Guest Post: Diesel and Bloc 11 Cafe Owner, Jennifer Park, On Personal and Professional Change

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  A few months ago, I received an email that made me smile from ear to ear.

I was invited to do some work with the managers of Diesel and Bloc 11 cafe in Somerville, MA. I've been a customer there for five years, ever since moving to Somerville in 2009, and have hosted many client sessions in the booths and tables of these fine establishments.

Pictures of their mochas and egg & cheese sandwiches probably make up 90% of my instagram photos.

Below is a post that Jennifer Park, one of the owners of Diesel and Bloc, posted on the Diesel Cafe blog. It was published while I was traveling during the July 4th holiday weekend and took me by surprise, and I admit I may have shed a tear or two.

Working with this crew has been effortless and deeply gratifying for me since we first began. I am deeply grateful for the chance to support them and I think you will find Jen's post about her personal and professional transformation to be profoundly inspiring.


This week’s blog post is brought to you by one of our amazing co-owners, Jen Park. Jen spends her days setting up her mobile office at our three locations, is the creative force behind our locally driven menus, focusing on customer service & employee growth, and 15 years later remains one of our best in-house baristas.

What makes Diesel unique in the most basic way is the people who work behind the counters to make your food and coffee. And it is hard to describe in any succinct way what makes working at Diesel a special experience. Yesterday, I was having my weekly meeting with our general manager, Connor Pittari, and he said, “I want people who work here to look back 10 years from now and say, that was the best fucking job I ever had, because it is.”

Being a manager at Diesel is hard. We don’t have defined roles of dishwashers or bussers or register robots. Everyone does everything. Staff are encouraged and expected to self-manage heavily, which makes a manager’s job harder. They have to have eyes on everything at all times.

When I begin talking to someone who may be applying for a managerial position, one of the questions I ask is: what do you think a manager does here at Diesel? Often times, the answer focuses heavily on task based skills like opening and closing the store, or managing the money, or ordering. Rarely, do people say: oh, yeah, have difficult conversations with people.

Being a part of the Diesel staff demands that you are open to feedback from your managers. As a new hire, you are bombarded with tons of new information and tons of feedback. Probably erring more on the side of constructive rather than positive, hang in there! And until recently, in our 15 year history of being in business and training dozens of managers, we offered little training on the most important managerial skill of all: how to talk to people.

A few months ago, we started—as Connor likes to call it—family therapy. Personally, I prefer professional development with Dillan DiGiovanni. Dillan has been a devout regular for about 5 years and has built his own business as a health coach. The team of managers has committed to a 6 series workshop with Dillan totaling 12 hours. We are halfway in and from where I sit, things are shifting and changing. Not that anything was broken or wrong or bad to begin with, but I see people looking around, looking inward and generally being a little more self-aware: including myself.


Tucker, my business partner and best friend for 19 years has, over the years, told me that I am not a very good listener. I have scoffed at this statement because so much of what I do at work is listen to people and I was constantly listening to everything that was going on around me. How could I possibly be a not-great listener? While I thought that I was listening intently, I also realized that the part of me that is constantly thinking of a million different things and needs to move and can’t sit still was getting in the way of my really listening. And that what actually mattered more to me in this relationship was not whether I was really listening, but whether Tucker felt like I was listening.

Managing people, to me, is the hardest part of the job. It is constantly changing and very demanding. It requires so much more communication and effective communication than an ubër-introvert like me is often prepared for. Working with Dillan has certainly helped our team to think a little more thoughtfully about ways that we can be more effective leaders.

you can read Jen's original post and see more pictures from the brewblog HERE.


Wow. It’s almost 2011. Today’s the last day of 2010; what are your intentions for a year of possibility and promise? What valuable lessons and experiences are you taking with you as you begin a blank page for the next chapter of your life?
As I mentioned on Day 10 of the 10 Tips to 2011 countdown, 2010 was both a blessed and difficult year for me. I had to come to terms with a lot of painful memories, experiences and realizations. I made some poor decisions and I had to reconcile with the consequences. In many instances, I chose poorly when it came to food, relationships and finances. I reflected on fear-based decisions and their effects in my life.
Having spent a few months realizing and thusly forgiving (myself and others), I am ready to move forward. To do that, I have been investing time and energy into learning several new ways of living and loving for this new year (and the rest of my life).
Many people aspire to make changes in their lives but feel limited by degrees from institutions they do or don’t have, access to finances to acquire those degrees, gatekeepers who block their progress and/or the clarity for the next best step in life.
The best way to heal and make changes for the better is to learn new skills to change the habits, conditioning and thought processes that got you where you are. A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein goes something like this:

“the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

In other words, make small changes to actually see changes in your life. Keep doing what you’re doing to expect more of the same, for better or for worse.
Something to remember is that you don’t need a degree or a certificate to legitimize you, nor do you need to spend a lot of money to learn and grow as an adult. Public libraries, the World Wide Web and your friends, colleagues and peers all serve as wonderful resources for unlimited means of learning and growth.
I desire more maturity, positivity and abundance in my life and I intend to meet those goals by expanding my understanding of:
1)   Buddhism. I continue to study the origins, philosophies and practices of what is a truly healing and centering part of my life.
2)   Non-violent communication. It isn’t perfect and it is the product of the mind of an educated, straight white man, the most privileged identity in our society. I use my experience with anti-racism and anti-oppression to filter and then apply his ideas  and I am seeing profound changes in my life.
3)   Integrative nutrition. The more I practice this with my clients, the more I need to learn and practice it in my own life. The more I embody what I preach, the more I encourage and inspire others to heal themselves from the inside out.
4)   Anger and forgiveness. Poignant revelations for 2010. I aspire to move forward to have less of the former and more of the latter in 2011.
5)   LGBTQ health statistics and projections. In order to effect change in the lives of more members of my beloved community, I want and need more data to support my work. As a marginalized community, that data is difficult to find. I may need to buy a magnifying glass and a bloodhound.
What are 5 things you are currently learning about (or intend to) in order to live a more evolved existence? How are you going to seek out resources in your community to actualize this goal?


Spend the next two hours listening before speaking. Let someone speak and complete their sentence/story/etc. before interrupting.

This is your assignment.

So how did you do?

What was it like to listen and be silent? What went through your head? Did you listen to what people were saying or were you judging and thinking about what you were going to say next the whole time?

Years ago, I learned that there were many different ways to be a listener--some of them better than others. I try not to judge things as good or bad, when I am with my clients we have a rule that we don't label their food choices or behaviors as "being good" or "being bad". There are nutritious and non-nutritious choices, in every aspect of life. Not good and bad ones. Those words evoke shame and blame. When we say something is somewhere on a spectrum of the myriad of choices available, it feels empowering because we know we can chose better for ourselves each time to bring more happiness and abundance into our lives.

Such is the case with listening.

I'm hosting a teleclass on Being a Good Listener in the near future so I won't give away all the goodies right now, but there are definitely ways of listening and being present that enrich our lives and the lives of others--and ways that do not. I am currently studying a technique of communication that I am finding exceedingly powerful, and alot of it entails improving my listening skills. It isn't just about being quiet. It's about being aware of the person speaking as well as your own internal voice. You are bound to have responses to whatever you are hearing--how are you able to balance the need to respond (or react) with your role listener?

How are your current skills as a listener affecting your personal and professional lives?

What would you change, if anything?

If you don't know, keep your ears peeled for my teleclass coming in the new year...