Submitted by Aaron Arkin.
What does it take to become an expert? Some say putting 8 thousand hours into an endeavor will make you an expert (the practice effect). Others say that you are an expert when you have made every mistake possible in a very narrow field of endeavor. It is not clear as to whether every possible mistake is the conclusion of the person engaged in the endeavor or is the considered opinion of outside observers. Either way, I don’t think it is possible to make every possible mistake no matter what the field of endeavor or who is judging.
But I digress. What does it take to become an expert at requesting the coffee you desire at Starbucks? For me, the perfect cup of coffee (I bring my own cup) is one where the amount of coffee in my cup rises to ½ inch below the brim of the cup (to make room for cream and the cup’s lid).
An easy task you say: well I say, “try it”! Based on my experience, if I do not request room in my cup it will variously be filled to the brim or two inches below the brim. If I request room in my cup it will variously be filled to the brim or two inches below the brim. If I request ½ inch of room below the brim, my cup will variously be filled between ¼ inches from the brim and 1½ inches below the brim. While getting closer to the mark this still falls short. Up to this point my requesting expertise had left something to be desired.
My initial reaction to this problem was thinking Starbucks servers use the metric system and are having difficulty converting inch fractions into centimeters (1/2” = 1.27cm). Then I remembered that although the US had promised to convert to the metric system in the 70s (Metric Conversion Act of 1975) and in fact the military had converted, overall the US remains the only advanced society that had not converted. Next I thought, maybe the problem is that as a group, the people serving my coffee are spatially compromised and unable to translate a verbal description (“leave ½ inch please”) into the physical reality of ½ inch.
To remedy these obstacles my latest gambit is to show the amount of room I desire by holding up my hand horizontally and demonstrating a space between my thumb and forefinger which is to my way of thinking equal to ½ inch. Admittedly this puts some pressure on me but I have to believe I’m pretty good at consistently making a correct estimation of the distance. And, this approach has the advantage of not involving the server in (1) metric system conversion or (2) spacial conversion of a verbal instruction.
To date, I have tried the thumb-forefinger approach twice and can report it is working reasonably well. But before I consider myself an expert in this field, it would have to work without failure going forward.
So I’ve decided to go with the practice effect definition of expertise: I think 7999 hours, 59 minutes, and 50 seconds of additional requesting should be sufficient.Print This Post