We had the good fortune of connecting with Schuyler Stapleton and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Schuyler, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
In a society that has very little to begin with, taking leadership in the service industry can often mean a poor work-life balance. It has been a challenge to learn what works for me.

In the environments I grew up and worked in, no one talked about balance, burnout or self care. I have been working in kitchens since I was 15. My first job required a work permit and I was still paid six dollars an hour under the table, with no overtime. I often worked over time while finishing high school. My first salaried promotion was a masked pay cut. The amount was equal to my hourly rate but my hours went from 40 to 80+ a week. Many in this industry have similar stories. Turning food service into a career somehow, takes serious survival skills.

My awareness of work-life balance came into view about 6 years ago. I was working in a kitchen an average of 16-20 hrs a day. Anxiety and stress began to interfere with my daily life. I was having anxiety and panic attacks often. Eventually I crashed hard and forced myself to walk away from that job. I had to make big changes in my life or I wasn’t going to survive for much longer.
While recovering, my partner and I took a trip to Enchanted Rock. We hiked up the highest point and as we went up the incline, my heart beat began to accelerate. My body immediately told my brain we were having a panic attack. I curled up in a ball and hyperventilated on this beautiful rock while strangers moved around me. It was one of the most uncomfortable and liberating moments in my life. Amidst my body rejecting itself, I learned to talk to it and regulate those feelings for the first time. It was an incredible milestone and a crucial shift from survival mode to living life as an active participant. I felt like I had come up for air for the first time.
I know now that I am a more productive and happier person by preserving my energy. It took me a long time to forgive that job. Most work environments, I have found, will let a person burn out. I have to create those limits for myself and uphold my own power. For me, that meant walking away from what I thought was my dream. I have since found many other achievements to chase, and I am much better for it.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have been in coffee now for 6 years. What I believe sets my work apart from others is background and approach. Knowledge is power, and you see a lot of gatekeeping in the coffee world.

There are so many things that go into the coffee process to consider from barista work environment, shop ownership, roastery ownership, roastery staffing, importing, processing, farmers, etc.

When people look to buy wine, they consider some of these things, but with coffee that is less likely.
I hope as the specialty coffee business grows, those conversations start to come up more and more. In the complex journey of coffee, I want the tiny impact I have to make a difference. Community support is what drew me into the coffee world. I was seeking solace from the chaos of kitchens and found love for the complex nuances of coffee’s story. My goal is to constantly stay curious, be part of a supportive and accountable community, and learn how my place in all this can create positive change.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My fun and exciting things these days consist of coffee excursions and the outdoors. It unfortunately took me many years to see how beautiful Fort Worth is. Coming from the Northwest and Colorado, I had my doubts, but now I see. I would probably take them to get coffee and breakfast at different coffee shops every day, starting with Lazy Daisy, Black Coffee, Arcadia, Roots or Avoca. Then the Fort Worth Nature Center, the Botanical Gardens or anywhere on the Trinity Trails. Then the Fort Worth Library downtown, because it is beautiful and I could get lost in there for hours. After that Doc’s Records and Vintage–could also get lost there for hours.
A night out would be at The Scat Lounge on a Sunday night or one of the many great music venues here such as MASS or Lola’s Saloon. I love dancing, but haven’t been in a while. Pearl’s in the stockyards is wonderful or I’ve been told the Fort Worth Swing Dance Syndicate is awesome. I have yet to find a good funk music venue (In Funkytown??) So, if anyone knows where to go, please come find me. I’ll go dance with you.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My sisters. We have gone through so much together and have had the privilege to watch each other learn and grow. It has been so vital to have them with me in life to relate to and lean on, despite living in different states. My partner and his family have also been a huge impact on my life for the past 6 years and counting. They are so loving, supportive and kind. I am beyond grateful to be welcomed and accepted into their family.
I have to give a shout out to my friend and mentor of 10+ years, Chef Jennifer Williams. When friendships last that kind of chaos and change, they are lifers. She was the first person to show me creativity in the kitchen and to believe I had talent beyond just grit.

Dowe Phillips who trained me on all things coffee. He is an incredible human and I wish him nothing but the best.

I have gained many lifetime friendships from this industry. Most of my friends were once coworkers at restaurants or coffee shops. I don’t know yet what kind of success I seek, but today I celebrate being able to create and work from a compassionate, self-loving and vulnerable place. I have so many people to thank for that.
And, you know what, I thank myself. For choosing me, and seeing when I deserved better. To love and believe in others, I have to first love myself. 🙂

Image Credits
(first photo) Logan Perazzo

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