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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 May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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