Fear and Starbucks

My wife Paula and I took in a comedy show a couple weeks ago in Cleveland with our sons Joe and Kevin. We saw Nate Bargatze – a brilliant comic from Nashville, TN.

One of the things that successful comics do really well is they learn to tune into their fears. They do this because they understand that fears are essentially universal…and they also know that these fears can be the basis for great comedy.

Toward the end of Bargatze’s set he told a great story about a recent experience he had at his local Starbucks. The story was about a funny communication mix-up…but it was ultimately rooted in his own fear. A fear that the customers and employees of Starbucks would judge him as not worthy of being a Starbucks customer.

You see, Bartgatze  – a self-proclaimed introvert and quiet guy – confessed that he was always intimidated by Starbucks. And that’s what made his bit so funny. I remember being intimidated by Starbucks as well.

I thought about the first time years ago that I entered a Starbucks. I just wanted coffee…but It WAS so intimidating! All these smart customers and baristas speaking a language I had never heard! Would they look down on at me? Would they judge me if I ordered a “small” coffee instead of a “tall?” And what the heck is a venti anyway?

And there were so many options! What is a caramel macchiato? And dare I ask? (Heck no…just order something simple and get out of there before they find out how little I actually know!!)

Over time I gained the courage to figure out the Starbucks lingo. I developed the courage to actually ASK what the difference was between a latte and a cappuccino! And I overcame my FEARS of the Starbucks experience.

What made Bartgatze’s comedy so good was that it hit home for so many people in the audience. I laughed so hard because he tapped into my own experience of having to overcome an irrational fear.

Fear comes in many forms. And when we are learning something new, it often shows itself in terms of our Need for Credibility.

The Need for Credibility is a primary need we all have. It’s about our hope that the people around us will:

  • Value our contribution
  • Appreciate our skills and intellect
  • Not judge us harshly

The fear that was driving Nate Bargatze’s experience at Starbucks can easily come up for anyone trying to learn a new skill – especially one like the Single Plane Swing.

You show up to the range and are working through the positions – but once it is time to actually hit the ball, you refer back to old habits because you know that at least then you can hit the ball and not look like a complete idiot!

At that point, your FEARS and your NEED for CREDIBILTY are driving your behavior. In that moment it is literally more important to swing the club incorrectly  – so long as the ball flies in the air in a way that others won’t judge you to be an idiot golfer.

But holding on to that thought process will NEVER allow you to progress. (Or it will at least significantly slow your progress)

As you work on the mastery you want to create in your single plane swing this year, the most important resolution you can make is to tune into your fears and eliminate them.

Become aware of your fear and challenge yourself about its truth. Ask yourself:

  • How true is it that others will think less of me if I miss-hit a few shots on the range?
  • How true is it that others even CARE about how well I hit the ball?
  • What is the REAL reason for spending time at the driving range?

Stop caring so much about what others may think about you. Instead, learn to enlist others to help you see what you cannot. The fearless Single Plane Swing golfer seeks out the GGA instructor and says: “How did that look?” or “Did that swing match the model?”

And when you visit us at a GGA instruction school this year, forget about trying to impress…and focus instead on LEARNING. Ask: “What did you see?” And then LISTEN to and ACCEPT their answer.

Living a life of ease and freedom– on the golf course or in your everyday experiences – is a goal worth striving for. It starts with being able to identify your true fears and then working to move past them!





Paul Monahan, PCC is a Peak-Performance coach, member of the International Coach Federation and a certified COR.E Performance Dynamicsä  Specialist. He resides in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife Paula and is the proud dad to three young men.

Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan is an International Coach Federation (ICF) - credentialed coach working in the arena of human potential. Paul’s clients are leaders, executives, athletes and musicians who are serious about transforming how they perform in critical moments. His experiences in leadership and development over a highly-successful 25-year corporate career have created powerful context and understanding for the leaders and executives he coaches. Additionally, his passions and experiences in sports and music have uniquely positioned Paul to profoundly impact his clients in those areas as well.

2 thoughts to “Fear and Starbucks”

  1. Paul: We met at 3 day school in Orlando in January or February 2017. I very much enjoy your articles. The Starbucks story is very relatable. My first experience was much the same trying to understand the sizes and the various offerings. I was also a bit intimidated by the barista complete with nose ring, eyebrow piercings, tongue stud and full sleeve tattoo’s. Clearly there was a culture here that was very different from the suit & tie corporate environment in which I worked. When the barista asked for a name my wife said “Carol”. When we got the drinks we noted the name on the duo was “Carl”. I knew then I didn’t need to feel inferior. I look forward to your next article. Kind regards, Bill

    1. Thanks for the feedback Bill. Great to hear from you. I hope your game is as solid as ever! Glad you liked the article. And thanks for sharing your own experience at Starbucks! I often think of fear as coming in two forms…Big F FEAR and small F fear. The big F Fears are easy to spot – and easy to stay away from: Fear of heights, dark alleys, touching a hot stove, …etc. But the small F fears – like the one I described in the article – are far more pernicious. They are harder to spot…and yet they come up over and over again and prevent us from accessing out true potential.

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