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5 Invaluable Lessons Chefs Can Teach Us About Life

5 Invaluable Lessons Chefs Can Teach Us About Life

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

– Yogi Berra

Nearly a decade ago I was hired by Le Cordon Blue College of Culinary Arts, sparking my fascination with the culinary industry. Suddenly, I was surrounded by insatiable food, creativity, and passion. As if I wasn’t sold already, one thing became clear: food is amazing! It holds the power to unite, nourish our bodies, and create lasting memories. Even a single bite can transport us effortlessly to years past.

After befriending talented chefs, it wasn’t long before I realized parallels between their work in the kitchen and the world at large. It became clear to me that we all can learn a thing or two from them.

Here are the top 5 invaluable lessons chefs can teach us about life.

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1. Preparation = Perfection

The ubiquitous French culinary phrase “mise en place” translates into “putting in place.” Before everyone engages in executing the nightly menu, chefs organize and arrange all ingredients required. Everything must have its place.

Cooking is the art of layering ingredients accurately and timely through a series of techniques and proficiencies. In the midst of production, there’s little time to ‘prepare.’ Hence, why preparation takes precedence above all else. Such organization allows plates to be artfully constructed, both timely and systematically.

If you want something executed to perfection, preparation is necessary. Whether you have a simple or complex project, preparing can reduce unwanted stress. Organize and arrange before you dive head-first. When things heat up, you’ll have the required ‘ingredients’ at your disposal. As they say, it will be “smooth sailing.”

2. Clear & Concise Communication

As it heats up in the kitchen, everyone moves with a quickness, and some are carrying hot objects or sharp knives, which can easily create hazardous conditions.

Timing, both in movement and cooking, is an important element for well-executed meals. A single minute too soon, or late, can cause illness or frustration from patrons.

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In these moments, clear and concise communication becomes mission critical. When a chef asks a question, it’s for a purpose. You typically only need to answer “yes chef” or “no chef.” Since chefs are making lightning fast decisions, backstories need not apply. For instances where a simple “yes” or “no” won’t suffice, keep it concise. There’s no time for verbal gymnastics or you’ll bottleneck production.

When you incorporate clear and concise communication in life, you enter a less complicated world by quickly getting to the root. Conversations stretch only to appropriate lengths, and people gather required information with enough speed to preserve momentum.

As you work through the day, think about reducing answers to a simple “yes” or “no.” When more complex answers are required, think about speaking with brevity to reduce bottlenecks.

3. Passion, Passion, Passion

Chefs are unique and thrive on their individuality. They have their secret recipes and techniques to separate themselves from their peers. However, there’s one commonality between them all: passion — dashes, sprinkles, cups, and canisters full of passion.

Chefs are passionate about their craft, take pride in their work, and they pour themselves into every dish or dessert. Since their work reflects their abilities, they work meticulously, in search of culinary perfection.

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It’s unfortunate when people work half-heartedly in life. They do enough to get by, only to pass time and embrace the weekend. Why? Because they lack passion (or purpose for that matter).

Quite honestly, this lesson could be the most profound. When harnessed, this lesson can alter your reality. Using chefs as examples, find and incorporate passion in your life. Use it to pursue excellence. When your work feeds your soul, it commands the best version of yourself, and you’re more likely to achieve excellence.

4. Adjusting with Addition & Attrition 

If you’ve watched a chef work in the kitchen, you’ve witnessed them taste-testing throughout the cooking process. At any given point, their palate may detect a flavor imbalance, thereby requiring ingredients to be added or subtracted. It’s part of the process. They’re quickly making adjustments with a simple mathematical formula.

Plenty of life’s experiences require adjustments. Though in moments when adversity strikes and we get knocked off kilter or paralyzed by fear, all that’s required is a simple mathematical formula and willingness to adjust. You can add or subtract something to regain your balance. It’s just that easy. I promise.

Now, a precursor to this lesson is eliminating the ideology that things will be perfect. Once you absolve this way of thinking, you are equipped for adjusting along the way. As a bonus, if you carved out prep time in the beginning, you’ll likely have everything at hand for your finished product.

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5. Recipes = Reliable Results

Recipes are a staple in the culinary industry. The value of a recipe is the consistent product each and every time. Whether the meal is produced for the tenth, or hundredth time, the beauty is it tastes identical.

In life, we all strive for consistency, whether it be personally or professionally; however, we fall short of possessing and following ‘recipes’ which allow for consistent results continuously. We often ‘wing it’ with some imaginary expectation of textbook results.

When you desire consistent results, find a recipe. It doesn’t require your authorship either. You can easily find someone who embarked on a similar journey or someone who created a system for the process. When you find these recipes, compile them in your ‘cookbook,’ and keep them handy to use each and every time.

In closing, I’ll keep it simple. Find a chef today and give them a hug (or kiss) to thank them because they add so much flavor to our lives!

Featured photo credit: Courtesy of Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

Reference

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