Ms ZiYou Coffee Shop

A Tale of Two Coffee Shops – and experimenting to find the right fit for you

Last weekend I was in Manchester and planned to spend the Sunday morning hanging in the Northern quarter, snapping and admiring the street art. However, the weather wasn’t co-operating with me. As much as I pretend I am weatherproof – in reality, I am a wimp. And so unexpectedly my street art morning became a coffee shop morning.

The day began

I wandered around in the damp …. nope scratch that, I wandered around in the drenching rain, and appreciated the Northern Quarter. Well, I tried to. I didn’t mind having luggage, as I backpack everywhere. But the rain got to me. I’m just not as hardy as I think I am. And so it was time to select a coffee shop, the backup plan. I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat, so made sure to find one where you could have just coffee as opposed to having to eat.

And I stumbled upon coffee shop one. It looked lovely. Plenty of free tables, yet also plenty of occupied tables. And they had cakes! However, the first red flag was immediately evident. You had to wait to be seated. Which is weird in a coffee shop. It’s like the authoritarian coffee shop owners have decided that customers can’t be trusted to select the correct table. And they need to control it. I dislike this level of control.

Some warning signs

The red flags continued – despite there being loads of staff, it took ages to get served. And the staff were just not friendly or interested in serving me. I said I wanted a cake later once I had made my mind up and this didn’t go down well with the serving staff. The coffee took ages to come. It became apparent the staff were much more interested in cleaning than serving customers, which was really weird. So, as you might infer, I wasn’t liking this place at all. Finally, the wifi kept going out, which made me think I should sacrifice my cake and go look for another place to hang.

Try another

Back into the rain I went. Outdoors was fresh but very wet. I then found an alternative coffee shop that looked nice. And the difference was immediately obvious. The waiting staff were smiling, gave me a menu and let me pick my seat. An hour later it started to get busy – and you know what? Letting people select their seats works fine – people shared tables and were happy to make room for their fellow humans.

Found my people

Moreover, the staff were just so nice and friendly – like they enjoyed being at work (or could easily pretend). And it got me to thinking – how can you work out which place fits you best? As from the outside I had no idea which coffee shop would suit me better. They both had similar reviews and looked not too different from outside. But inherently they were very, very different places. One I felt welcome and comfortable, the other I wanted to leave.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

So, I am a fan of trying things out. Experimenting with different options. If I just tried the first coffee shop, I could have decided that all Manchester coffee shops were cold and unwelcoming with bad wifi. But by trying another, I realised what I was looking for in a place. And realising that my initial criteria were not specific enough. I hadn’t put enough thought into what I wanted, and I assumed the first place would be satisfactory. Now I’m always a big advocate of experimenting in all areas of life.

And this includes money

There is no right way to do money. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.  People are really different, so don’t expect the same results as someone else if you do the same as them. It pains me to read so much financial advice out there in the world, that doesn’t come with disclaimers.

While I am happily pursuing financial independence now, and saving a high perentage of money now so I don’t have to work later. I fully believe this is a personal choice, that suits me well (and is possible due to my privilege and luck in life). But I don’t believe financial independence is for everyone – and that’s OK. I believe it’s fine to spend money and live the life you want to live. No judging or shaming here.

Moreover, everyone’s standard of comfort and experience of joy is so unique, there is not one way to optimise these that will suit everyone. I know I certainly can live a certain life and be immensely happy, but put my choices onto other people and they will be less happy.  And vice-versa also holds true.

Do what works for you

One of the things I wish I learned earlier in life, was that life is individual. And what brings others happiness, does not bring me happiness. I have tried lots of things, refined my choices and worked out what makes me happy. Therefore, I know where my crunch point is in happiness versus spending money.

Personally, I need to travel, theatre, run and to give my brain a workout to be happy at this stage of life. I am more than happy to spend money on these activities. I re-evaluate this often and am happy for my list to evolve as I get older and wiser.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Have you struggled to find the right fit?
  • Do you experiment to make sure you made the right choice?
  • Do you manage your money in an individual way?

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.

14 comments on “A Tale of Two Coffee Shops – and experimenting to find the right fit for you

  1. For me the pursuit of FIRE is actually about the reaching a stage where I can start each morning in the best coffee shop in town, enjoy the best brew, served by smiling staff who recognizes me (weird guy with hat who visits every day) and watch other people being in a hurry. It’s a metaphor more than anything else, but I am currently searching for the best coffee shop nonetheless. I would absolutely opt for coffee shop 2 as well 🙂 The first one you tried doesn’t sound like fun at all.

    I am trying to find my own way with respect to my journey to FIRE. My situation is unique and I realized that I cannot just copy what others are doing. I do learn from others, but it is important I understand what it is I want from life now and in the future, what works for me, what my limitations are and how I can reach MY goal.

    1. Yes, I love that idea of being the guy who is not in a hurry every day. And finding the perfect place really does take time I think.

      And yes, I really believe everyone’s journey to FIRE is individual – we can learn bits from others but need to forge our own path to reach our goals.

  2. I’m usually on the other side of town from the Northern Quarter so can’t say I know which coffee shops you’re talking about. That first one flies in the face of everyone up north being friendly/friendlier!

    I too didn’t realise early on that things which made other people happy wouldn’t necessarily make me happy – by ‘people’, I probably mean my family. Not that I was trying to emulate what they were doing – I was still doing my own thing but it bothered me that they wanted me to do something else.

    Am definitely getting older these days, still waiting to get wiser haha!

    1. Yes, exactly Weenie – hence I was shocked and thought maybe Manchester had changed at the first coffee shop. perhaps Brexit had caused a shortage of service staff? Luckily my faith was restored by the second place.

      Oh yes – I also have a family that claim to want ‘what’s best for me’ which in reality is ‘what they think is best for me’. And obviously is not actually what I want.

  3. For me in many ways that journey to find my own path is even more important the the journey to Financial Independence.

    Being confident enough to try different things without worrying about what other people are doing or what other people think has been one of the benefits of getting older.

    It’s led to finding geeky things, like sword fighting, that make me hugely happy but that I wouldn’t dream of doing if i was worried about what people thought..

    1. Hi Caveman – I so agree – having the confidence to do things your own way is such a benefit of getting older.

      Now sword fighting – that is such a fun hobby!

  4. It’s funny how your experience and opinions of a place depend so much on (not only you) but on whether it was raining when you arrived, if you got a seat on the metro or if the bartender (or barista) was friendly when you got a drink.
    First impressions last

    I recently have been down in the North East of England (Middlesborogh and Newcastle) and found people to be really friendly.
    I’m due a visit to Manchester some time soon and will compare notes.

    1. Oh yes GFF – first impressions really matter and so many unrelated things can sway one’s influence. I see it the same way that some places are awesome to visit in summer, and others are awesome to visit in winter – their attractions lend to certain conditions more than others.

  5. I’m newly divorced, so I’m still experimenting with what sort of money lifestyle suits me best. It seems to mainly be pretty frugal with the occasional splurge of a night out with friends or whatnot. I’ll probably tighten the financial reins a bit soon to see when it starts feeling restrictive. Once it does, I’ll know to stop there and reassess (or just be happy with the balance I’ve found).

    1. Hi Abigail – sounds like after the divorce you are in a great place to slowly figure out your finances alone, and work out what works well for you as an individual – I’m sure you’ll find your own balance and sweet spot.

  6. Agree 100% on experimenting — both with coffee shops and with FIRE. On the coffee shop side, we discovered a cafe in our last trip to Costa Rica that is now our favorite (Utopia in Tamarindo if you ever go out there). How did I even miss it on our last 4 trips (and 6 for my husband!). In addition, I recently discovered Tous Les Jours, an Asian pastry place in Manhattan but they have locations all around the country so are clearly established. Oh well! On the FIRE side, we do most of our experimenting on our business ventures, which we can more actively manage. I toggle between more active projects, like consulting, and more passive things like building products. We’re currently in the throes of rolling out our first e-course. It’s not my favorite thing (my husband enjoys this stuff more) but I know it’s critical for diversification and our long-term location independence goals. So experimenting on the business side, here I come!

    1. Hi Caroline – good luck with all your business goals, they must keep you really busy.

      One day I hope to make it over to Costa Rica, it’s just so far from the UK! You always make it sound so much fun and like the mythical nirvana.

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