COFFEE WITH NICOA: Creating A LIFE BY DESIGN.

S1 EP43: ALEX BENNETT

December 06, 2023 NICOA DUNNE CORNELIUS Season 1 Episode 42
COFFEE WITH NICOA: Creating A LIFE BY DESIGN.
S1 EP43: ALEX BENNETT
COFFEE WITH NICOA: Creating A LIFE BY DESIGN. +
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Show Notes Transcript

THIS  was a fun interview with the character that is ALEX BENNETT who is being interviewed in his vintage looking bar he calls his LITERARY BOOZE room! Nicoa has fun getting to know this cool bartender, author, and life long listener and natural mentor who has made a SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE WORLD! Alex shares some really cool stories, collected advice and some real life lessons he learned  in his career as a bar tender. He also is vulnerable authentically sharing how he has been moving out of his comfort zone and courageously moving into a state of confidence as a writer in his LIFE BY DESIGN! You gotta watch out with Alex, because if you end up sitting at his bar, he reminds you that "If you tell me a good story, it might end up in my book!" ~Literary Booze, Alex Bennett

You can check out ALEX'S FIRST BOOK A Shot Of Oakies HERE
It's a trilogy, so stay tuned!


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Nicoa Coach:

Grab your coffee and join me Nicoa For a caffeinated conversation about life. I'll be talking to people who have chosen to walk their own paths and just like me, are creating a life by design. I hope it will give you the inspiration you need to do exactly the same. Hey, Alex Bennett. How are you this morning?

ALEX BENNETT:

I'm doing well. I'm doing well. Thanks for having me. It's an honor to be here. I appreciate it. Well, I

Nicoa Coach:

really appreciate you reaching out you and I are connected on LinkedIn or excuse me on Instagram. News, yep, your Instagram account literary booze, you are a phenomenal bartender, restaurant tour. And author. And I, I do call saying that you might have even been an English teacher for a hot minute. I wasn't an

ALEX BENNETT:

English teacher, I did my student teaching. I got through that. And that was about it. And there's kind of a story to it. But yeah, kind of restaurants have been my life. You know, for 35 years, my parents bought a place when I was 16 years old. And I started washing dishes in the kitchen the night we took it over. And long story short, sort of goes like this, you know, by the time I was 19, I was running in place third serving my time, I'm 21. I'm Barton in time I 25. I was that place. And then when I was 30, my parents sold it to my in laws, they became my former in laws. And then I kind of worked out there. And you know, everybody thinks that's a tragedy. But I say as well, I'm busting is that happened to me, because it kind of forced me out of my comfort zone, you know, and I had to I had to kind of delve in and figure out what I was going to do with my life. And I ended up going back to school, I didn't know what I was going to do. And everybody at the time was saying male teachers, male teachers, we need male teachers. And that was 2010. And the housing market collapse. And all of a sudden, I was one of 1200 people looking for a job, and I didn't have any ends. But I had started working at a place serving and bartending none. And my boss who I hit it off with who's one of my best friends. He had said to me, if you want to be a full time, you know, bartender here, I'll give you the hours. And so I kind of settled into where I was and worked out great. When I got divorced. I my my custody workouts where I got my boys every Saturday night, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. And so being in restaurants, I could work all day, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I would work Saturday nights, because it's busiest night of the week. But on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, I was off, you know, so yeah, kind of. So I did that for last 15 years. And then along the way started writing my book. And you know, that kind of led to, to exactly

Nicoa Coach:

where I am going to I love it. Because, you know, I like to ask my guests, you know, what their definition of a life by design is. And you, you gave us a little peek into your thought process. So you will kind of enter in a world by default, having been raised in a restaurant like that. So when you got forced out, like you said, it was a good thing. Did it feel like a good thing at the time? I mean,

ALEX BENNETT:

now, um, change and change is scary for everybody, you know, and I, I always talked I had this guy sit at my bar one time, he's 102 years old. And you know, he's centenarian and I was asked you for advice. And I said to him, you know, you got any advice you want to pass on it. So you got to embrace change in life, man, it's always good, no matter how hard it seems, or how painful it seems, you know, forces you to grow and it forces you out of your comfort zone. And you really have to then face the challenges of life. But when you do, you develop a new sense of confidence, a new sense of like purpose. And that's kind of what led me you know, my divorce was very painful. But, you know, I'm going through that. And I'm still great friends with my ex, you know, my boys mom, she's great, ma'am. We get along great. I have nothing but good things to say about her. But you know, still it was a change in life and you know, venturing out all I knew was that that restaurant in Joliet. So I'm going to what am I going to do now you know, and honestly, venturing out of there, I ended up at a corporate restaurant. And there I had a very diverse clientele. These people became my really good friends, some of my best friends. And as a result of that, you know, really expanded my horizons because I got to see a lot of different angles in life that we would have never gotten to see. Prior then I really helped me grow as a person. And then through that, I got to know a lot of the people you know, I always tell everybody, if you sit in my bar, you better be careful because if you tell me a good story might end up in a book, you know, and that's where a lot of my characters come from one of the compliments I do get, you know, you spend a lot of time and if you're going to read my book, you're going to spend a lot of time in a bar and a lot of people say why characters are very real and very tangible and I said I sold them are very real and they are if I just base they are those people. So but everybody else, you know, there's a touch of this person or there's a bit of that person. And so, yeah, has that has helped me more than anything. And honestly, a lot of those people inspired me to write you know, I do short stories, stuff like that they read them go, man, you got a talent, you got to you got to pursue this.

Nicoa Coach:

So did you were you writing before you even got booted out? If you will, of that of your family's restaurant? Had that been a hobby of yours? Like, what took you to getting the English degree?

ALEX BENNETT:

Well, you know, it's a good question. Because I was always a big reader, you know, I broke my leg when I was in seventh grade. And I say that was probably one of the best things that happened to me, because I had nine months of doing nothing. And I was an athlete, I was restless and whatever. And, you know, so people bought me some books, and I just picked them off Serena them. And then you know, because of that, I wanted to start writing and, you know, high school, I get a lot of good feedback from teachers, that would tell me, you know, you got talent with us, you know, you should pursue it. But you get caught up in the day to day life. And writing is very much a profession and a lot of ways and you got to treat it like one. And when I was managing mores, which was my family place, I was on the hamster wheel, it was 60 hour work weeks, it was seven days a week, I tell everybody, there was somebody there at eight o'clock in the morning, there was somebody there 1130 At night, and my phone was ringing the entire time. So it was very hard to pursue that sort of thing. But it was always in my head, you know, and that's all restaurants are great stories. And so when I went back to school, my really my purpose was to teach English. Because I felt like very suited for it. But I say it's probably the best thing that happened again, is that I didn't get a job doing it because I learned how to teach people how to write. And because I didn't get a job doing it, you know, it kind of prompted me well, you know, how to teach people how to write need to sit down and really take it seriously and start doing this. And I also always say, you know, if I had been a teacher, and I'd spent my day reading students papers, writing, that's the last thing I'm going to want to do when I go home, is sit down and write my own book. And being a bartender, it balances out because very social, we're very, we're writing is very, you know, independent, I guess I'd say yeah.

Nicoa Coach:

And very, you almost have to be somewhat isolated to make that happen. And, yeah, more of an introversion. You know, I laughed when I was reading a little bit about your background. And when you said you ended up not being a teacher. Well, I was in between undergrad and grad school and got a temporary what do they call it substitute teacher certification. And I taught for one day, I taught for one day, and I remember at the end of that day thinking to myself, I'd rather sit in a boardroom with no windows. Yeah, I like herding cats, I wouldn't cut for it. Just curious if you've taught a class and decided you just didn't want it? Or was there just not opportunities, and you decided to embrace the career that had been your foundation?

ALEX BENNETT:

Wow, you know, there's extra kind of story to that, because I was doing my student teaching, and I enjoyed it, I did enjoy teaching is tough, the kids can be tough. But I had a basic English class. I mean, these kids were one step above alternative. And I had to teach them a fellow which you know, Shakespeare and we're digging into it, it's going good. But being at a bar, profanity kind of comes in goes in and out of my head, you know, so I don't really pay attention to it. I'm not offended by, you know, that sort of thing. And as we're discussing in class, I was actually being being observed that day. And as we're discussing all this in class, one of the kid goes, Oh, man, that's a bunch of bullshit. And I like that, oh, that is a lot of bullshit, you know, and I just went on with it. And at the end of it, you know, my observing teacher pulled me aside. So you know, you really can't allow them to swear, and you shouldn't be doing it either. When I realized this isn't the best for me. Maybe I do need to consider what I'm doing here. But for that point, and I was a month out away from getting my degree. And I was still like looking but that always did stick in my head when it became alright, what am I going to do with myself? I'm not going to find a teaching job. Maybe this is the best thing for me. And I just got to ride the wave I'm on. Yeah,

Nicoa Coach:

you know, sometimes it's right in front of you. Yeah. And by the way, I tend to drop some language as well. And I didn't someone I was interviewing the other day, just as a side note, she said, Oh, I just cussed is this Are you an explicit podcast channel? And I said, Oh, I don't think I am. I better go change that. So we've officially changed it. We can say bullshit all day long if we want to

ALEX BENNETT:

pop in my head that maybe I shouldn't have said that, but you

Nicoa Coach:

know, it's fun, but I didn't good. Your point is well made. Sometimes. We're over here, we recognize something that we want and like, and we try to force it. And yet at the end of the day, the foundation of being a bartender has enabled you to be an author. And that's like you said, you're gaining insights with stories and the people that you meet, you've got all the characters you need now.

ALEX BENNETT:

Yeah, oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, one of the best advice I got from one of my professors was, you know, if you want to be a writer, you got to write what you know, write what you know. And well, my book is pirates and sailing ships in 1743. And I'm not good on a ship. I actually get seasick, but I didn't know people, you know. And so I feel like I connect with my story through what I know. And just the insights I gained from understanding human nature and how people react to situations and when people keep their head and when they lose their head. And you know, how they can get caught up on specific details that kind of drive them nuts, or how you know, pressure can bring out the best in somebody. And so that's why I feel like being a bartender and and my experience helped me as a writer, for sure, just the stories, and not just the people, but how people act in situations.

Nicoa Coach:

So why don't you give us a little overview, or I've got your overview here in front of me. You tell us what a shot of Okies the name of your book. Tell us a little bit about what it is. I'm so excited because I remember me telling you that I live on the banks of Whiskey Creek. Yeah, my husband bought me a gift we have a share in a weeded bourbon that is going to come to fruition or whatever in a few years. And I can't wait to have a big ass party up back here on the banks of Whiskey Creek and celebrate wasted so why don't you tell us what a shout of oak is, is it sounds like something I'm gonna

ALEX BENNETT:

love. So basically, I play play with the history of whiskey. Now whiskey has been around for about 1000 years in Britain, and whiskies grain alcohol, barley is the name of grain to Britain. And that's why the Scots and the Irish started making whiskey out of barley way back when now ever since they've been fighting about who was the first to do it. But essentially, during the Asia exploration, everywhere they went, they find a native grain and they they start making whiskey out of it. So when they get to America, corns native to America, they start making whiskey out of corn. And that was the first step in making bourbon. Now, the second step came about when, at the time, everything was shipped in wooden barrels, but that was only so one man could roll it, it had nothing to do with the aging process because they didn't need it because you couldn't trust water. So if you had a little bit of alcohol to it, it's gonna kill anything in there before it kills you and make it safe to drink. So as a result, if you're making a batch of whiskey, you fill up whatever barrel you had at hand, if it was a pine barrel, you could imagine how it's gonna affect the taste, but wasn't going to be in there that long anyway. But they get to America, they start making barrels out of white American oak, and they'd send those on their way. And they get to wherever they're going. And everybody's like, Wow, man, this is great. Whatever you do, and keep it off. So it was the second step in making bourbon. And then the third step came about when you had your white American barrel, but it was filled with pickles, or herring or crabs, you could imagine how something like that might affect the taste. So he started cheering out the inside to get rid of the lingering flavors and odors and realized, Wow, we got something here, you know. And so not only say it's, it's 1785, but it was already a thing. You'd come up with the corn, I came up with a barrel your husband came up with churning it out. We kind of compare notes by saying play with it because it's very murky. And what I do is I go back to 1743 I got a young Scots woman in the Caribbean wants to make whiskey and so she's stumbling on the process of making bourbon. And it's same time there's an Irish pirate every time she hears about an English ship that has a barrel of her Okies aboard, she seizes the ship, she accuses the captain of smuggling, and she executes them. And you know how guys are the more dangerous something is the more we're gonna want it grows, the legend of Okies grows and eventually a story start crossing the Atlantic where there's an English pirate Hunter who's fighting the war. And he's got to decide if he wants to come Hunter down. But that's what I get into second third books actually trilogy, so I can't

Nicoa Coach:

wait. Oh my gosh, yeah, I was real. I was like, man 1742. And I love it and talking about tropical storms hitting the island and I'm down here on the coast hoping this next tropical storm doesn't come hit me. Anything related to my world. I want to read about it. Especially. I don't get to read a lot of fiction. And I would be curious, though, I know this is fiction, and you're well educated to write the book. But can you tell us about who some of these characters came from is Anybody at the bar that you want to share? Or is it a compilation of characters? Well,

ALEX BENNETT:

okay, that's a very good question. So there's one regular at the bar. His name's rags is pictures actually right there.

Nicoa Coach:

Oh, let me tell everybody where tell everybody where you're standing in your home. I love this prescription. Yeah, I'm

ALEX BENNETT:

in my literary booze room. And it's my son's old bedroom. And what I did was I converted into kind of an old fashioned sort of looking bar. And that's where I've filmed a lot of interviews and do videos for my, my paints and everything else. And one of the pictures on my wall, it's over my right shoulder is to gentleman, and I think it's in 1936 is when it was taken. So it's black and white. He's I live in Joliet, Illinois, it's all downtown Joliet. In fact, there's a there's a Model T in the background of it. And he was one of the very first regulars I ever had. And he was World War Two that was actually stationed in Hawaii on December 7 1941. He was in the army, he wasn't in the Navy, but he was there and he witnessed it. And he fought the Japanese all the way up to Japan. And he had a lot of stories and a lot of insight that you only get through having, you know, bombs dropped on you and stuff like that. But there's a character in my book, one of the regulars from first principles that you're gonna meet it's rags, and it is rags. It's his name, you know, he'd be honored to be there. I'm sure that I've had people actually read it and say to me, they knew him and say to me, Wow, man, I'm having I'm struggling with that, because it was a friend of theirs. He died about 997 I think he died about four or five years ago. Yeah. And, you know, so I miss him. But, you know, it's kind of my tribute to him. And he's real. And there's a few other people that are very close like that. The pirate is kind of based loosely on some of the ladies that I've known in my life, you know, feel in my head, I guess you'd say a thing for and none of them. I said, you know, make a really good pirate, you know that. And honestly, the story behind it was one day, she broke a glass, she was what she was bartender with me, she broke the glass, she got a piece in her eye. And it was real mess forward, she had to wear an eyepatch. She couldn't like she didn't know, you know, so I kind of teased her about it, but she had no night vision. And she had said, you know, she couldn't really drive and I told her, if you want to give me a ride, I don't want to want to write, you know, tragic pirate story or something like that. And it just kind of set the wheels turning, if that makes sense. You know, and, you know, she's one of the, one of the people that affected my life. And she inspired me to she was very much like, you're a good writer, you need to you need to pursue this. But then there's a few other ones in there that, you know, being a bartender, I know, I know, a lot of ladies, it's one of the benefits to the job. And there's a couple other ones that are as close to that, you know, I take like, bits and pieces of our interactions, and I put them into these characters. So a lot of the characters. Yeah, they're there. A lot of stories. I mean, if you know me, and you read it, you go, I was there for that

Nicoa Coach:

resemble that story. Yeah, I recognize it. Well, that your main character is a female. I mean, that's pretty awesome. You know, there's not a lot of female pirates as the primary characters either. So cool. I think that's appealing and will be even more reason for people to go pick up your book. You learned a lot. I'm going to shift gears just a little bit about a life by design. I mean, you, you said something key again, you embrace the bartender hood. And I don't think people recognize how many people are life long service industry, employees. There's assumption that you know, a lot of service providers or temporary jobs, or it's between opportunities, as my dad used to say, but talk to me about that life. I mean, what what do you wish people understood about a life by design that is in the world of service like that?

ALEX BENNETT:

Well, you know, it's as you hit it right on the head, because for most people, it's a transient job. It's something you do when you're in school until you graduate, you get your real job, or you know, you might have a spouse who works full time and the other one, you know, wants to pick up 1520 hours a week, and so they just kind of do it then becomes a social thing. It's extra money. It's not a way that you live. But you know, if you do it long enough, you get very good at it. And there is a lot of really a lot of money, you can live very well life is doing it and you kind of set your hours now, the thing of it is you have to get used to work in the weekends, you got to get used to work in the holidays. And that's where a lot of people struggle, because you want to go out on the weekends. But as I've gotten older, one of the things that I've realized is that Uh, you know, it's my social world. And when I go to work, I'm always I got, I've got one place for 16 years. And so I'm always seeing somebody who is I haven't seen in three months, or six months or a year, and it gives me a chance to catch up to them. And I'm, I don't know how this sounds, but I don't know how many people I really know, because it's sort of like, I've met so many people, and they come in out of nowhere, hey, what's going on? You know, and, and I actually, the older we get, the harder it is to get together, you know, we got our own life. And so I tell everybody will just come in and come in for dinner or coming for lunch, you know, I can catch up with you then. And, and so it works out great that way. The other thing I like to tell people about it is that, you know, when you do embrace it, and you do realize, because the hardest thing I think a lot of people, they want to be a doctor because they want to save a life or they want to be a lawyer because they want to do noble things, or you know, and they look at it like, well, what am I going to get purpose out of that? You know, and a lot of times, I would say I struggle with that, in a certain sense, you know, what's my job, I just, I just make drinks and I take your order, and I clear your plates and chat with you a little bit. But you know, that story I like to tell with that. I actually got a couple of them like this, but one of them was this lady named Jenny. And she would come in on every Wednesday and I worked with another bartender for a long time. Her name was Janine, she was great bartender too. And then Jenny got to know both of us come in every Wednesday around three, she stay until about 530 or so she'd have a dirty martini. And then she'd have a glass of wine, she'd eat some food, we chat, we chat books, we chatted kids, we chatted, you know, her job and her past and everything else. And we really got to know her. And this went on for about nine months. And she walked in one day, and she had a gift for you, each of us. And she gave it to us. And she said, You know, I hate to say this to you, but I'm probably never gonna see a gun. And I looked at Janina almost. Did you hear that? And we both looked at her. And we're like, why? You know, and so I'll be honest with you. I've been coming in here on Wednesdays, because my brother has been in hospice, and I've been the one taking care of them. And so I never, and we had no idea. She never brought it up. And I looked at him like, you know, I have no idea. I'm sorry. And she goes, Well, you know, he recently died. I didn't want to say anything to you guys. Because I needed a break from it. I need to just come in here and get some laughs and talk to books and talk about family, and that sort of thing. And I can't tell you how much I appreciate you giving me my sanity. Through this time. Because she was really close to her brother. It was really obviously it was a painful thing for her to watch and go through and everything else. And so and she'd given me in the gifts, there was a book and there's a couple other things. But my favorite thing was this cartoon, I hung it up on my fridge. It's a bartender, there's a guest getting up from the bar. And the bartender saying to him, Oh, no, you don't have to make an appointment. Come back anytime you want. So, what's in perspective for me, you know how people really, really appreciate the job and really look forward to the time that they spend there just a lot of times just getting their mind off of their troubles, and they need somewhere to go where they feel accepted. And and, like, you know, they trust that they're in good. They're in good hands, so to speak. Yeah. And there's

Nicoa Coach:

your purpose. There's your purpose, your purpose, you know, every action, every reaction, every interaction has power. And I really appreciate you sharing that because a lot of people, they decide their jobs are not worthy, and that somehow in this society, we've said, Oh, no more and more better, better. You have to be, you know, in the corporate world, you have to have a degree and and at the end of the day, no, you don't. It's up to you to create and draw that string of purpose from how well you pour that drink to the ultimate impact that you have when you had that drink. And, and I know you're super super power, because you even talk about it in some of the information that you sent to me, is the skill of listening.

ALEX BENNETT:

I know there's a quote that I learned I got my bachelor's in communications and probably the one thing I carried forth through that was a quote by Epictetus. He was a Greek philosopher 2000 years ago. And he said, Man has two ears and one tongue, and that is so he can listen to twice as much as he speaks. And I try to live by that I tell all the young bartenders that I train that quote, and I tell them, you know, more than anything more than making drinks more than good service, you got to be able to listen, and you got to be able to converse, because that's really what people want when they sit at a bar. And, and I talk a lot, don't get me wrong, I'm super chatty. If you sit down, I'm gonna get to know you and we're probably Let's talk about my book at some point. So I don't want to hear about your kids, I want to hear about your dog. I want to hear, you know, my, my favorite question to ask people is, you know, do any plans for your weekend, or if it's, you know, early in the week, Monday, Tuesday, I say, how was your weekend? You know, because it gets people talking. And that's in generally they hang out with their loved ones, or they're doing fun things. And that's kind of how you get to know Him. And so I, I say, that is probably my greatest characteristic, and has probably led to more success than any other thing than making drinks or anything like that. So I

Nicoa Coach:

bet and, and I have a question for you that how do you because a lot of times, you know, those interactions are therapeutic for the person sitting there. And you're probably, because alcohol sometimes does have an impact on how vulnerable we become and how much we share. And, you know, and it's, it can be a beautiful thing, it can also be heart wrenching. And I'm curious, being a coach myself. And although I like to pride myself on the skill of listening, I too, have the gift of gab, and I have a challenge as a coach, I want to help them, heal them, fix them, and tell them what to do in some ways. And I've had to really fine tune that skill. So I'm not sure my family would agree, because I tend to overly tell them what I think they should do. But it's a real skill. How do you prevent yourself from telling them what to do based on the many years of wisdom that you've gleaned from parenting? From being a bartender?

ALEX BENNETT:

That's another great question. Because part of bartending is getting advice, giving advice. And, and I do get being older, I do get asked a lot, you know, what would you do in this situation in that, and I have learned the number one best way to give advice is to start by asking the person well, what do you want to get out of it? You know, because? Because if I tell you, Well, this is what I would do? Well, I'm telling you, based on my experience, and my context of life and my perception of life, and what I would do, you know, you have a completely different frame of reference, and it might not work for you. And the one thing you know, obviously, I get a lot of advice about spouses cheating on their spouses, and, you know, somebody will come in, and I've had this happen countless times, yeah, you know, I'm cheating on my significant other, I don't know how to handle it. And so the first time I was gonna ask him is, well, you know what you want to get out of this? Because if you obviously there's a problem in your relationship. And if you want to get out of your relationship, well, you got a great way to get out of it. Now you go home, and you'd be honest, and you say, Hey, I've been cheating on you. This is the problem, we should have done this, you know, and it'll probably, you'll feel better. But if you know, you're feeling guilty, and you don't know what to do, I say to him all depends on how, how well you've handled guilt. I mean, if if you don't think you can live with yourself, well, the best thing you can do is go home and be honest with your spouse, and, and be ready for their reaction, they might break up with you, they might end it, you know, and if that's what happens, that's what happens. You have to deal with it, you have to deal with the consequences. But they might say, Okay, I want to work through this, but if they do, they're gonna have a hard time trusting you, they're gonna be very, no question what you do every time they're gonna want to know what your real motives are. They're gonna want to see your phone, are you gonna be able to handle that? You know, yeah, you know, if you're the type of person that you don't, you know, you don't feel the guilt, but you're afraid you're going to get caught well done. If I were you, I would, I would just end it, you know, and the end the affair, there's a chance that the other person's gonna be hurt, and come, you know, blow it all up and for you, but the best thing you can do if you're worried about getting caught, it's just the End of the Affair and let the chips fall where they may. Ultimately, when it comes to giving advice, that's how I always approach it. My first question is always gonna be, well, what do you want to get out of it? You don't really want to question

Nicoa Coach:

that's the coaching. You're a coach. See, you're actually a coach because you know, our questions that we ask or what do you want? How's what you're doing, getting you what you want? If you're not getting what you want? Are you willing to try a different way? Because otherwise you just got one foot in and one foot out and you're just setting yourself up for a life of mediocrity. And yeah, a lot of people are drowning their sorrows at the bar because they are in that state of mediocrity and they want something even better. Has any of your advice Alex ever come back to haunt you?

ALEX BENNETT:

You know, okay, when it when it comes to giving advice, and this is something that a lot of people have a hard time with, you know, you give somebody advice you they go home, that's great advice, and they walk out the door and you expect them to take it and the next time you see him thema you know they Work off, I didn't do it, you know, and, and you take that personally. And the thing is, that's kind of what I learned, most people aren't going to take my advice anyway, you know, it's kind of want to hear it, or maybe they want to vent or maybe they want to, you know, get it off their chest, and I just let that go. And the biggest way that it can come back to you to haunt you, you know, you're empathetic, when you're listening to people, good, bartenders always going to be a bit apathetic. So you're feeling their pain or their frustration, or whatever it is, they're going through, and you got to, you got to separate yourself from that you can't let that affect your life, you can't go home angry, because somebody's being mistreated by somebody else. And this is what you got to do about it. And that that's the biggest, I think the biggest thing that can hurt you or come back to haunt you, is you get caught up in their world. And that's, that's your voice?

Nicoa Coach:

How did you learn that? Had you suffered over that extreme empathy in your path? I know, I certainly had to learn that as an HR professional and a coach.

ALEX BENNETT:

Oh, yeah, definitely. You know, there was times when you know, somebody be at the bar, and they be asked me for advice. And I tell them and, you know, or, you know, like, like, especially if there's a girl that kind of had a thing for you know, you know, she's being she's not happy in a relationship. And then the next thing you know, you know, it's coming back in and she's not breaking up with her boyfriend. And I might have a little ulterior motives, but obviously, if I got a little thing for you, I want to see your happy more than anything. And you, you've I found myself becoming miserable because she was or that sort of thing. And, and that's when I kind of, Okay, I gotta step back from all this. And, you know, if I'm going to do this job, and it's not going to drive me nuts, then I have to look at everybody and say, hey, they're just human beings, you know, they're living their lives, you got your life, you got your problems, you got your issues you got to confront taking on theirs is not going to help you

Nicoa Coach:

now, and I think that applies to any role. Oh, you know, it just is more expanded as a as a coach or an HR person or bartender, you know, a counselor that you really are in a powerful role. Is there a an example of a success story where you really feel like you had a significant influence on one of your patrons? Well,

ALEX BENNETT:

yeah, I got quite a few of those, you know, one of them is a young kid, bartender with me for a long time. Now, for about a year struggled as a bartender, I'm not gonna lie, he just had a hard time relating, and whatever else, and he was fumbling through life. And so one of the things I do, and I mean, if you like, you can we could do this right now, if you want to do if you got an old paper, I help people find, find their priorities. It's a short little exercise. And that's what I did. Okay, so write down you know, if you can write down 10 things, but write down as many things as you can that you consider a priority in your life. Now, obviously, when I write things down, I'm gonna put my kids my health, people I love my books, my car is because in the end, I gotta get to work. My job is because that's what keeps my house paid for my my houses, obviously keeps me warm and dry. So that's, you know, you do that if you want to take a minute write down. If you got time. That's great, you know, and

Nicoa Coach:

everybody should pause right now get your pen and paper. This is a little journaling prompt. And while you were talking, I wrote down me health, family free time, money, impact water, sunshine, I got eight. So okay, great. All right, let's go and

ALEX BENNETT:

now put them in order one through time. You look at that list, put it in order one through time.

Nicoa Coach:

Okay, I got it.

ALEX BENNETT:

I think, okay. Draw a line under the top three.

Nicoa Coach:

Okay. Yep. Okay,

ALEX BENNETT:

so those top three things that's your foundation in life is if those three things are good, you're good. Because you know, if they're off, then you better solve those because they're gonna weigh on your mind. Everything below that, you know, isn't as important as that. So if you look at those three things, those are your priorities. Those are the things that you're achieving for. Once those are achieved, you can go after everything else. And if you see it on paper, and you have it organized in your head, that helps you stay focused and helps you figure out where you want to go with yourself. And then it also helps you identify, well, this is why I can't get anywhere because, you know, my second priority is a disaster. And if I don't fix that, none of these other things that I really want to achieve are gonna because it's going to dominate your thoughts. And so I did that I've done this for quite a few People, and you know, the one kid he figured out, okay, you know, I, he wanted one of the big things was just see the world. So he started pursuing a job where he, you know, he's doing he's gotten to sales actually doing really well with that. But he travels, and he's very happy with his life, you know, Tommy comes popping in one day and he's like, oh, you know, yeah, you know, I'm doing great and this net blah, blah, blah, tribute to me and, or anything else and I don't want to, you know, I don't want to think that I he had to do it. I'm not good at sales, I can tell you that. But, but I still felt good to see him improve himself and get to where he was wanting to go, just be happy in life, you know,

Nicoa Coach:

that exercise helped him create that his top three and, and I've written down me love and health. And I think I think I'm doing pretty well. And you know, some people might, I really want to reiterate that. I invite everyone to say me at the top of their list because not me personally, but you can put me at the top of your roster if you want to. But yeah, they should put themselves because once you take care of you, I looked down at the rest of my list, you know, water, sunshine and passion. I'm gonna do all those things anyway, to fuel me. So it's all part of that priority. So no, I love your exercise. It's great exercise and wonderful, you know, you really are an interesting guy. And I got really excited about having the conversation with you today. And, and, you know, I want to just leave it to you at this stage, like, is there a story that's had a big impact on you in your life by design that, that like you just shared about this young man that influenced us to relax into your world or to create expand anything that comes to mind?

ALEX BENNETT:

I mean, I have lots of stories. I guess, I guess I'd have to start by saying life teaches us lessons. You know, I believe that we're here to learn the lessons on whatever the greater Bing is, or whatever else, whatever that is, I don't know. But I do know that life work to learn the lessons we're supposed to learn. Now we can learn the easy way. Or we can learn the hard way. You know, if your mom and dad say to you, that's hot, and you go, okay, that's hot, well, then you don't burn yourself. But a lot of people they go, Oh, really tap, start crying, you know, and, and I think we all have our sort of Achilles heel, we all have that thing that we're drawn to like the moth to the flame. And we got to learn, and we got to stay away from that flame. And if we don't learn it, like it's going to teach us again, only it's going to be that much more painful every time. And, and, and that's where I would say, you know, that's kind of what got me really into my book and got me focused on what to be honest with you have an answer for 10 years, you know, I started really writing first one, when I was about 43. And I'll be 53 in October. And you know, I was not to go into too much detail or get into my problems. But you know, I was, it was I was going through a painful time again. And it was my own cause I'm putting myself in situations, I know better than NBN. And, and getting taught the same lesson again. And what's the definition of crazy, running into the brick wall again, and again, just to see a different hope for a different result. And that's kind of what I was doing. And so I realized, you know, I gotta get focused on when I got what I want to do with my life. I gotta forget about all this stuff. I gotta, you know, what do I want to get? And that's kind of where I came up with that list of priorities saying, you know, what's my priorities? Where do I want to go with it? And then yeah, I sat down and started writing. And, you know, one of the advice I get a lot of people when I tell him I wrote a book, oh, man, I want to write a book. Oh, man, I want to write a book. And I was given the same three things that advice first is always you know, and Hemingway said this, the first draft anything is crap. So you're just getting it on paper, and then you polish and you work it from there, you know? So don't sit down expecting to write the best seller, you'll get to that. The second thing is gotta write what you know. You know, it's makes it much easier if you can conceptualize if you're writing you know about a story in your life, no matter how mundane it might seem. Well, you got the characters are ready, you got the context ready, you got the you can see the house, or you can see the road, or the car, whatever else tall there. And then the third thing, I always say you gotta treat it like a job, you know. So like, on Saturdays, I was closed the bar. So I get up on Saturday morning, and I'm in front of my computer by 10 o'clock, and I'm writing until three o'clock and I don't care if I write three sentences or 30 pages how I'm going to sit there For those five hours, like, it's my job, I gotta get this done. And I tell everybody, leave me alone. Don't call me Don't expect me to do anything. It's my job I'm writing that I treat, you know, treat me like I'm at the bar. And, and in doing so it helped me really stay focused on what was important to me, where I want to get to, you know, as a writer, I say one of the scariest things is to be successful at it as crazy as that might sound, because it's gonna get me out of the bar, you know, and the bar is my social world. I'm gonna miss my friends. But by the same token, I want to, you know, I want to see what life is out there outside of it. I've been tethered to a bar for last 35 years, and I haven't traveled much I haven't seen much the US and, and one of my regulars, he's really great guy. His name is Larry, he, he was very successful. And he sold the business to 52 was able to retire. He's a biker, and he went across the US on his Harley. And he had such great stories to tell me, one of them always stuck out in my mind is that, you know, he's going through like Wyoming or North Dakota, somewhere, somewhere out west where it was very sparse. He's like, he's just me on the highway. And I see, like three or four little deer down the side of the road. And there does something spooked him. And he turns and looks. And he sees this buck. Cruising, you know, September there, right. And this book is cruising at full speed passing him up on his bike going after these days. And he's like, man, it was just so cool to see that, you know, and, and it made me think, you know, that's what I want to do. That's what I, if my book is successful, you'll know it, because I'll be in an RV going from booksigning to I, you know, I do book clubs, I stay in book clubs. I'd be the bartender author. So I'll show up and bartender Adam, and, and then, you know, give a little spiel, take questions wherever else, but I'll do that. Maybe go to interviews, you know, go go wherever it's gonna take me across this nation, because he insisted, yeah, a lot of people want to travel the world. But there are so many cool things to see in the US. And yes, that was that. That

Nicoa Coach:

is a beautiful vision. I mean, I see the vision. And I hope that you're sitting in that vision and trusting and anticipating it. And it's not if the book it'll be when the book is successful when I create this reality for myself, because I read your notes. And I saw that, and I even question where you said, my biggest fears to be successful, because I will lose my social life with my my bartender friends. And I thought, will you though, you already told us that people are going to come, they come in and out every three, six months, and you have a strong connection with them? Who's to say you won't be communicating from the road and coming back in for your own Drake and your own meal with your friends? Yeah, I see it. I think it sounds like,

ALEX BENNETT:

you are absolutely correct. But it's still like that, you know, it's the letting go. It's the it's the familiarity. You know, I know if I am my five shifts a week, I'm on pay my bills, and I'm gonna be stable, I'm gonna be set. And, you know, and I, you know, these are I mean, my, my, so, not to go into too much detail, but my buddy Joe just bought his own restaurant. And I worked down there too. He hired my best friend to be as GM, she, she bartender with me for nine years, I became super close with her. And then her sister, actually, when she went into management, her sister started bartending with me, so I'm like, part of the family. And it's like, that's, like gone. And I, I say they're my dysfunctional restaurant family, where we all got our issues, whatever, but we show up, we're a team, you know, there's a knock out a great night, there's a restaurant Hi, that comes with it, where, you know, you entertain people, you took care of people, they had a great time and, and you did it and no matter how stressful it was, no matter how, like hard it seemed, you know, the person next to you didn't let you down, you weren't going to let them down. And, and that's like, given that up, given, you know, I you know, that's the scary thing for me, but by the same token, you gotta let go, I gotta embrace the change. And, and one of the other things I tell people in this situation is that you know, physiologically, anxiety and excitement are the exact same, the only difference is perception. So I got to start saying to myself, you know, I'm excited to get out to restaurants. I'm excited to pursue the author thing. And you know, this anxiety you know, that's not really anxiety. It's excitement. I'm I'm Ah, I'm on the uphill, the roller coaster right now,

Nicoa Coach:

I think that you're really honoring the the emotion of it by even describing it in that way. Because I would invite you to if I was your bartender right now, I would invite you to think of the third alternative. So it's not black or white. It's not well, if I'm an author, and I'm traveling the world, I can't be a bartender, right? Or I'm not part of this family or this community. You know, what if there's a third alternative? What if it's, you know, three months on three months off? What if it's, you know, I'm the Trevor traveling, literary booze guy, that's the author of bartender, visiting the Pacific Northwest this month, you know, I can see you still being a part of that community and living your best life. And

ALEX BENNETT:

I would love to do that, too. You know, I do bar 10 private parties, you know, somebody ever needed me, I'd be I happy to do that. I love them. In fact, my, my pastor who's a good friend of mine, and well, regular, he, he's getting married at the end of this month, and he asked me to bartend it for him. And, and I'm looking forward to that, that's going to be great. And I would love to do that, you know, and honestly, research has shown that if you known somebody for seven years or longer, you're friends for life, it doesn't matter. If you go six months without talking to each other, it doesn't matter, you know, you're gonna pick up right where you left off. And I do believe that because of my experience, because when somebody comes in I haven't seen for two years, man, um, you know, we pick up kind of conversation starts were ended before. Yeah. And so, you know, I do remind myself of that, it's just, you know, it's funny, it doesn't matter, really, you know, how old we get or how experienced we are, you still got that little partner hurt that you gotta let go. You gotta, you know, cast away and, and, you know, and I'm looking forward to it, believe me, if the opportunity they know if the opportunity presents itself. I'm out of here. I got to chase it, you know, and they'll support me and believe me, they they have been they have gotten my back throughout this entire process. In fact, the the first books I had was that it's it places in Frankfort, Illinois, it's called the Dolce Vita. It's Italian. If you're ever in in the Chicagoland area, you let me know, I'll tell you when I'm working, you come down, I'll take care of you. But we had the first book signing there. And, and I didn't know what to expect. And I put it out on my my page literary booze that it's going to be there and invited everybody I know and told everybody about it. We had about, I don't know, reservation, we had about 15 reservations for the night. Well, by we opened a four by 330 The bar was full. It stayed that way until we close it night. It stayed that way till about 1030. And by 530, the restaurant was full. And I was turning around looking at people that I hadn't seen six and seven years that saw my, my video, and I you know, holy cow. Wow. You know, and I can't tell you how honored and how humbling and just how much I really appreciated it, you know, because so many people showed up to support me. And and I say at the end of the night, I sold 90 books. Plus I signed about another 20 or 30 that people have bought and brought in. And so it's super successful that way. But I always say you know if I had an eye on me, right, I'm sure it'll be a great feeling. But if I had a book signing or 10,000 people showed up, sure, no one have that same feeling where Wow, man, I got this many people that that that showed up for me that want to support me they want to see me successful and just honestly, it was just one of the best nights of my life. My mom was there. The best nights of her life to Daddy. Oh, I

Nicoa Coach:

bet she was so proud of her boy. Oh my god. Yeah. You're talking about the community that you've created over the years and, and for people who want to go and pursue their passion. Whatever community you're in right now. They want you to be successful. They are there to be your biggest cheerleaders. And I just love your story so much. While you were talking and talking about being a traveling bartender I was fantasizing about. I was like, oh, when we launched that we did bourbon. We should just fly Alex down and he could be the bartender at the party. I could see it now we can have your books there.

ALEX BENNETT:

Yeah, no problem. We make your fashions I'll make your Manhattan's I'll make you with ours. I got a lot of recipes for a lot of that stuff.

Nicoa Coach:

Oh my god, it would be amazing. I think we should make a little note in our calendars and our mental note here. You You are my guy. We are friends fast friends now forever. I feel it. Yeah,

ALEX BENNETT:

I hope so.

Nicoa Coach:

Well, is there any other story you want to tell? Because I think for our listeners of when they think about their life by design and following something that you said I got the security you know, I don't want to I I don't want to, you know, I don't want to lose that I gotta pay my bills, but I also have to let go and, and pursue what it isn't my heart is really pulling me towards any other story you think would be profound to share with everybody listening to encourage them to trust, like you are trusting in the process?

ALEX BENNETT:

Well, I guess this is what I end up with. You know, the older I get, the more spiritual I get, and the less religious I get, if that makes any sense. And I'm a big, big fan of birds of prey, you know, and I see quite a bit of hawks flying around where I'm at, you know, whenever I, whenever I'm questioning what I'm doing, if I show Hawk, I think all right, man, because, you know, if you look at this, I'm an English geek. So I look at symbolism and everything, and you look at the symbolism of a hawk, its, its vision, and its, you know, looking ahead and your future and stuff like that. And, and, and I guess, you know, I go back to, I'd have to go back to Larry, because he's 83 years old. And, you know, it's the hardest part of being a bartender in a lot of ways. Because a lot of times, you know, rather than just kind of come and gone, and most time, I don't know what happened, you know, they just disappear. Well, Larry, it was a Friday, regular, he come in two to four every Friday. Got to know everybody else. He's in unions and bikery. And really good sense of humor fit right in funny guy. And we always have some laughs and whatever else. And two Fridays ago, he came in, seeing normal Friday, whatever else and leaving, say, I'll see you next Friday. But next Friday didn't come in. And I most of my regulars are friends, I got the number this and that. And I always tell them, you know, if you don't show up, you better call Hey, you know, you've got a call in so to speak, oh, I was gonna have to write shop, blah, blah, blah, blah, yes. The next Friday, he didn't show up. I was thinking, you know, maybe he's got something going on whatever else. And finally, Friday comes to 30. And it's funny just how life works. Because I had been really busy. And it cleared out, I was empty. I was having to be standing by my phone, I looked down, he call me. And I picked up I'm like, Hey, Larry, what's going on, man, you coming in? And, as well, you know, I just want to let you know, I've really enjoyed coming in and seeing in the last two and a half years, I really appreciate the time, and I wish you the best of luck. And I want you to know, man, you know, I want to see you live your dreams more than anybody else. I was like, Well, thanks, Larry, I appreciate that. But why are we having this conversation? And he goes, Well, you know, been in the hospital the last eight days. It's just not looking good for me. And I'm like, Well, what's you know, what's prognosis? I gotta, you know, we'll see or something like that. So what hospital? Yeah, he's like, Oh, I'm home now, you know, they let me out. Which kind of is bad sign? I think you know, and so while you know, I'll come see you. And he's he laughed at it. And he's like, no, no, no, you know, I'm hoping to come in and see you again. And one of the things he had always asked me is, if I got my first royalty payment, and I saw his kid with him, well, if I don't get it, by this day, you're putting on that cut, you're getting on the Harley, and you're going out there and collecting for me, and I got the payment that way. And I said I was looking forward to seeing you, you don't always want to let you know, you know, I got my payments, I'm not gonna go, Oh, that's great. And kind of laugh, they're off the hook down. And this and that, you know, and, and I am planning on calling him this week, we'll see if he picks up the phone. I've told everybody else, you know, we're gonna, we will be busting his stones, to be honest with you. But you know, it's, if he answers it's, we'll see what happens. But, but this is what I'd say, you know, when the day comes that I'm traveling through Wyoming, or wherever else, and I'm on a, I'm on a highway, and I see a buck running next to me, you know, I'm gonna look over, I'm gonna know, I'm right where I'm at, because I'm going to see Larry on the back of his bike, you know, with his cut on, right and right next to me. And that's, that's, I guess that's how I'm going to know that I'm in the path that I'm supposed to be on. That makes any sense.

Nicoa Coach:

It makes all the sense in the world, Alex, and you're a pretty special guy. And I want to remind you that I know you'll see that book one day, but I just want to remind you that you can't get this thing called life wrong. And that you're right on the path you're supposed to be on and it's a beautiful life by design, and you just keep designing and keep writing and keep using your words as a wand as I say, putting it out there. Still that one I want you to because it's one of my favorites. I mean, they don't call it spelling for nothing. Yeah,

ALEX BENNETT:

that's a great one too. I'm gonna steal that one too. I

Nicoa Coach:

love him biggest compliment when I hear people using things I love to say over and over as my family will say we've heard that when mom but I have to say it's an exciting thing to feel liberated and empowered. To create a life by design, you're already doing it. The goal is to do it really intentionally. And you really have. And I love that you took some, some chances and some turns and, and yet you embraced where you were. And you took that as a powerful purpose driven career. And you're giving yourself permission to continue to expand and leveraging your creativity. And who cares if it took 10 years, you're only 53 to be right, I'll be 50. You're just a baby. We still got three years.

ALEX BENNETT:

Hopefully, hopefully, you want to get to be a hunter. And so several more years doing this, that's all right, I'll die, I can handle that.

Nicoa Coach:

I think we can handle it. I think there's a lot to be done. And I can't wait to, you know, when coffee when Nicoa continues to be successful, I will have you back on. And we'll hear about your road trips and your book signings, and maybe you'll be in our area and our neck of the woods sign and stuff. You know, for us who knows? Well, I

ALEX BENNETT:

hope so. And I will be back anytime you want me. And yeah, you know, if I'm ever in that, if it takes me to that area, you will know and hopefully we can meet up and I can sign a book for you. And we can talk whiskey.

Nicoa Coach:

Absolutely. I know we will. Well, I'm going to ask you one last question that I ask all of my clients at the end of every coaching session that I hold, and I've been trying to remember to ask it on these podcast interviews. What what is the one thing that you want to celebrate the most? About Yourself? Alex?

ALEX BENNETT:

Oh, that's a good question. You know, I guess if I'm going to celebrate my, the one thing about myself the most, it's just really the way that you know, I interact with people and people, like, appreciate their time with me, you know, I mean, to have people come in and see me, you know, and tell me, oh, man, I'm looking forward to seeing you like, like, because it does give you a purpose. And I have people buy my book as a way to support me, even if they don't read even if they never read it, they just want to buy it. You know, they're spending their money on me. You know, it's humbling, and, and it makes me that's probably the thing that makes me feel best about myself is that, you know, I do affect people in a way that makes them want to see me successful.

Nicoa Coach:

Well, you certainly have left an impact on me. And I am really honored to have spent this time with you, Alex. And I have. Yeah, you're welcome. And again, I mean, hey, you were the one who asked, and if you don't ask, you never know what you get so good for you. I celebrate your impact and your charisma and your style. You I wish everybody could see you if we could try to use some of this footage at some point. You have quite the style with the mustache, the what do they call that the handlebar mustache and a bar mustache and a little bit of a braid on the end of the goatee and you got a bow tie.

ALEX BENNETT:

There's a story to that next time my mind I can tell you the story behind that. Oh, no,

Nicoa Coach:

you gotta tell me now we got to know, you know, I'm casual. Tell me the story about the brain.

ALEX BENNETT:

So until I was 44 I couldn't I never had a beard. I never had any facial hair effects. I couldn't like grow it, you know. And if I tried to I had the cheesy 18 year old mustache goatee thing. So I was always clean shaven. And then November came and I caught a cold. And you know, I didn't want to shave because my face was raw. And I walked in after about 10 days. And I you know, I had a little outline of a goatee and all the girls I work with were like, oh, man, you should have facial hair. So I did. And, and I was just going for the typical goatee look, but I don't get anything in size by my lips. And so again, I kind of got the cheesy 18 year old thing going so I was letting the hands grow out kind of foo Manchu it, you know, kind of playing with it. But they start curling on their own. And that's when I look like the bad guy from every Disney movie. Yeah, you know, so I was gonna shave it that and somebody said out, man, just get some wax and play with it, you know, curl and see how it goes. So I did and I go to work. And everybody's like, Oh, man, that is great. You got to keep an answer. And it's a conversation piece, which always helps as a bartender. But so I started by accident. I told everybody you know, I'm old enough to be bartending and black and white. Now, you know, tea, I was shocked at how much of a difference it makes in the winter. You know, I'm in south suburbs of Chicago and wintertime, it gets cold. And so I was let it grow out is getting kind of Ratty. And my boss at the time was like, Yeah, you know, you're in food service. You got to do something with that. And so I was able to get it into the tiniest goat like braid just did it on a whim. And she looked at me and she goes, Well, I guess that works, you know? And so I just kept it going over And you know, and and it's kind of become the work now. I mean, everybody expects you to have it and it's like I say it's conversation piece for the bar and it's always a good thing when I meet somebody and I get a lot of compliments on it. You know, you got a good thing you got to stick with it.

Nicoa Coach:

I think it's cool. I think it definitely gives you a distinctive style. And I bet you've got your is your photo on the back of this book is on your shot. Okay? Now everybody's going to have to go by the book whether they want to read it or not, so they can see you. That's it. That's

ALEX BENNETT:

what literary boosts to you know, my pictures on there as well. Instagram,

Nicoa Coach:

Facebook and Instagram, literary booze, everybody, please go follow. You can go and buy a shot of Okies for I saw it was at Barnes and Noble. It's on Amazon. Is that right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. To author your official. I can't I can't wait to read the book. I'm definitely gonna order it right away. And I'll put it up on my Amazon shop, which I now have an influencer shop. So I don't know who I'm awesome. I'm gonna add it. So people know where to find it. And last but not least, thank you. You are a kind and wonderful gentleman and I am honored to have had you on coffee with Nicola.

ALEX BENNETT:

Well, thank you very much. I'm I'm honored to be here.

Jennifer Gardner:

Thanks for joining us for a caffeinated conversation. Subscribe to Coffee with Nicola for more stories from people living a life by design. You can also find inspiration on Instagram. Just follow Coffee with Nicoa and check out our website Coffee with nicoa.com and that's Nicoa N IC O A. We look forward to talking with you soon. And enjoy your coffee between now and then. Way