Life lessons from making latte hearts

Learning to get good at latte hearts through practice

Posted on January 8, 2024 by Delyth Morgan (Del)

Have you ever thought to yourself "I can't do that". I can't sing, I can't write, I'm no expert at anything. Today I want to inspire you that you can accomplish anything that you are willing to practice purposefully. Whatever it is you are willing to put the effort into, YOU CAN DO!

One year ago, for no good reason or need, I decided I wanted to challenge myself to master something new - could I make a latte heart? I had always admired the artistry of the coffee that arrived on the table during my frequent business meetings in cafes. It always amazed me and I'd always wondered how they did it. So I set myself a challenge of mastering the making of a latte heart. How difficult could it be?

I have absolutely no desire to be a barista (although I did, many years ago, consider opening a cafe). It was purely a personal challenge - something new and different that I had never attempted before and knew nothing about. I wanted to test a theory that I'd been barking on at my child about for years - "Purposeful Practice - that's what it takes to become good at anything. Decide what it is, break it down, practice it until you can't practice any more and you will become good at it". The philosophy is something that I fell in love with when I read Matthew Syed's book Bounce - The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice. He talks about the studies that have been carried out in a range of diverse areas such as music, chess, sport, medicine which all come back to the same learning - Purposeful Practice at anything over a period of time will make you better at that thing. Purposeful Practice over 10,000 hours will help you become world class as it.

For no other reason, other than wanting to prove the theory by practicing making latte hearts, I set about the challenge. I drink coffee every day. I love waking up and making an espresso with milk with my little domestic espresso machine. I love the smell and the flavour but I only drink one coffee a day. So who knows how long it would take for me to master the art of a latte heart practicing just once a day! It would take as long as it would take.

My first attempts were, not surprisingly - dismal. I would share a photo of my attempts with you but midway through the year after failing almost every time, I deleted the photos out of shame and now they are deceased, somewhere in the digital graveyard where terrible pictures go to die. Sometimes they looked like an amoeba. Sometimes there was no shape at all, just coffee. And sometimes they looked slightly phallic - eek!

Never mind, I figured if I researched some more on Youtube and kept going I'd eventually get better. I had to. I was trying to prove a point!

I also asked the local barisa at my favourite coffee shop what the secret was and she kindly but with a lot of doubt in her face said, it's very hard to do it on a domestic coffee machine. The secret, she said, was in getting the milk to swirl round and round as much as possible while steaming.

A very kind and honest friend I made a coffee for, that I thought looked quite promising, said it looked like a bum. But I'm trying to make you a heart!

One thing I know about myself is that I don't give up easily. Especially when I have a bee in my bonnet about trying to get good at something. A year on and I am very proud to say that I CAN MAKE LATTE HEARTS ALL THE TIME! Yuss! Mastered the art in 12 months, by practicing once a day.

What is the meaning of all this? I don't run a coffee shop or any business which has anything do to with making coffee. But I have learnt some precious lessons that apply to ANYTHING in life that you decide you want to get good at, even team building (yes I run a Team Building business - Let Me Out - The Best Little Team Building Company In The World!).

There are lessons in everything that we do in life, and these are the lessons I think I can learn from mastering the making of latte hearts.

1. You will be rubbish at most things when you do it for the first time.

2. When you ask people who know better than you, they will give you gems of encouragement and insight that will help you improve.

3. You will probably want to give up at some stage before you get good at it.

4. If you turn all your failures into lessons, you will learn what you need to learn to get good at things.

5. One day, unannounced, you will realise you've become good at the thing you were rubbish at.

6. When you see someone around you who's good at something and think to yourself, I could never be that good. Aren't they talented. Remember, they were once awful at it too. They are not gifted or talented, they have failed lots and learnt to become good at what you now admire them for.

So whatever it is that you want to be good at this year - go for it. You will get good at it if you purposefully practice.

"Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself. Studies have shown that we are often so worried about failure that we create vague goals, so that nobody can point the finger when we don't achieve them."

Matthew Syed

If you'd like to get good at being a team through purposeful practice contact us at any time to talk through your brief. We guarantee you'll get there with practice.

Good read: Bounce - The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice Matthew Syed