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20 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn from Chefs

20 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn from Chefs

You can learn a lot about life from people who spend a great deal of time serving others. Chefs are great teachers of meaningful life lessons, as they are masters of planning, processing and navigating change. Their wisdom extends far beyond searing choice meats to sublime perfection and knowing which herbs provide the best garnish. They can actually teach you to live with greater insight and abundance based on lessons they live every day.

As chefs apply their knowledge to our everyday seemingly minimal obstacles, we can look at 20 pieces of wisdom they can impart on us.

1. Begin with the end in mind

Chefs don’t like to waste precious resources like time and effort. They want to get a thing done right the first time. Therefore, they focus on the result they seek to achieve and then chunk backwards, making sure they haven’t missed key details in the process.

2. Perfect practice makes perfect

No one becomes an expert over night, least of all chefs. They know that practice—perfect practice—will garner the best result. They’ll work on plating an entrée 100 times if it means that the presentation will be exquisite.

3. The show must go on

When things go wrong, chefs reach for innovation. They won’t let a missing shallot force their hand. They are masters of improvisation. They look for ways to get the same result without comprising their integrity or the final product.

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4. Reach outside your comfort zone to grow

Sure, a line chef probably isn’t comfortable doing the work of a sous chef. But moving up the food chain will always require mastering advanced skill sets. Thus, they welcome the opportunity to grow, and are not deterred by the possibility of making mistakes or even failing.

5. Always gauge your progress

Even when chefs know that a pot roast should cook for a specific amount of time, guess what you’ll find them doing? That’s right. They’ll be checking in to see how things are going and determining whether any adjustments need to be made along the way. You never know when an opportunity to fine-tune your process may arise.

6. If you don’t know, ask

There’s nothing worse than being a know-it-all and then demonstrating that, well, you don’t in fact know it all. Chefs have plenty of smart, able-bodied colleagues around them. If they are unsure about something like an ingredient or a process, they’ll just ask. They’re more concerned with striving for excellence than managing their egos.

7. Don’t be afraid to fail

Celebrity Chef Jerome Brown says that “every failure also contains a life lesson.” Fired from a prestigious international firm early in his career for poor performance, he shares that, “it revealed a critical performance gap and taught me to recommit to excellence.”

8. Balance is must

If you order a heavy entrée like steak, you likely want the option of choosing less heavy sides. Chefs know this. It’s why they create menus that allow guests to select options that vary in weight, texture, flavor and more. Everything in life requires balance. But learning to create options that make it easier to achieve balance is a real skill.

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9. Communicate with clarity and confidence

Because time is always of the essence, chefs communicate needs with clarity and confidence. Have you ever seen a shy, withdrawn chef kicking out orders on the line? Nope! It would make it impossible to garner respect and compel a high level of performance in his colleagues.

10. Teamwork makes the dream work

No man is an island to himself, not even when he wants to be. Chefs have a cadre of individuals that help execute every detail of every meal. No matter how skilled a chef may be, it would be impossible to deliver results without the support of a competent team.

11. Sometimes it’s not about you

No matter how brilliant or hard-working chefs may be, they know that at the end of the day, it’s not about them. It’s really all about you. Did you enjoy the meal? Were you happy with the quality of the ingredients? Ego can easily cloud your perspective, but chefs definitely know how to keep theirs in check for the good of the task at hand.

12. Appreciate constructive criticism

There’s probably no such thing as a thin-skinned chef. They are constantly receiving feedback and learning to refine their craft from those who know more in the field.

13. Timing is everything

A dish that has been overcooked or undercooked may be considered inedible, depending on the recipient. Because of this, chefs realize that time is a tricky detail that must be prioritized. They know that timing can be the difference between excellence and mediocrity.

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14. Find your purpose in your passion

Chefs actually love what they do – Shopping for garden-fresh produce, choosing high quality cuts of meat, sampling fresh-caught fish, and more. They enjoy feeding others and making them happy with a delicious, well-presented meal. It gets them up early and keeps them up late: Think Chef Daniel. You cannot pay for purpose or passion, but you need them both if you want to love what you do.

15. Aim for progress, not perfection

If you’re focused on making everything “perfect”, you’re going to be disappointed most of the time. Chefs focus on making a dish a little better each time, measuring marked improvement with each execution. They find value in knowing they can expand their reach with every endeavor.

16. Sometimes the vision looks different in reality

Every chef has a story about a dish they thought would look like a masterpiece, but didn’t. It’s true that sometimes the vision doesn’t match the manifestation, but that’s OK. Keep dreaming big. One day it will.

17. Experience is your best teacher

Someone can tell you how to make chocolate chip cookies until you are blue in the face, but until you get in the kitchen and begin to manipulate the ingredients for yourself, you’re never really going to know how make them. Practical application is the best way to master a skill.

18. Follow directions

Success in the kitchen requires that things happen in a specific order, using specific ingredients. If you decide to bake a cake and forget to add the eggs, you’re going to have a problem. Chefs teach that following directions is a critical component of getting a good result.

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19. Make more mistakes

The best way to become better at anything is to make more mistakes, more often. Chefs make them all day every day, from temperature to timing, which is why they’ve mastered the details of their craft so well. When you give yourself permission to make mistakes, your learning curve increases ten-fold.

20. Success is a journey, not a destination

The path to becoming a chef is not an easy one. It’s an undertaking wrought with challenges, competition, disappointment—and for some, even failure. But anyone who has beaten the odds and risen to the coveted ranks of “chef” understands that the value of success lies in the journey, those unique experiences that helped to shape their destiny.

Who knew that chefs could bring so much value by extracting golden nuggets from the lessons they live daily? Sure, they are masters of their craft, but they are also leaders, tacticians and wonderful teachers. Take these life lessons to heart and learn to live with greater insight and abundance.

Featured photo credit: Confident Young Chef Posing/StockImages.net via freedigitalphotos.net

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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