How Time is Fluid

Just as we settled into the hypnotic rocking of the gulf waters, the rod snapped to life. As the line whirred out, it was all-hands on deck. The Mexican crew yelled excitedly.

Although I had no idea what we had just snagged, my first thought was to offer my younger brother the chance to reel it in. This fishing trip to Baja was his graduation present from Dad and me for finishing medical school.

I remembered watching him busting his ass studying these past four years, and he had more long, intense hours to come for his residency. Still, my brother waved me off.

Shrugging, I settled into my seat at the rear of the boat. Calling it a “yacht” seems misleading. Seaworthy as it is, comparing this charter to something Trump wouldn’t be caught dead in is like comparing apples to Faberge eggs.

“Easy,” coaxed the deck hand. Alternately, encouragements like “mas” and “keep going” came at me in Spanish and Mandarin.

There! For a second or so the marlin jumped. “Oh, my god,” said dad with a mix of awe and excitement.

Eventually, reeling became easier and easier. Somehow I could tell that the fish was giving up. Slowly, we could finally see the magnificent creature – its brilliant blue and violet sheen breaking the dark gulf waters.

Finally, the 135 pound beast lay on the platform off the boat’s stern. Within minutes the light flashed out of its eyes. My elation at landing such a creature turned to sadness. I felt less like a victor than a murderer of something beautiful.

All in all, what took maybe twenty minutes felt like hours.

Later, we would catch a few blue bronze El Dorado, or what some call Mahi Mahi on their dinner plates. These had quite a bit of fight as well, but we would catch nothing else like that marlin. I was disappointed for my brother because he and my dad were much more fishermen than me.

I had gone on a few trips with them over the years, and only once or twice otherwise. Meanwhile, I know that they had gone on several other trips together and with other friends.

But one other trip we went on together was memorable for very different reasons.

This was a charter off the coast of our home state of New Jersey. Now the Atlantic Ocean is known to have rough seas. But this was summertime. So, usually that’s just a good time to catch bluefish because of weather and water conditions.

The initial chop caused the bow to go up and down like a roller coaster – as it went over its first hump over and over again. What started off as exhilaration soon turned to uneasiness and finally dread for my dad and brother.

At first the two turned quiet and still. Then, they both just turned a sickly pale, as if life had left them.

For some unknown reason the rocking motion had no effect on me. So, I proceeded to catch bluefish. My brother came up to see my first one, and promptly hit the side rail which only caused him to projectile vomit breakfast like something out of the Exorcist.

Later, we joked that he was chumming – the ritual spreading of bits of bait to attract the hungry fish.

This time hours of sea-sickness seemed to last forever.

 

Time can be elastic. Einstein talks, of course, about relativity in the world of physics. Jung discussed how we both perceive and create perceptions of what is. If God created us in His image, as the Bible says, then this is nowhere else this is more true.

Another way this comes out is how Marc Levy talks about the relative value of time..

“If you want to know the value of one year, just ask a student who failed a course.

If you want to know the value of one month, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.

If you want to know the value of one hour, ask the lovers waiting to meet.

If you want to know the value of one minute, ask the person who just missed the bus.

If you want to know the value of one second, ask the person who just escaped death in a car accident.

 

When have you had moments that you wished would last forever? or other times that you couldn’t wait to end?

Yellow Bucket of Rust

sunrise-pala-temecula

Sunrise at Pala Near Temecula (Photo credit: pdpolena via Source / CC BY)

Whirrr-eell..WHIRRR-EELLL – WHIRRR-Eeelll.. The variometer squealed in rising & descending tones, alternating between barely audible and a screech as terrifying as crumpling styrofoam.

You might be wondering why I was strapped into a canary yellow rust bucket. Baking under that Southern California sun, as my flight instructor and I waited for our tow plane, I was was wondering the same thing.

Yet, once we were airborne at three thousand feet, where that cool, rarefied air streamed all around our fuselage, it all comes back – I remember what it feels like to almost be a creature of the sky. Not something struggling to get up in the air, but something that really “slipped those surly bonds” and soared.

hawks-soaring

Photo credit: birdsaspoetry via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

“Look over there,” my instructor pointed out. A small circle of red hawks had gathered over a small hilltop. Lift – that sweet warm, rising air which extends our flight time.

Of course, I was still paying for every minute of my instructor. But at the same time, each minute we logged up in the air got me closer to my solo qualification, and the longer we stayed up, the less I needed to spend on another tow fee.

Soaring in a glider also finally forced me to get the feel of flying – something I never had developed in powered aircraft.

yellow-glider

Photo credit: The Library of Congress via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

No, Schweizer 2-33’s aren’t much to look at – they don’t have the sexiness of the Grob, which is what movies typically used. But they do allow student pilots to cheaply fill up flight logs and get their glider certification, aka “ticket” – to take that dream date.

Over time I realized that something was missing – maybe I had numbed myself with one too many roller coaster rides back in college. In any case I didn’t get sea-sick or air-sick like my other buddies, because my inner ear just didn’t work as well.

Seasoned flight instructors tried unsuccessfully to get me sick.

On the one hand it was great to have this tolerance, or whatever it’s called. On the other maybe it made me less sensitive to the bumps and feel of flight that good pilots have.

Years later, I finally developed some sense of “feel” on the mat in aikido and on the dance floor in tango.

Here’s the thing. How we do one thing is how we do everything. And the sad part is that while we would rather not feel sadness, or those emotions we consider “negative,” people like Jenny Lawson, who deal with severe bouts of depression, pay a high price by becoming numb to other feelings like joy and happiness.

As much as I hate to admit it, that old yellow bucket of rust was more than a few cheap thrills. She taught me a thing or two about flying, but most of all, that I still had a lot to learn!

How Fear Can Deceive Us

false-fear-illusion

With our fears logs can become alligators (picture by Thomas_G via Pixabay)

Wow, it’s been weeks since I’ve written a post here. If you haven’t been following me on Medium, I recently started writing there more regularly as part of Jeff Goins’ 500 Word Challenge. So far, so good on what was Day 20.

Today my friend Bill Belew wrote on his forum about having an up and down week. My response is that it happens and that besides this being a sign that we’re still alive, it’s also how we’re hard-wired.

For a while the motivational / self-help myth told us that if you place a frog in boiling water it’ll simply jump out. However, if you place it in water that’s room temperature and slowly turn up the heat, the frog won’t notice until it’s too late. There’s plenty written to dispel this, and others trying to prove it..

But the lesson is still valid, I think.

Human beings do tend to worry about things that are more in our face. It’s what sells newspapers, and why the “silent killers” like heart disease and diabetes remain the leading causes of death.

Recently, we lost several celebrities – David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, and Animal. Okay, maybe not the last one..

I have to admit that I can’t remember the last time that I listened to Bowie or Frey.. sometimes life happens, sometimes things surface to the top of our attention and then drift back down.

Don’t worry – this isn’t going to be a sermon about how “life is short.. let’s make each moment count..” However, it’s true that if we’re not careful, neglect is easy but the price we pay down the road can be much more expensive.

Losing my car was painful. For a while there was a $200 or so repair that a local garage suggested. I was always too busy or couldn’t be bothered. Who knows? Maybe it was inevitable that the transmission would fail; maybe not.

Being without a car in southern California is much more painful than, say, the San Francisco Bay Area or other cities like New York. Yes, I do think that it’s also a blessing and curse thing. In the classic cost benefit analysis let’s not forget to look at the price paid in the long run, not just the immediate future.

That’s why sometimes we undervalue the benefit of saving 5 minutes a day and forget how it can lead to creating hours or days of opportunity. It’s easier for us to focus on what in our face and miss the hidden costs / opportunities.

 

Where’s My Little Pony?

I’ve written before about my Navy experiences during the Reagan era.

One of the favorite jokes of Uncle Ronny, aka the Great Communicator, was a joke concerning twin boys. It went something like this..

pony-kid

Photo: erA_Blackout via Pixabay

Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities – one was a total pessimist, the other, a total optimist – their parents took them to a psychiatrist.”

“First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. ‘What’s the matter?’ the psychiatrist asked, baffled. ‘Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?’ ‘Yes,’ the little boy bawled, ‘but if I did I’d only break them.’”

“Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. ‘With all this manure,’ the little boy replied, beaming, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere!’”

excerpt from How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life by Peter Robinson (source: Got to Be a Pony There Somewhere)

Going without a car in Southern California sucks – there’s no getting around it. This isn’t New York where you can jump on the subway or grab a cab. It’s not Chicago where you can take a bus for anywhere not covered by the Loop. And it’s certainly not San Francisco where you can juggle between BART and Muni to get to just about anywhere you need.

It takes almost an hour to get to Union Station in down LA by Metrolink. Then, if you need to get anywhere significant like Hollywood or Santa Monica.. well, expect significant delay..

Yet, it’s forced me to work on my online business of content marketing – to simply sit down & write.

Now when I go somewhere, there’s still a good deal of walking. So I’ve raided the public libraries for plenty of audio books and supplementing this was Audible.com. Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks (totally worth it!! check it out and let me know what you think!)

Gratitude is about learning to dance in the rain instead of waiting for the storm to pass. It’s easy to be thankful when things are going well, it’s harder to remember to be grateful.

Some of the greatest triumphs in history have come out of our darkest hours. Ryan Holiday shares many such stories in The Obstacle is the Way.

One Zen story he shares tells of a king who places a large boulder at the entrance to their city. He watched in disappointment as one citizen after another turn away. Others openly cursed their bad luck or halfheartedly tried to go around before easily giving up.

boulder-road

Photo: missyliner0 via Pixabay

Sure that his kingdom was doomed to be conquered by any invaders with such softness, the king finally saw a lowly peasant struggle. Something made this one subject persist until he finally made a lever out of a large branch.

Moving the boulder, the peasant found a bag of gold and a note from the king which read:

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, with every obstacle comes an opportunity to improve our condition.”

What’s Your Red Paper Clip?

For want of a nail, a shoe was lost.. for want of a shoe, a horse was lost.. for want of a horse, a battle was lost..

We’ve heard different versions of this story before – it’s human nature to focus on that missing tooth, or that scab from a recent scrape..

But what about our successes? What about the good in people?
You know, those “Pay It Forward” moments that were made famous by the Haley Joel Osment? (Recently I learned more about the book and author that inspired this movie.)

Now Kyle Macdonald had a crazy idea. He asked “What if I played a real life game of “Bigger and Better”?

Like many creative folks when they started their entrepreneurs journey, Kyle realized that it wasn’t his dream job to deliver used appliances. So, when he came up with a bunch of crazy ideas, Kyle found himself torn between choosing work for the money and actually trying some of them.

A friend reminded him of a game they played in high school where Kyle and his friends would continually trade up items to see what they could get. So Kyle thought maybe he could do this just starting out with one red paper clip.

Well, he did – you can follow his red paper clip journey here.

Ultimately, Kyle ended up with a house, being a mayor for a day and along with his girlfriend citizens for life!

People on Quora ask me all the time about how to get started in business..? What does it take to start your own company? On and on..

Just start with your red paper clip.. be curious.. look for ways to help others.. Like the shepherd boy in the Alchemist see where the journey takes you.

Years ago, I had an idea to start my own business. I made plenty of mistakes but kept asking questions and learning. This led to adventures in real estate and helping folks to buy / sell businesses before leading to commercial field inspections and ultimately teaching others how to start their own home businesses..

So who you were got you here to this point, who you’re becoming will get you where you want to be!

Easy Healthy Living as a Digital Nomad

simple-healthy-living

Healthy Living Can Be Simple

We all want to live a life of freedom and passion. Sure, how we make a living and who we spend our time with are a big part of this. But first it’s important to take care of ourselves.

Without our health, there’s not much point to all the fun and adventure of the digital nomad life. It’s hard to enjoy even a good meal if you’re struggling to simply feel good.

So, this article is a little different from what I usually write about. I’m going to share some of my personal secrets to a simple but healthy lifestyle.

Rest is Essential

For me it all starts with getting enough rest. I know, this seems too simple for many reasons. There’s so much to do as an entrepreneur. And even when we’re not working, we just wanna stay up late. But getting enough sleep is just a piece of the bigger puzzle, and that is testing how things feel.

When I was a kid, I would eat and drink pretty mindlessly. Eventually, consuming junk food and sodas turned into alcohol and even cigarettes. Now I’m not going to preach about vices. Some folks may even argue that they enjoy how recreational drugs feel. No judgment here.

Check In with Yourself

All I suggest is to start gauging how what you consume feels overall. Does it make you sluggish for most of the day? Are you walking around in a cloudy haze for hours?

Don’t just go by what I’m telling you. Tune into yourself.

I like to believe that we’re here to really feel and experience things. Sure, there are parts that suck. But the point is to have clear minds and bright eyes in my book – to really experience what life has to offer.

Finding Balance & Calm in the Middle of Chaos

Recently, I came across the idea that balance is a myth. There’s probably some truth to this. Yet it doesn’t mean that we can’t find peace in the midst of everything. Taking time to reflect or meditate is just as important as doing.

When I trained for my first (and so far only) marathon, I learned that the rest days were just as important as putting in the miles. Likewise if we don’t “empty the cup,” eventually we’ll burn out – whether it’s doing work, learning or anything we want to achieve.

I share how I avoid writer’s block here.

Experiment and Explore but Keep It Simple

In general I love to try different foods. Although there are some fall back basics like pasta or soups, part of the fun is to not only eating out and trying different restaurants but learning new recipes at home (wherever home may be at the moment).

When I went camping along the coast of Oregon a couple of years ago, all we had to do was stock up on a few essentials like bread, cheese and lunch meats then buy some ingredients for interesting meals.

Fresh basil, mozzarella and tomatoes made awesome caprese salads with some virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and ground salt. Easy peasy!

Before I even knew it, I had already subscribed to the Julia Child approach towards that four letter word “diet” of trying different foods. Later on, I discovered Mireille Guiliano who wrote French Women Don’t Get Fat. She also advocates the same philosophy – all things in moderation.

julia-child-food-quote

Julia Child on Diet Food


Test and Evaluate

So, that’s my overall approach to health and fitness. Try different things but constantly tune into yourself and check how they feel. I’m still learning and experimenting. More recently, I’ve been more conscious of pro-biotics after a few nasty bouts of food poisoning on set. (But that’s another story for another day..)

Please share your own ideas and tips. I’d love to learn what works for you. Let me know how this helps you, and what you’d like me to write about in more detail.

Mosquito Sunset

Happy 4th of July!

Some folks know about my military service. This is a repost of an article from a previous blog where I share some of my Navy experiences.

Sometimes you’re the windshield.. sometimes you’re the bug” – lyrics, Mary Chapin Carpenter song

Standing in formation at dusk outside the hangar, I felt the rivulets of sweat pooling into the delta small of my back. Lines of dungarees – half powder-blue, half blue jean – lined up in neat rows behind me. As the sweltering heat finally gave way to limp stickiness clinging to our skin, the floodlights finally flickered on – and so did the mosquitoes’ taste for blood. Yet, at first everyone seemed to just “grin and bear it.”

The commanding officer (who reminded me of Ned Flanders from the Simpsons) droned on about something that seemed important enough at the time to announce in front of the entire squadron. Meanwhile these flying syringes poked through our starched poly-cotton uniforms to draw blood with their hydraulic pistons, punctuating the agonizing minutes.

What Happens on Deployment, Stays on Deployment

We were well beyond two TACAN’s away from our home base in San Diego. The “two TACAN rule” was that once you were outside of the range of two of these military navigation aids, anything goes.

Such was the “wink-wink, nudge-nudge, need I say more” behind the veneer of Navy “family values.” It was an excuse, of course, for guys to get away with whatever didn’t leave permanent traces that flowers or penicillin couldn’t cure stateside.

At the time all this only mattered a little to me. Only 3 or 4 months ago my marriage had begun to unravel in the middle of our squadron’s West Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment aboard the USS Constellation.

I vaguely remember thinking at the time how radically different my life was turning out from the wife / house / 2.5 kids “fast-track to the space program” life that I envisioned for myself.

Maybe the most surreal moment was seeing our ship on CNN, patrolling during the Chinese missile crisis with Taiwan. Yet, instead of being an ending, somehow it was the beginning – the beginning of how I came to understand that

..life is what happens while you make plans.

Somehow, in the midst of feeling utterly small and alone in a steel city of five thousand, I discovered at the same time a much bigger part of myself.

Funny how there in what Navy pilots describe as little bigger than a postage stamp when landing at night, I realized that in your darkest moments there is grace – a quiet connectedness, even as you lay in your bed wondering what you’re doing in the middle of nowhere. This must be how future travelers will feel shuttling among the stars.

Slowly, it became more and more evident that it was acceptable to break rank and swat your neighbor’s tormentors. Military standards dictated that in formation you were supposed to stand at attention, unyielding as the ceremonial guards keeping watch on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (be sure to watch what happens at 4:48 – VERY UNUSUAL!)

Yet, somehow by some unspoken consensus we all agreed that, while it was bad form to relieve yourself of the torture inflicted by these tiny Weapons of Mass Annoyance, it was acceptable to swat those around you.

One or two pats gradually mushroomed into what became a flurry of mercy beatings like the popping of bubble wrap at Christmas until at last we were dismissed. Sighs of relief mixed with bursts of laughter and disbelief, as we made our way back to the shelter of the hangar bay. It felt like a comic scene out of some old war movie, except this was no Hollywood fiction. No, we were far from some South Pacific island, fighting some epic battle for our lives.

End of an Era, Beginning of New

Instead, it was 1994 – the Cold War had ended with the crashing debris of the Berlin Wall, signaling the end of the Iron Curtain era. Reagan’s proud 600-ship navy had been reduced to maybe half of its former glory. To justify its piece of the budget pie, the Navy turned to unorthodox missions like the counter-narcotics operation that brought us here to Ciba, Puerto Rico.

Night after night, our squadron launched the E-2C Hawkeye, otherwise known as the Navy’s AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System,) on sorties to coordinate various agencies that in theory intercepted the drug runners as they landed their contraband on nearby shores. While occasionally we would hear about a successful bust, it seemed like only days later there would be another story about a bigger bust stateside.

Were we really making a dent on the war on drugs? Any more than the “Just Say No” campaign? Who knows.. Some days you believe you’re making a difference. Then there are others you wonder who is really doing the swatting and who is just buzzing around.

If you enjoyed this story, subscribe to my newsletter to get more or follow on Twitter @tangovagabond

 

Focus on the Journey Not the Destination

“Life is a highway.. I wanna ride it.. all night long” – Tom Cochrane

“I’m just not getting what you’re trying to show us!” I yelled in frustration. It’d been weeks now since I started taking lessons from Miller. He was both a brilliant dancer and teacher. Yet something was just not connecting.

While I had learned the basics from my Argentine tango teacher, I wanted to do the “advanced stuff” – the moves that seemed like all the cool kids knew and kept to themselves. I was ready, or so I thought..

Originally, I had started learning tango as way to improve my aikido practice. But pretty soon I was hooked and never looked back. Unlike swing dancing and other activities, I soon learned that I couldn’t just “dabble” in tango – it was all-in or nothing.

A pivotal moment came early on, when I attended a fairly advanced workshop. Although the instructors themselves were incredibly patient with me, an older Chinese lady pulled me aside between lessons. “Do you speak Mandarin?” she asked in a hushed whisper. Er, yes, why? She then proceeded to berate me in my native tongue, essentially asking what the hell I thought I was doing.

Because of my lack of understanding of the fundamental movements, I had been resorting to “winging it” whenever I floundered with learning a particular sequence. I thought I was being creative, but looking back I have to admit that it was the equivalent of scribbling gibberish in a college level writing course.

Too often we’re more interested in getting to the final destination than the actual journey. In the 1980s kaizen became all the range in the business world, as Americans marvelled at Japanese productivity. Ironically, this process of improvement came from an American (Deming) who taught them this methodology during the post-war rebuilding of the country.

While calling it “kaizen” gave it an Asian mystique that blended well with Eastern philosophy and culture, the scientific methods were very Western. The bottomline was that developing a process of improvement that not only provided short-term results, but also ensuring that success was more than just a matter of luck.

When life forces us into situations where self-improvement is the only way out (like learning to walk) we tend to comply. But other times we resist or avoid it altogether.

Sometimes our personal tastes lead us to have an interest or passion for improving. That was the case of cooking for me. In the age before YouTube and celebrity chefs the only real choices I had available were to find recipes and occasionally catch a public television show with a quirky chef.

Both dancing and cooking involved mastering basics before taking on more elaborate performances. In tango if you couldn’t lead a follower into a cross step, then it was pointless to be shown a more complicated sequence. In cooking if you didn’t know how to prep ingredients, then it was a lot harder to cook even the most basic dishes like an omelet.

Here’s the ironic part – learning to *be* a better dancer also made me a better cook AND ultimately, dare I say, even a better lover in bed. (Come on, ladies, help me out here!)

“How you do anything is how you do everything..”
– Derek Sivers

So, when we focus on the process, success becomes just a side effect of the results. The swordsmen learns to cut through the object. The archer focuses on the draw and lets the arrow hit its mark.

“Goals are for losers” – Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

Recently, I’ve been reading How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams where he talks about a key to his success being his own focus on systems vs. results. Adams unabashedly goes through his many starts and stops until finally hitting on his One Thing.

In travel, of course, it is definitely about the journey. Some of the most memorable moments on trips have been the drives or the plane rides.. or often the misadventures when things don’t quite go as planned.

How do you focus on the process, not just the results?

 

Life is Not a Spectator Sport

Photo: Yours Truly aka @jycmba with @joelcomm – really cool to finally meet him in person!

Each painful second pumped blood into his swollen ears, already pulsing red.

Bill raced to find the right sequence of clicks and taps to make the darn thing do what he wanted it to do.

With a sigh he closed his eyes and apologized.

This past weekend @belew and I finally had the chance to meet. He was one of the speakers on Sunday, and in the end everyone gave him one of the strongest applause for this three-day live event.

But things started off rough for poor Bill.

(This is related to the discussion on Bill’s Forum.)

What Bill hoped to show the audience was a live demo of how to get results with content marketing. Something that none of the other speakers could do.

It was a brilliant idea. But there was just one problem – everything was set up on his computer. and without knowing all the details the bottom line was that the AV system didn’t want to play nice with his computer.

So being the entrepreneur that he is, Bill worked to find a solution.

Normally, there’s time but when you’re on stage in front of hundreds (not counting the live audience watching the streaming video) seconds turn into minutes.. which seem like hours..

Bill has apologized profusely for this glitch. I feel like we all let him down.

The speaker shouldn’t have to struggle with a technical issue when we have an audio visual crew PAID to take care of this.

I sat too far back and didn’t jump up to assist because I took the typical passive audience mode we get into.

The host didn’t say anything except an occasional joke to keep things entertaining – he could’ve used his position to ask for help, and I’m sure any number of his staff or even a room full of internet entrepreneurs could’ve helped.

But instead of any of this – the clock kept ticking, and poor Bill was left to struggle along on that big stage under the hot lights, sweating it out –

Oh, yes, you definitely REALLY feel the heat in a moment like this – BELIEVE me.

And that’s the thing.. once the fight-or-flight kicks in, our bodies tense up, our hearts pump more blood and the monkey brain starts screaming at us.

At this point it’s game over for the rational site. The Elephant has officially started her freakout mode. All the Rider can do is hold on for dear life.


Master the Dance Between Elephant & Rider – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

There are way too many stories of bystanders that watch as someone is attacked. It’s too easy to judge, and too easy to say “no, that’s not me – I’d be different.”

But really – how we do one thing is how we do everything else. Too often we sit back and wait for others to act first. I’ve been just as guilty of this as the next person. Being passive is a habit just like procrastinating or leaving things unsaid.

If we’re not careful, habits can be terminal!

gandhi-quote-habits

Habits Can Become Destiny

 

My Life Lessons from the Kitchen

“Hmm.. not sure about that one..”

I was hesitant to try the mix my girlfriend had made.

“Aww.. come on – you’ll love it!” she said unconvincingly.

Well, here goes. Bracing myself for the gag factor, I took the spoonful and..

kitchen life lessons

photo:  via Unsplash

Like most of us my earliest memories of the kitchen growing up was mom cooking. Maybe the dishes are slightly different from culture to culture but we all have some comfort foods that stay with us through life.

Coming to this country opened up my parents to things they had never experienced back in Taiwan and China. I still remember the shock and confusion when our family discovered that what looked like ice cream was in fact yogurt!

Cheese – the pungent smell took some getting used to. But being a kid I took to it like a happy duckling playing in the rain, and pizza became one of my favorite foods.

Occasionally, mom would need a break from the kitchen, and I stepped in as sous-chef to cook what I liked and what the rest of the family had to learn to appreciate.

For some reason Italian food was my passion as a kid. So much so that in sixth grade I even wrote a 137-page treatise (er, did someone forget to read the memo? it was supposed just be a geography report..) on Italy. Years later, I would actually travel to Rome, Venice, and Florence with my family. Let’s just say that I raised my expectations so high there was only one way to go..!

Later in college I went out with a girl who opened me up to what Asian food had to offer. Up to then my idea was Chinese food. Suddenly, I learned there was Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, even Laotian (her culture).

We would make some unbelievable dishes using just a very illegal hot plate and some utensils (some from home and others “borrowed” from the cafeteria).

Nope. No generic ramen for this homeboy. We cooked noodle dishes using all types – rice, pasta, thin, thick.. boiled, stir-fry.. you name it! We made egg rolls (that does require deep frying, right? .. er, yup!)

While I never saw myself as a chef or working in restaurants, my love and passion of food only grew through the years. Sometimes I looked for excuses to work with the hard-working folks that sweat out the details to provide amazing experiences.

With the rise of celebrity chefs I’ve noticed that slowly there is a greater appreciation of what happens in the kitchen. It’s something that I have carried with me into other areas of my life – whether as an author or entrepreneur, here are some key lessons:

  • Follow recipes.. before improvising – success leaves clues. Any musician knows that mastering the chords is needed before playing jazz or “jamming.” Unless you understand which ingredients work well together and “how” to bring out their flavors, you’ll either go hungry or have to stomach a lot of failed experiments!
  • First, master the basics – whether it’s how to chop and prep ingredients or understanding how to let dough rise before baking, anything we do requires fundamentals. This is true in flying – where you need to learn how to take-off and land before trying aerobatics, and this is true in work – where any profession has core competencies.
  • Good ingredients are essential – unless you’re Jesus, don’t count on making water out of wine. It’s really difficult to make an appetizing dish out of less than quality ingredients. That said, while fresh helps out a lot, you can take an old banana and make a decent smoothie, as the ripeness actually enhances the flavor. But that whole thing about the sow’s ear – yeah, don’t try this at home!
  • Taste, taste, taste – one of the most shocking things on Restaurant: Impossible with Chef Irvine is when he asks the restaurant owner to taste their own cooking, and they are surprised. If you don’t know how it tastes, how can you serve it to others? Learning to test how the world responds to you is another key life skill.

  • Passion is everything – we’re not machines, and I’ve learned that even the best intentions lead to that proverbial road to hell.. UNLESS you have the commitment that comes with passion. Do we need to make adjustments to our plans depending on the feedback we get? Absolutely. But if faith without works is dead, then intention without passion isn’t too far behind!

Hmm.. not bad. It was actually edible.

“Well, what do you think?” she asked expectantly.

“I’m still alive,” I smiled with a hint of sarcasm, feeling my chest in mock testing.

So, these are lessons that I’ve found to carry over not only to work, play, relationships but life as a whole.

What about you? Are there things you’ve learned from the kitchen or other crafts that stay with you?

Join me in talking with Chris Hill on Cinco de Mayo Tuesday, (05/05/15) about his personal journey from the corporate world to the kitchen.

https://plus.google.com/events/caq14vlfsue2q4k1c1utapctq8k