Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ingredients for Success

I was thinking today about a friend of mine from college. He was an older student. His previous career was to run a prison cafeteria and teach inmates to cook. It wasn't a stretch for him to work his way through school in the college cafeteria.

Danny was a miracle worker with bland ingredients. Everyone looked forward to his shift. Students would rearrange their schedules to make sure and get his food. It was that good.

The other cooks approached feeding students much as a farmer slops the pigs. Starving kids will eat anything and a lot of it, they rightly figured. But because students were willing inmates, trapped by the limited choices, they very much appreciated when someone did better. It always felt like a special gift when a cook actually cared.

Danny upset the order of things. His artistry made evident that the same ingredients, budget and time in two sets of hands resulted in vastly different outcomes.

So I'm thinking: that's just like life, isn't it? Many people are given the same ingredients, the same raw material and come up with different creations (some would say abominations) depending on their beliefs and effort.

If a person believes that his life is doomed to mediocrity, how much money would you put on his success? That's right, nada. In the same hands, though, (and in many cases, lesser hands) those ingredients can create shockingly amazing results. World changing results.

Danny might have felt constrained by his ingredients but he didn't believe that he would end up with bad food. He just had to be more creative.

Life doesn't give us the perfect ingredients, in fact, it hardly ever does. The timing is usually not quite right. The circumstances rarely are exactly convenient. Life constrains us that way. The difference between success and failure usually isn't the ingredients. Success usually comes down to believing that great things are possible with the ingredients at hand and making it happen.

Related: Are you Sheepwalking through life? Take your life ingredients and make a masterpiece. You were meant to succeed. Don't sell yourself short.


Gina Cobb said...

Nice post! I'm sharing it with my kids.

David said...

I liked the Sheepwalking post, but I thought Seth's comments about education tended to reflect the orthodox positions of the education Establishment. The problem with the K-12 schools isn't "teaching to the test"; it's the frequent failure to teach anything at all. While Seth says there is too much emphasis on "compiance," I observe that a complete failure to enforce any behavioral standards leads to chaos and the denial of the opportunity to learn.

One way in which the schools do encourage Sheepwalking is by the idiotic zero-tolerance policies which negate thought and common sense.

Melissa Clouthier said...


I agree with your assessment of the K-12 problem. The only reason the test exists is because teachers have shown themselves to be rather inadequate in the 3Rs inculcation.

Compliance in the school system happens in all other ways. Quiet in the halls. No recess. Sit still. Rote learning. The System has precious little variation for children who learn differently.

The school has the kids for 8 hours a day. That's a lot of time. The basics could be covered in an intensive couple hours in the morning leaving plenty of time for children to "think outside the box".

A child cannot think outside the box, however, if he doesn't understand the box to begin with.