oddlinks

curiosity across disciplines


How many cups of coffee?

Imagine three different scenarios. In each, your mission is simple. With a full-to-the-absolute-brim cup, you need to make it from the coffee machine to your desk without spilling a single drop.

Scenario #1: you haven't had a single drop of coffee yet. You're groggy, possibly cranky, and for this little thought experiment, you're also a need a cup to get moving, Lorelei Gilmore[1] kinda person.

Lorelai from Gilmore Girls asking for 'coffee with a shot of cynicism'

Scenario #2: you've already had your first glorious cup. This full-to-the-brim one is your second.

Scenario #3, the Fry from Futurama scenario: you're nine cups deep in an eye-twitching, hydraulic blood pressure, end-of-project demonic sprint. The cup in question makes it an even double digits.

Fry from Futurama complaining about his jitter-induced shaken coffee

Now the question: in which scenario do you think your chances of not spilling any coffee are best?

Obviously, it's numero dos.

The first takeaway is that we almost always have at least some control over how full we fill our literal and proverbial cups[2]. We should take advantage of that fact.

More importantly though, is the reminder that while the beginning and end of a project or creative endeavor get the most cognitive air time, it's the middle where all the creative bean juice flows.

Our best work comes when we get settled, hit a stride, and quietly, but persistently keep at it.


  1. For fellow Gilmore Girls fans: it was excruciating to make the Lorelai scenario #1, losing out on the literary symmetry of "coffee coffee coffee" as #3, but alas, chronologically, it just didn't make sense. Enjoy the consolation footnote. ↩︎

  2. Except in this plot-hole-ridden thought experiment where I'm the boss and your options are "max fill" or "no fill." ↩︎