Coffee Dates Are (Mostly) Crap

“We should grab coffee and talk!” Lately, it seems like all interesting conversations need to happen after traveling to a coffee shop and ordering hot beverages. People from all industries have embraced the ritual of meeting up for coffee to get to know each other and discuss topics of interest.

Coffee dates are crap.

Don’t get me wrong — serendipitous coffee dates are fun and interesting. We meet someone new who’s incredibly interesting and has tons to share. We riff off each other and our interests. We find a kindred spirit.

But most coffee dates are not productive. Coffee dates are crap when they:

  • deplete our time dedicated to creating
  • involve us giving free advice to someone who isn’t interested in anything other than insights
  • don’t grant us the opportunity to learn or practice our craft in some way
  • are more an exploration than a quest
  • serve as an excuse to not do the important work you should be doing

Sounds like most of the coffee dates I’ve been on. The problem is the following:

"We waste time looking for the perfect business, instead of creating the perfect business." – Tom Robbins

What we seek in coffee dates is the possibility of finding someone who will unlock what we’ve been missing. Maybe we should be spending that time creating instead.

How can we tell the difference?

  • Crap coffee dates are an exploration in sharing and getting to know each other.
  • Productive coffee dates are a quest to a finite topic and goal.

I, for one, appreciate when someone shares experiences and wisdom so I can avoid mistakes they’ve already made. I try to pay that forward with people I meet.

Make your coffee dates rock

If you want to have coffee dates with people, you’re most likely yearning for sharing and learning.

Here are a few tips on how to make your coffee dates top-notch:

  1. Meet in the middle. Traveling to a coffee date takes time away from other things that matter — jobs, projects, families, etc. Be fair to whoever you’re having coffee with, and meet somewhere in the middle.
  2. Know your goal. If you want to learn, come prepared with a list of questions. If you want to share your experience, come prepared with important stories to tell. If you want something to happen next, be clear on that before you part ways.
  3. Have a time limit. When there’s unlimited time to hang out, a coffee date leads to dawdling. There’s nothing like a limitation to help you reach your goals faster. Know when you have to leave.

Thomas Edison explains the main reason I fear coffee dates:

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

My one recommendation is this: if you’re looking to disconnect, go for that coffee date — but if you need to hunker down and work, just do the work.