Jesse Jacobs, Samovar Tea Lounge

Jesse Jacobs: Founder of
Samovar Tea Lounge

Show Notes:

1. Samovar Tea Lounge:

  • 3 locations
  • Founded 12 years ago
  • Almost 100 employees
  • How he gets the daily stuff done while moving towards a larger vision
  • Evolved organically, so it’s happened naturally
  • How Jesse is the worst employee at Samovar
  • Secret: defining mission & values, so that everyone understands the high level
  • Cultivate a culture rooted in mission & values
  • Exist to create positive human connection through tea
  • Makes management & achieving of goals much easier, if people believe strongly in what they do
  • What’s really important: customer engagement
  • Only goal: for you to come back with a friend
  • No checklist can help an employee to be able to engage customers

2. Passion:

  • Start with passion & knowledge, which is contagious
  • If I’m excited & I love it, you probably will be too
  • People who work at Samovar are usually customers first, & they catch the fire and want to learn more
  • Why Samovar has leaders, not managers (& what the difference is)
  • Anyone thriving in whatever they’re doing is passionate
  • How Jesse found his passion: immerse yourself in many diverse experiences – worked many jobs
  • Dishwasher, cook, door-to-door salesman, web developer, folded T-shirts, student in Japan, hotel maintenance, magician, painted fences, shined shoes
  • Learning: Tai chi, yoga, gymnastics, martial arts
  • Flow: When you’re challenged, but have little successes
  • Don’t do what everyone else is doing, travel, read, surround yourself with passionate people

3. Tea:

  • Started with his parents’ friends bringing tea from all over the world
  • Wasn’t conscious until he became older
  • Always drank tea, but wasn’t a tea freak
  • Continued to drink tea working in the corporate world, in his cubicle
  • Got more sophisticated with tea as he got older, explored different teas
  • Tasting pu-erh, which was weird, opened up the world of tea to him
  • Most important: the ritual, tactile experience of boiling water & pouring over leaves
  • The ritual built profundity – an anchor that he looked forward to
  • Became a bigger part of his life as corporate world became less important
  • Tea ritual now: drink all day, more caffeine in the morning

4. Mindfulness & presence:

  • Morning tea ritual: boil water, do totally nothing while water boils (Lazy Man’s Meditation), pay attention to the sound of the water, visual of the steam, and his breath – hard, but serves as an anchor for his day
  • Simple ritual of being mindful as he brews tea is practice for everything else — you get good at what you practice
  • Secret to creativity: being present
  • Read the book: The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, was a profound trigger to live life aware of this moment
  • Presence doesn’t come naturally to him, mind wanders, come back, and repeat
  • Fear: it doesn’t feel good to be there watching the water, because concerns and anxieties come up, make you want to go do those things; distractions are a masking of the fear
  • To deal with it: first, awareness — recognize what’s happening; then knowing that no good will come from not being present
  • The ritual helps him to be present with people and himself

5. Emails & Procrastination:

  • Practicing not checking email as much — only 3-4 times a day instead of every hour
  • Doing something important before checking email
  • Another email: set most important task each night before going to bed
  • Procrastinating on big tasks: taxes, etc.
  • Emails filling up inbox creates anxiety, then try to get it to empty, which also creates anxiety

6. Learning & Creating:

  • Fan of physical books, so he can mark them up
  • Peak by Chip Conley
  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek
  • Lynchpin by Seth Godin
  • Traction by Gino Wickman
  • Read as fast as possible, often from back to front, to get to the meat of it right away, skim over unimportant things
  • Highlight important areas and dogear those pages
  • Then go back through it, and actually hand write those notes back into a notebook
  • Uses a Moleskine notebook, 8/12 inch by 11 inch – writes with an actual pen, nice pen because it makes you more excited about writing
  • The fluid act of going from thought to hand — the act of creation
  • When you write in pen, there’s no going back, so there’s a sense of permanence and non-attachment
  • Uses a heavy-duty pen from Huckberry
  • Write 3 pages each morning, amazing mind-clearing process, write about what he’s frustrated with, happy about, dumping the mind
  • Human beings are wired to create, and yet so many of us aren’t creating
  • The practice of writing 3 pages is an act of creating in its most simple form

7. Physical activity:

  • Try to do some kind of morning physical activity
  • Always has some kind of crazy physical workout
  • It’s a progression — break it down to a small, accomplishable task
  • A fan of simple workouts: Loves yoga, martial arts
  • At home — something he can do in 20-40 minutes: series of pushups, pullups, handstand pushups, squats
  • Convict conditioning workout — if you were confined to a cell, can do the ultimate full-body workout
  • Makes up workout as he goes
  • Most recent workout: 5 minutes jumprope, then series of pushups (narrow, wide, regular), then pullups; then 10 different exercises, back to back, then 3-minute break, repeat for 3 circuits
  • Turkish getups, pushups, single-leg squats, kettlebell swings, pullup, plank walks, leg lifts, mostly bodyweight stuff — non-stop, then 3-minute break, repeat
  • Procrastinating on workouts: have to create and trust a bullshit meter — today isn’t a good day to work out, but if that happens too often, the bullshit meter goes off
  • Try to have a goal of 3 workouts a week, set those days out on calendar, but at the same time allow for kindness to myself, with confidence that you’ll get back to it (don’t let it become slippery slope), need to allow for some flexibility
  • Stop from going down slippery slope: comes back to awareness; it’s so easy to not be aware, because you don’t want to have to confront yourself
  • Don’t allow myself to slack on the practice of awareness — will make it a point to drive in silence for 20 minutes, if didn’t do tea ritual

8. Reconnecting with the world:

  • Mindful shaving
  • Why he started using his old camera with film
  • Vinyl
  • The need to reconnect with the world
  • Enjoying life in a ritual way — including cooking a meal, listening to music
  • There’s huge value in these tactile things
  • Quality:¬†Doesn’t believe in expensive things because they’re exclusive
  • Goes back to being human — made by a human being, not stamped out in a factory
  • It’s not about quality, it’s about human-ness
  • High-quality tea is hand-selected by a human being — it’s magical
  • It’s the experience of connecting to another person, and the story that it tells

More at Samovar’s website.