I was having a conversation the other day with (marketer/author/podcaster/exemplary British Columbian) Michael Cirillo about following the recipe for success. Simply stated, if you follow the steps precisely, you should predictably experience the intended outcome. If you decide to deviate from those steps, then that predictability goes out the window. Hint: there is such a thing as too much salt.
You’ve probably never heard of René Redzepi. You probably won’t see him much on social media, since it’s not customary in Denmark to brag. Instead, his work speaks for itself. Since 2008, his restaurant has been ranked best in the world four times, while racking up countless awards, and a few Michelin Stars in the process. What sets him (and his team) apart is not amazing food, nor his elaborate recipes.
We’ll get back to René in sec…
Let’s stick with the food analogy. Old recipes call for ingredients that we know aren’t healthy for us. It’s practically unheard of in today’s “athleisure” society that we’d add two handfuls of lard into any recipe. When’s the last time you added a dash of raw pork to your dish? I bet Red Bull is relieved that Coca-Cola has no plans to reintroduce cocaine into its drinks. As our society has progressed, along with our understanding of science, we have evolved our recipes to not only taste better, but to keep us much healthier.
Maybe it’s the authors that influence me or just life experience in general, but I’m not sure that the recipes to success are evolving fast enough for us to realize actual success. Up until the industrial revolution, acquiring land for subsequent generations to farm was a nearly guaranteed pathway to success. During the industrial revolution, moving to the city to take on a factory job was the best way to get your family ahead. Between World War 2 and the World Wide Web, one could be very successful working for a company for thirty years, white or blue collar, then retiring with a pension, a boat, and a college fund for the kids. Since the dot-com bubble burst, business empires seem to rise and fall within just a few years. In this age of lightening fast change, how does anyone have time to write down the recipe?
We don’t. Recipes to success are luxuries of the past. What took centuries, then decades, now only takes a few months. The entire city of Rochester grew out of the near-monopoly dominance of Kodak. From the start of 2013, Slack reached a valuation of $1 billion in only one year and three months. That’s less time than it takes to build one high rise building. Let that soak for a bit.
Preparing yourself to do the same series of activities every single day is no longer going to support you in life. Running on a treadmill in air conditioning won’t fully prepare you for a marathon. Unless you already started out as one, hours of Mario Kart will not make you a pro race driver. Roll playing hypothetical situations doesn’t prepare you for real ones. The career you prepare for as a college freshman is likely to be radically altered by the time you graduate. The patent you filed three years ago is likely to be useless three years from now. Moore’s Law is a relentless bastard. That’s just the way things are going now. Imagine what it will look like in just a few years.
Back to René…
Do you know what attracts hundreds of chefs to give up everything, and move across the world to work alongside René Redzepi? It’s his brilliant and break-all-the-rules use of ingredients. Instead of banking his career on making the same perfect sauce every day, he’s gone the opposite direction by making perfect dishes out of what’s seasonably available near his restaurant. He can literally make something out of nothing by just foraging ingredients from a field or forest. Can he still whip up a marinara? Sure. Can he bake a Betty Crocker cake? Perfectly. Will he ever go hungry? Never.
Focusing on the end product is simply not enough. As our life accelerates into the future, we simply won’t have the time for elaborate recipes. Instead, we should be carving out time to fully understand the ingredients, grinding them down to their rawest form. Once we master the raw ingredients to success, those elements can be recombinated into new ways to succeed. As Internet shifts to mobile, and mobile shifts to artificial intelligence, if we look deep enough inside ourselves, we can identify the ingredients we need to produce a recipe. When those ingredients run out, we’ll create a new one. If not, we will starve.
It’s time to get out of the success simulator, and face reality. Having the recipe isn’t enough. If someone wants to be successful, however that person decides to measure it, they must dedicate themselves to studying the essential ingredients to success. When the recipe calls for new ingredients, there will be no need to panic. Your talent pantry will be fully stocked.