I got some great advice and ideas last week, which I plan to incorporate into my business as well as my personal life. These insights came during conversations with two different friends. I was meeting one of them for coffee. The other I spoke to on the phone as we were rescheduling a planned get-together.
We had to reschedule it because my friend, who is almost 80, is moving into a new townhouse. She calls it her “penthouse” and is excited about its big window and bright, sunny view. She is looking forward to having her grandchildren visit, to entertaining her friends, and to hosting events in the meeting room available to residents.

“I’m going to have a lot of tea parties,” she told me. She added that it can take a lot of work to put together a luncheon or a dinner party. “But all you need is tea and a cookie, and you’ve got a tea party,” she said. “How much work is that? None!”

Tea and a cookie. What a concept.

I’m going to use this as a reminder whenever there’s a project I want to take on or an opportunity I want to pursue that seems so overwhelming and daunting that it stops me before I even get started. I imagine the equivalent of a huge party or a major event, with an eight-course meal, fresh flowers, and a live band. I don’t know where to start, and because of that, I sometimes don’t start at all.

But now, thanks to my friend, I know exactly where to start. With tea and a cookie. Or whatever that translates to with regard to starting small, taking on what I know I can handle, and building from there. Even a tea party – a real one – can grow from “tea and a cookie” to a large, formal affair with tea and crumpets and white gloves and cucumber sandwiches. Right now, I don’t think I’d recognize a crumpet even if I saw one. But I know what a cookie is.
So whenever I find myself staring down – or being paralyzed by – a huge or daunting project, I’ll just tell myself, “Tea and a cookie.” And I’ll get started.

The other insight I got last week was actually just a different way of looking at something that’s a normal and necessary part of business – and our personal relationships, too. It has to do with networking and making connections and finding peers and partners and associates for the things we need and want to do.
As my friend and I were talking about several projects we are working on together, she mentioned two other friends of hers. They hadn’t known each other before she introduced them, and they are now wonderful resources for each other. She also mentioned someone she wants me to meet, which she does on a regular basis. In the past, she’s put me in touch with people who have been invaluable in my writing career, in planning my trip to Uganda, and in general.

When I told her how much I admire and appreciate her for doing this, she just shrugged and said, “Favorite people should meet favorite people.”
I’m honored and delighted to know I’m one of her favorite people, but I’m also inspired to be more like her and to do more of what she does. Arranging a get-together in person may be impractical or time-consuming, but it doesn’t take a major effort to send two people an email that says, “I thought you two should know each other (or know about each other), and here’s why.”

That’s the tea and cookie version, and it’s something I can easily do.

Sometimes we make a big production out of things that really aren’t a big production. Or they don’t need to be. They can be quick and simple, like tea and a cookie. And they can make a world of difference in what we accomplish and achieve. For our favorite people, and for ourselves.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on April 19, 2012.
© Betty Liedtke, 2012