It was a new day, and upon waking I had the urge to find a new cafe in the city of Lisbon; or Lisboa for you locals of Portugal.
A simple Google search of, ‘best cafes to work at in Lisbon’ brought me to a blog where I quickly read about The Mill Cafe. What intrigued me immediately was the mention of a strong wifi connection, as I knew I had some upload and download activity that needed some attention.
I looked up The Mill on Google maps, saw their hours started at 8am, and being that it was 7:15, it was a great time to start getting ready. Out the door by 7:55, jumped in the Uber and 13 minutes later I arrive. “Boom,” I thought to myself, “that was easy.” And then…
I enter the door to find staff busy at work, and a casual hangout area that was empty of any customers, which naturally was a good sign for me to sit wherever I wanted. I immediate made eye contact upon entry with a younger gentleman who appeared to be enthusiastically cleaning and preparing the espresso machine, probably my age or slightly younger, 28 to 35 I would guess.
He greeted me with an Australian accent, and focused eye contact, while not slowing down his tasks at hand. It was great, he was focused, but also fully acknowledged my presence. I remembered reading in that article that it was owned by an Australian, so I assumed accordingly that I was talking to the owner. He said, “Ey, welcome, we’re not quite ready for customers yet, we don’t open until 9.”
I had flashback images that created some confusion, as my researched showed they opened at 8, also noticed a very slight disappointment. Then, I realized, oh it’s Sunday today. Ah, that made sense. We both smiled and saw the playful error. Then something amazing happened. I asked if it was okay to just sit at a table and do some work while I waited until they were ready.
Seems simple enough of a request, I thought for sure it would be fine. I mean, I even mentioned that I came all this way just to check out their cafe after reading about how awesome it was. He appreciated my perspective and then said, “You know, if I let you in here then others will see and want to come in as well, and we will get slammed before we are actually ready.” Which spoke to me volumes about his commitment to really offer good service, and not just try desperately to please everyone.
At first, I noticed the optional perception to see this guy as kind of arrogant, but his authenticity really shined through. There was an obvious deep caring about where I was coming from, but at the same time he new what was best for his team, and their mission of – being awesome. He wasn’t dismissive at all, even though I could have seen him as so simply because I didn’t get what I wanted.
I asked where I might be able to wait, and he pointed down the road to small cafe that he thought might be open. I thanked him kindly, smiled sincerely, and walked out.
The internal commentary as I walked down the street was hilarious. I contemplated if I would even return. I mean, I researched where to go, and come upon this place that I was told was awesome…and they just rejected me! Lol. I can’t even sit quietly in the corner without ordering anything, and just wait patiently until they were ready, really? I enjoyed watching the playful commentary about projecting my imagined self-importance.
You see, I wasn’t really rejected at all. He was just politely informing me about how he and his team are able to offer an incredible product, or service; and was committed to that. He simply wasn’t willing to jeopardize that so I would like him, or approve of him. He knew on some level about the most important thing; Authentic Connection, and where connection truly begins – within himself and his team. He was honoring Self-Sincerity, before trying to please anyone else.
He didn’t put out any vibe, sense, or frequency of self-deficiency, rather he was confident and authentically connected in himself and his team. He didn’t need me. Do you see this? He didn’t need me to be his customer. What he needed, was coherency in himself and in his team. In that moment, 45 minutes before they opened, it was time to focus and prepare, so that’s what they did, together.
As I reflected on these things, I was so joyfully grateful for seeing what I just saw. So much so, that I thought, “You know what, I just might walk back there in 45 minutes, lol.” I appreciated being treated in a direct, compassionate and sincere way. Not to be coddled because the proprietor was afraid of not getting my business, that just feels gross. Clingy. Like in a relationship where the other person is just being nice because they want you to approve of them.
I found a small cafe, which was….a good spot to wait for a good cafe to open. Let’s just leave it at that. My goodness, the contrast, the F&@$ing contrast!!
I returned at 9:03, and was greeted by a team with warm smiles that said… “OKAY! Let’s do this, what can we joyfully do for you?”
“Let’s start with an Americano please,” I responded. I found a seat among many available, there was only a few other people in the cafe. I opened my MacBook, did a speed test to see what exactly I was working with here. Seeing the final up and download speeds, I sheepishly grinned while villainously rubbing my hands together.
The Business Self-Sincerity, didn’t end there, oh no. The profundity continued as I interacted with other staff at The Mill in Lisbon. There were numerous encounters, very small in nature, that just made the world of difference. Everything from being served amazing food that offered a deep moment of eye contact with the server before the food was set in front of me, to being politely asked to leave the cafe to free up space for other customers. Lol. Yes, I was asked to leave and it was beautiful. Again, Business Self Sincerity, over avoiding the chance that someone might be offended; doing what served the purpose of the team and the whole.
I was taking up space, and I knew I was. There was a line outside and I was taking my slow-ass time while being focused on work. Yes, I was ordering drinks, but I knew the time was coming when I might be asked to pack up. In fact, I was waiting for it. I was so impressed with everything else, I wanted see what they would do with this guy, the only one on a laptop and not really contributing as much as others might be able to.
As I sat there, I was amazed with what I saw. The Mill in Lisbon began to fill up quickly with patrons who carried an enthusiasm about just being there. I was bombarded with smiles everywhere I looked! Even glancing back to the kitchen, I could see and hear the smiles. It was the best Sunday of my life; okay…I exaggerated there. The energy was infectious. There was a line outside of people waiting to get in, or at least order food to take away.
I was stunned, and yet, it all made perfect sense. I mean, why was the cafe down the road nearly empty, and this cafe had a line out the door with a staff member walking the line outside taking pre-orders on food. Yes, she was smiling big too.
I’m going to say it. The Mill in Lisbon Portugal, understands the value and power of Authentic Connection. Even if they don’t know that they know, I saw it. It was in the eyes of every employee I came across. Some more than others of course, but the leader of the cafe, he clearly knew the value of connecting with human beings, before offering anything or asking for anything.
Most likely, I’ll get in touch with this guy, and maybe have a recorded conversation about the joy of Authentic Connection and Honored Self-Sincerity in Business.