One of the greatest myths of our time is that silence is golden. But complete silence will keep you from working effectively. It may even put you to sleep.
J. K. Rowling left the solitude of her own home to write the Harry Potter series in a coffee shop amid the cacophony of people chatting over grinding espresso machines.
The noisy environment inspired her to get to work. Studies show that just enough sound creates an ambient environment conducive to working by drowning out any other unpredictable racket in the background.
The power of music
Studies also show that learning to play an instrument makes it easier for children to learn how to read. Additionally, the “Mozart Effect” is said to improve concentration and study habits. Surgeons often use popular music during operations to relax both the patient and themselves. Muzak takes the awkward silence out of the elevator.
The right type of noise is critical to working effectively. In fact, many CEOs expect disruptions in the form of email and calls to ensure the business is actively operating. Silence is the antithesis of productivity.
In order to stay motivated and remain productive, we need perpetual sound rather than peace and quiet. Sound is productive. Rather, it is the silence between the notes that can be the most disruptive.
In 1652, London’s St. Michael’s Alley became the first cafe in London to sell coffee.
As author Tom Standage points out in his book [easyazon_link identifier=”1620402858″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years[/easyazon_link], coffee houses were the original social networks and MOOCS where people mingled, studied, and exchanged ideas.
Starbucks built cafes with the intent to recreate the romance of Italian coffee shops to convince you to buy a mediocre cup of coffee. Apple makes computers to empower its users to create stuff, whether it’s movie animations, apps, or spreadsheets.
Design creates function. As Austrian architect, Hermann Czech writes, “The ‘function’ does not precede the design, but is always only mediated in the design.” We don’t need to spin our own narrative into knowing why a design works, just that it does, “as music must be perceivable by the ears.” It’s undeniably felt.
In other words, a good piece of work needs no further explanation. Trying to make sense of it compounds the inherent nature in which it exists.
Moleskine opened up its first official store in Milan, Italy. I’m looking forward to the day it comes stateside. Ever since Barnes and Noble downsized and closed a bunch of stores, Starbucks and Peet’s have been the only consistent go-to coffee houses for getting work done.
While coffee shops were the original social networks, Tom Standage points out, coffee shops today represent a ‘third place,’ between work and home. They provide just the right frequency of sound to inspire creativity and focus without having to the extremes– the bar for socializing or the library to work in silence.
America needs more cafes. And not the trendy ones that prohibit wifi and computer outlets. People want think and get shit done, even if it’s a mindless activity like checking email.
There’s a coffee shop downtown that disconnects the Internet on weekends. They want people to talk to each other face to face with no distractions. After all, coffee shops were the original social networks.
With notebooks and vinyl on the comeback, it’s fashionable to be deliberately analog. But in eliminating technology, the coffee shop is really limiting the discussion.
The mobile phone is more than just a second brain and can be more complimentary than an additional person.
Having the ability to add more context to your stories by showing someone pictures or videos from a trip adds value to what could be a dull exchange.
As long as the phone use is intentional and not-time wasting, having extra content on the table helps facilitate conversation at the coffee shop.
Wifi should be served like water: always optional and mostly free.
Coffee did not win the war – Union material resources and manpower played a much, much bigger role than the quality of its Java – but it might say something about the victors. From one perspective, coffee was emblematic of the new Northern order of fast-paced wage labor, a hurried, business-minded, industrializing nation of strivers.
America’s Civil War didn’t just lead to the philosophy of pragmatism. It also resulted in an obsession with coffee.
Coffee presents the perfect pause in your day, a conscious form of meditation where you can kick back, converse, and reflect. In many ways, the bar is the night time version of the coffee shop. Both coffee and beer are hangout drinks.
Coffee is a way of life, both a work and social outlet, a quick getaway without the stress of packing up.
Vinay Raval is an entrepreneur and world traveler currently based out of Cusco, Peru. He’s also a close friend, my former basketball coach, and simply one of the happiest and honest people I know.
Let’s flip it over to Vinay…
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Vinay Raval. I lead authentic cultural experiences for travelers in Cusco, Peru.
What are you currently working on?
I run a company called Faces of Cusco that specializes in offering a local experience to tourists. Our primary focus is on reinventing the experience of visiting the San Pedro Market. This market specializes in Andean products and features diverse produce, art, and services from Peru. The goal is to educate travelers and to foster genuine interaction with local vendors. I’m also setting up a small store to sell hot chocolate from locally grown cacao in Cusco’s main plaza. Localism begins with good food and good people.
Where do you like to work?
I do my best work in coffee shops where I can connect with my team to establish the day’s top three priorities as well as brainstorm new business ideas. No one is allowed to use technology during our meetings. This allows us to more easily focus on the vision. Coffee houses are the original social networks, anyway, so we’re doing all the communicating we need to do face to face.
I also like to work on the go. I enjoy walking meetings where we search the town for inspiration. On a recent retreat to Lima, we often walked along the Pacific Ocean to kick the brain into gear, to relieve stress, and to encourage spontaneity. We’ll often stumble upon locals on our walk and bring them into the conversation.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself in Peru thus far?
I’ve learned to embrace uniqueness. They call me “El Indu” here as I’m one of a handful of Indians in the town. Everybody here remembers my face and I’ll attract attention whether I invite it or not. For a business, this is incredible.
“Embrace whatever makes you unique.”
What motivates you?
Waking up and having no idea what I’m about to get in to. Most folks back in the USA place huge pressure on themselves to plan out their day because things are already established. In Peru, there’s opportunity wherever you look because there’s huge demand for everything but no supply for it. It’s my job to fill that void for both the locals and the tourists coming in. Also, our new concept of genuine and local experiences opens minds and helps local vendors better connect with travelers.
What was your earliest ambition?
A basketball player but I wasn’t committed enough. I’ve always enjoyed creating new ideas and finding original solutions. I took the Myers-Briggs test once and it outlined my future: ENTP or inventor. This was spot-on and really helped me pursue my passion.
What’s one work hack you use that others may find helpful?
Involve people from outside your team. Crowdsource from the locals. You get your best info from people on the ground, the street vendors for instance, because they’re the ones in the loop. They catch patterns that the rest of us don’t see, are the first to know about new competition, and really understand how to sell.
“No one is more informed than someone working in the streets all day; they know the ins and outs.”
Best word of advice for other entrepreneurs?
Create and keep moving, so you don’t get bored of people and places. Stagnancy is the worst enemy for all inventors.