order Big Mac at an airport McDonalds.

Speaking of McDonalds…….. they now sell everything Starbucks does minus overpriced coffee tumblers plus chicken nuggets and THEIR INTERNET IS FREE! When Mcdonalds starts selling your product, your on your way to becoming something like “krill” in the proverbial food chain. Be assured, the killer whale known as Moby-(wal)- Mart is on it’s way.

In times like these (as well as in other times), the secret is to sing your own song better than you’ve ever sung it before and to think about how you might make it easier for others to sing it too. Don’t let the retail sharks lure you into their game.

I fear this is what happened to Starbucks. They let hard times steal their song. They didn’t set out to be an upscale drive through sno-cone stand. Starbucks created an experiential environment around a cup of coffee- and they franchised it! Slightly above average coffee, exceptional experience; so much so it became something of a village pub for addicts and social drinkers alike.

So instead of trying to compete with Wal-Mart by delving deeper into the retail abyss, why not amp up your song Starbucks? Here are a few tunes I would be glad to sing with you.

  1. Start Happy Hour (only call it Coffee Break)  every day from 2-4. Have someone cruising through the store, press pot in hand pouring refills for free. (coffee only and only in-store.) Send someone around with free snack samples too. (some of that food u didn’t sell at breakfast). Tweet out the coffee and cookie featured every weekday at 2.
  2. Instead of putting all those overpriced unsold tumblers on-sale create a reward for loyal customers. 20 drinks (on a swipe coffee club card) and your 21st comes in a tumbler. Only don’t tell on what cup the free prize comes. Let it be a surprise. At 30 give a lb of coffee that isn’t moving too quickly. At 40 . . . . . . . . U get the point. Give me an ipad on my 1,000th cup. Reward loyalty and you’ll get loyalty.
  3. Ditch the “Tasters Choice” (aka via) and create a subscription service for your unique seasonal coffees or special international varieties. Better- do 3 subscriptions: Standards (pike, Verona, French roast) at $12/mo per lb., Premiums (International + seasonal coffees) $15/mo per lb., Boutiques (roasted this week) $20/mo per lb. Buy a cheap warehouse in Arkansas next to a college campus for a Fulfillment center and hire students at 20 hrs a week at a buck over minimum wage. Give them a grinder for joining. It’s a cash cow.
  4. I know this one will be complicated, but how about a NightCap Session 8-10 every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Get Rachel Ray or Paula Dean to create a Starbucks signature pie and sell slices of that pie only during the nightcap session.  (think food network partnership) I’m not recommending this, but maybe Bailey’s could be in order. Close down the drive through. Expand your outdoor seating into the parking lot. Maybe try a local singer-songwriter on a stool and see what happens. Starbucks should  have a federation of singer-songwriters who would readily play nights like these for a song. (it would be their own version of a “house concert.”)
  5. Work a deal with Apple to give you 7 ipads per store for customers to use for free while in store. Think of the win-win-win on that one.
  6. And for crying out loud, never make me pay for the Internet again! Create a Friends of Starbucks club where I give you my email address and you give me free Internet.

If I ran Starbucks I’d start reading playbooks from the company who actually does make the best cup of coffee in the world.

Now, I’m thinking about how this kind of thinking might impact my own business and brand? I’m in higher education and the implications seem myriad. Seriously, what is your song and how can you help other people sing it?


Why I read 1 Poem a Day (and how)

As you readers know, I regularly extol the practice of poetry. “Creative people read one poem a day,” I like to say.

Each morning I cycle through 2 or 3 sites to make certain I practice my own advice. I start with the Writer’s Almanac, a site run by the great Garrison Keillor. It’s also fun to listen to this as a podcast takes 5 minutes. Next I check a site called Poetry Daily. Finally, I look at The Poetry  Foundation’s site, which is a veritable treasure-trove of resources. I click on their poem of the day link.

Just this morning, I read the cover story of the current issue of Poetry Magazine (which they publish). The short article, “In that  Great River:  A Notebook,” shares a bit of the inner life of one of the great poet-mystics, Anna Kamienska. (whom I never knew before). It’s a collection of sayings like the following,

“Poetry is a foretaste of truth. It is the vestibule of faith. It is contemporary poets who have turned it into smoke and mirrors.”

I like that.

In response to my regular counsel, people regularly tell me, “I just don’t get poetry.” And that’s precisely the reason we must be reading it. Reading poetry reconnects us with words in their primal creative essence. Poetry strips us of our need to “master” words and meanings and leads us into the possibility of submission. So take off your “I’ve got to pin down the meaning of this poem and get something out of it” hat and put on your “I’m going to practice poetry as an act of surrendering to the mystery of art” hat.


The secret to friendship

As a 12 year old I pulled a dusty book from the family library. The title, “How to win friends and Influence People.” The author, Dale Carneige.

I happened across an insight that literally changed my life. I well remember it.

“Become genuinely interested in other people.”

As a minister I do this almost
constantly. Perhaps because I am a minister I don’t often experience this reciprocated.

We spent this past week with friends in Texas. I found myself on the receiving side of this equation–being around people who were genuinely interested in me.

Become genuinely interested in other people.

I think it may be the most practical wisdom I’ve ever learned.

Thanks Dale!


What to do in the midst of an irreconcilable family fight

Today I watched a small  flare up between the two brothers, my oldest and youngest, David (9) and San (4). They fought over a tiny frog in the swimming pool. Sam found the frog. David caught it. Sam claimed findership. David clanged to keepership. A screaming bunker-buster of a cluster bomb exploded all around us. I entered the fray, persuading David to give the frog to the four year old. He did so with angry reluctance. Sam gloated. Enraged, David shoved the antagonistic aggressor. Sam screeched protest. As World War 3 brewed I intervened, establishing a de-militarized zone (DMZ). 

As I contemplated peace-talks, I pondered what might defuse this skirmish. Given it’s present trajectory, casualties loomed eminent. Reconciliation was a pipe dream. Then it occurred to me, there’s only one way out of this. Someone has to forgive the other one. 

Here’s what I think that means: someone has to make a willful decision to not retaliate. They don’t have to “feel” like it. They don’t have to want to do it. This is not a cease-fire agreement or a truce. It doesn’t require repentance on the part of the other. No, forgiveness consists in “not retaliating.” Not seizing collateral to satisfy a debt. Not talking about the person behind their back. Not doing anything with the intent to harm the other in any fashion. 

Only then can reconciliation become possible.


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More Fun for you while I am on vacation. . . .

Hat Tip to Drew Causey

I’m in the midst of a 21 posts in 21 days challenge. Anyone want to join in?


A Blog worth your time: Outside is Better

My friend, Chad Brooks, entered the blogosphere long before the “blogosphere” existed. Outside is Better offers thoughtful theologically oriented book reviews, practical advice in the realm of social media and ministry and a steady diet of solid thinking about Christian worship. He’s recently been named one of the top 10 seminary student bloggers. They say of Chad, “He never lets the truth get in the way of a good story.” And that’s about all this blog needs– more of Chad’s legendary story-telling.

He offers a steady diet of solid eschatological insight on his other site, World Without End– Eschatology for the rest of us.

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