Customer Experience Innovation Blog with Toni Newman

Missed Opportunities

It’s an early Sunday morning at Starbucks and I’m here to catch a few quiet moments and to organize my thoughts for the week. There’s something about the Sunday morning mood at Starbucks. It’s peaceful, reflective and a good place to be.

There’s an older gentleman sitting to my right. I’ve walked past him a couple of times as I picked up my coffee. Caught his eye … smiled… got a small but hesitant smile in return. Not sure how to describe him. Fragile maybe. Yes, fragile would be the right word.

I sit down at a table not far from him and go about my business. Reading… thinking… planning. And yet, every so often, his energy calls to me and I glance over at him.  He seems somewhat surreal sitting there – alone – as the Sunday morning Starbucks crowd bustles by him, intent upon their choice of drink for their own morning solstice.

He watches them but they are completely unaware of him. I wonder, why is he here? Why is he here alone? Is his wife busy that morning?
Is she sick? Perhaps, she has even recently passed away. That might explain the sadness in his eyes. Does he have grown children? Grandchildren? Perhaps they all live far away? Perhaps he is lonely. Perhaps he wants to be alone.

I think about going over to speak with him but for some reason, I don’t.

When I glance over next, he seems to be preparing himself for a feat of some sort and then I realize that the feat is simply finding the strength to stand. Suddenly, he looks even more fragile than he did just minutes before. He takes a big breath, leans on his cane and pulls himself up. I think about getting up to help. I usually would. But again, for some reason, I hesitate and before I know it, he is standing.

He makes the effort to turn and push in his chair so that it will be out of the way of passers by. The attentiveness of a past generation, I think to myself. Suddenly, a couple of teenagers push past him, narrowly avoiding knocking the gentle man over. They keep on going without even noticing the havoc that they have almost provoked. The lack of attentiveness of a new generation, I think to myself.

I am annoyed at their indifference and for a third time, I almost get up and for a third time, I hesitate unsure of whether or not my intervention will be welcome or even why I would intervene in the first place. Before I know it, he is gone.

The possibility of making a connection had passed. An opportunity to make a difference had been missed. But the nagging feeling that I could have, should have, normally would have been a player in this moment as it played out on the Starbucks stage stayed with me all day. For reasons I have yet to understand, I had hesitated and in that moment of hesitation, opportunity had been lost.

How many missed opportunities to make a difference have we all had in our lives? Opportunities to reach out. Opportunities to share ideas. Opportunities to have the courage to speak out when others don’t even notice the need to speak up.

This is my first blog. I thought long and hard about launching myself into this unique world because there is, quite frankly, so much being said and at the risk of being offensive, so much being said that is not worth the cyber space that it is taking up.

I wanted my blog to be better and different. I researched. I thought. I analyzed. I got myself tied up into millions of knots as I agonized about what innovation blogs could be, should be and normally would be when I finally came to a realization. All I want to do is reach out, share ideas and have the courage to speak out when others may not even notice the need to speak up. All I want to do is make a difference. And as long as I keep that in mind and share what I believe could make a difference in the lives of those who do me the honor of reading what I write, I am doing what I am here to do.

I don’t need to write the best blog on strategic innovation. I don’t need to be quoted, and tweeted and linked to more than any other innovation expert.  I just need to write a damn good blog that provides you with a different perspective on customer centric innovation than you might find anywhere else.

And I have hesitated too long already. Opportunities have been missed. And that, my friends, is a situation that I have every intention of correcting! Imagine the Possibilities!

20 Responses to “Missed Opportunities”

  1. Thank you for sharing. My daughter is a wheelchair user and when I am struggling to get her through a door or into an elevator, I sometimes wonder why people don’t try to help. But I suppose fear is a huge obstacle. Perhaps they are afraid to say or do the wrong thing. Even when it is only a token of support, it is so appreciated. It helps me and my child feel appreciated and connected. That is what innovation truly is: abandoning our fears to meet new challenges in a timely and effective manner.

  2. Toni: I think this type of social media will suit you. I enjoy hearing from you however sporatic or regular the correspondece is! thank you for starting the blog.

  3. Michael says:

    Hi Toni,

    So delightful that you’ve found yet another way to share your unique perspectives on life and innovative ideation!

    Thanks for the story and reminder that we need to listen to our inner voice at times and do what *we* think is right, rather than what is perhaps deemed appropriate in “polite society”… (not sure that’s the right term – it’s early Sunday and I’m not sure all my brain cells are awake yet!) Living in the US and in conservative New England, the norm is very much keep to yourself and mind your own business. It’s all too easy to do so at times, knowing in our hearts that to be bold may be harder but hold much more reward.

    Greetings from chilly Connecticut Toni and thanks again for sharing and being you. Hope to see you soon!


  4. Pat Currie says:

    Great way to begin your new venture. Looking forward to hearing more. Today is all about connecting with people, making a difference and I commend you for realizing it early. We need to always be aware of the opportunities and embrace them. We will never get those moments back.
    Thanks for the reminder Toni.

  5. Toni says:

    Allen, I love this comment. You’re right. Opportunities are never really lost. Particularly since the learning from them has the potential to impact our lives for a very very long time. And then again, there’s always the proverbial second chance.

  6. Excellent!! This may not be a missed opportunity, rather a delayed opportunity. When you return to Starbucks this Sunday, he may be there again and you could sit close enough to open a conversation with him. Leo Buscaglia, PhD – the author of books such as Living, Loving and Learning and Born for Love, renowned lecturer, and University of Southern California professor – touched untold numbers with his insights into how we seek happiness and create loving relationships was famous for making these type of connections.

    A missed opportunity is only lost, when you do not create the energy to revist it.

  7. Lili says:

    We may feel like small players in this game called life, never really knowing what difference we made. Kindness, time, a smile is all it takes sometimes. You may not know it, but maybe your smile alone was all it took to make his morning better. Imagine that…
    BTW, damn good start on your blog!!

  8. Hi Tony,

    Like you, I questionned myself about the need to make a blog and to do it so it will be attractive and meaningfull. Reading what you had to share made me realise that if you touch only one person it is worthed. I was in an hospital today and I saw a lady in tears I hesited and I pasted my way…next time I will offer my support. Thank you

  9. Patti says:

    Imagine – you’d have missed these 7 comments on your blog post if you haven’t started.

    That’s about 7 more than the average blog gets, so you’re writing the right thing.

    Keep on imagining more possibilities and sharing with us!

  10. Toni says:

    oops – in case anyone didn’t get it, admin is me. Just learning about this whole technology. I think I’ve fixed it to say Toni. Let’s see….

  11. admin says:

    Instinct. Now there’s another great I word. Imagination, Information, Inspiration, Innovation, Insight, Instinct… any others?

  12. admin says:

    All the more reason for us to speak up and speak out. It’s not just about ideas. It’s about the courage to express those ideas. We think that we’ve come so far in terms of “freedom of speech” and maybe we have. Or maybe, in some situations, we have just been lulled into a sense of security – a sense of trust – of those who are more powerful than we are. I’m not afraid for our future. I’m intrigued and still quite positive. I have two young ones who will be amongst those who will learn to speak up and speak out. Our future is in their hands. Thanks for sharing Bill.

  13. admin says:

    I’d rather inspire than blog anyday!

  14. Pauline says:

    What a beautiful story and what a powerful message. I loved the humanity, the gentle introspection and the message for all of us. Like you I’ve hesitated to foist another piece of “paper”on a public that may be deluged with information.
    You message was so genuine and so worthwhile that it gives me hope.Please do keep blogging- or a much nicer word “inspiring.”

  15. Bill says:

    Good for you! Almost eveyone has stopped reaching out, speaking up, speaking out. Not only in the relatively intimate situation in which you found yourself, but publically we seem to have given up trying to make a difference.
    We let our institutions and governments ride roughshod over our rights and sit idly by while Wall Streeters rob us blind.
    I’m afraid for our future.

  16. ken says:

    I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to respond! I always find your commentaries insightful – they help me reflect on things I might be missing

  17. Judy says:

    Thanks a lot! Now I’m going to spend all day wondering and worrying about that man! Careful it’s not the love struck Toni that’s holding back! When we met last spring you weren’t the hold back kind of gal and I liked it! Toni, I loved your blog and will look forward to reading more. This was a perfect opener for your blog – good work. Cheers from NL!

  18. Marc says:

    Wonderful and captivating… even for a non coffee drinker.
    Intent and ideas do not just pop into our heads; we have what is called instincts. This is a sixth sense that most of us push aside too quickly in the name of reason. Reason does not allow us to have a reason for it. If we feel it, we should live it!
    As most things interesting in life, the inner-layers are often more captivating than what we first see on the outside (from the French: le contenue est souvent plus important que le contenant)
    Imagine all this from a coffee at Starbucks! Keep on blogging.

  19. jacqueline says:

    I enjoy reading it, Toni, and I like how you end with “Imagine the Possibilities”! It is very powerful.

  20. Michelle says:

    Well, it seems to me that you are off to a fantastic start. Loved the piece. Thank you for deciding to jump.

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