Sonder is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.
It’s populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
This is why I work in coffee shops.
Sonder is as important to me as large windows with natural light when it comes to producing creative work. Whenever I come up to a roadblock, I look up from my laptop and observe everyone else in the coffee shop with me. It’s observation without judgement. It’s an easy creative game to play with yourself.
Who are they? What do they want? What are they doing? Where did they come from? Where are they going? What are their dreams and aspirations? What do they fear?
Put yourself in their shoes and take a couple of steps. Some people are easier than others, but everyone is a worth while exercise. This exercise not only assists you creatively, but also generates empathy. It makes you comfortable putting yourself in other people’s shoes, because you practice doing it.
Next time you order a latte, take a look around you. What epic story did you just become a background character in?