The magic is in the extra

I’ve just returned from the NACAC conference where I purchased a surprising amount of mediocre coffee from a tiny convenience store in my hotel that somewhat misleadingly called itself a deli. There were plenty of coffee shops within a short walk, from the artisan to the big chain. But every morning (and a few tired afternoons), I went to the same counter to get the same bland cup o’ joe, one that I would never talk about were it not for something extra.

The staff who worked there changed the entire experience.

I don’t know if it’s good hiring, personal predisposition, or just Kentucky charm, but these women used every interaction with a customer as an opportunity to turn that job into an art.

Their greetings made you feel like you were making their day just by showing up (a tenet also described in one of the best customer service books I’ve read).

By the third day, they remembered my order and poked some playful fun at me with, “You know, we’ve got more than just black coffee here. Don’t you ever drink anything else?”

They sent everyone away with an endearing, “Bye, Sugar.”

You just couldn’t help but leave feeling a little better than you did when you arrived. That’s a remarkable transformation to take place when you’re buying an unremarkable cup of coffee.

Lesson #20 of my final 31 posts: The magic is in the extra.

My point here is not that even people in the service industry can be happy doing their jobs (that message is both trite and offensive). The lesson is that each of us goes to our version of work every day, whether that’s a job, school, raising a family, etc. And each day we get to make a choice. Are we going to do the job just by executing the particulars? Or will we view it as an opportunity to do something extra and bring some magic to our work?

Not more hours, not more work necessarily. Just more extra, the emotional kind that goes beyond the work itself and turns it into an art.

A student can bring that magic to their Spanish or biology or history class even if they don’t earn the highest grade.

A counselor can bring that magic to their meeting with a student even if they don’t have the perfect solution the student might be seeking.

The lawyer, the electrician, the librarian or accountant or cable TV repairperson–every one of them (and every one of us) has a chance to do something extra.

Your favorite teacher does this. The favorite uncle does it. The favorite mechanic or friend or neighbor—they don’t become your favorite by doing what they’re supposed to do. They become your favorite by doing the extra.

And the extra is where the magic is.