Success without challenge is mediocrity

If you know me, you know I love food. I love watching food. I even wrote an ode to chefs.

When I tell people I spend my free time watching food documentaries, they next ask me, “Do you cook?” I answer, “Yeah, I’m getting into it. It’s a work in progress.” Then they ask, “Oh, what do you cook?” This is when I get sheepish. I scan my mind for the most complicated dish I made in the past few weeks and say, “Oatmeal and fish.” (This raises questions because it’s so peculiar. It’s actually extremely delicious when I add all my fixings.) In actuality, my go-to meal is the classic sunny-side up egg and bread. However, since it isn’t complex, I find myself feeling too ashamed to even mention it.

Sunny-side up eggs and bread is the breakfast of my childhood. I dress my eggs with different ingredients depending on my mood for the day: soy sauce, pate, pepper, red chili flakes, harissa, chives, spinach, etc. I also experiment with different types of bread: Vietnamese baguette, french baguette, wheat, rye, etc. It is extremely delicious, equally satisfying, and ultimately, very simple.

Today, I realized, there is nothing shameful about having eggs and bread as your favorite dish. Moreover, there is nothing shameful about saying that you are a beginner. That you are just starting off. That you are not entirely knowledgeable (yet). Or even that you are a highly skilled cook yet your favorite meal is the most elementary food.

There is a vengeance to obtain from knowing you are mediocre at something, great excitement in knowing that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and undeniable humility is admitting you love the simplest things. 

After all, great cooking begins with the egg.

Similarly, being in a state of uncertainty is not shameful. Whether you are unemployed, recovering from an addiction, going through a divorce, or “failing at life” (for the record, if you are trying, you are not failing), own it. There are crest and troughs. There are mountain and valleys. There are great moments and terrible moments.

You are human. It is normal.

What you make of the troughs is, however, should not be taken with mercy. These challenges are tests of your mental toughness. Push. Act. Rise. Be the contender and tap into your inner strength.

Success without challenge is mediocrity.

Passion gives life life

When I have free time, I spend it feasting my eyes on food. Food documentaries, food shows, food Youtube videos. Today I watched a food movie starring Bradley Cooper called Burnt (highly recommended).

The reason is, I am deeply in love with chefs.

Chefs have a passion that goes beyond the need for comfort or stability. In order to be a chef, you have to put in copious amounts of work for a glimmer of hope that you will become Someone or cook in the kitchen of a world-renowned chef. Chefs get paid minimum wage for decades, working almost double (or triple) time compared to 9-to-5 employees, standing on their feet all day, only to be abusively screamed and tormented for the tiniest mistakes.

Does this turn some away from the culinary world? Probably. That’s where the feeble or disconcerted get weeded out. Only the most resilient, most hungry, most passionate, and possibly most arrogant chefs persevere and rise to stardom. (After all, don’t you need arrogance to curse off the critics?) It’s only then, after such grueling experiences, when chefs reap the rewards, make money, earn awards, and now – thanks to Netflix – become rockstars.

The very nature of the industry is cut-throat competitive and driven by passion; and that is what makes it so alluring.

People love the eager, the enthusiastic, the fervent, and the remarkable.

Psychotherapist and relationship expert Esther Perel talks about this idea in her TED talk. For her book Mating in Captivity, she asks people, “When do you find yourself most drawn to your partner? Not attracted sexually, per se, but most drawn.”

The first group responds: “when she is away, when we are apart, when we reunite”

I’m more interested in the second group’s response:

“[…] when I see him in the studio, when she is onstage, when he is in his element, when she’s doing something she’s passionate about, when I see him at a party and other people are really drawn to him, when I see her hold court. Basically, when I look at my partner radiant and confident. Probably the biggest turn-on across the board. Radiant, as in self-sustaining.”

If you want to boost your attraction, feed your passion.

People naturally gravitate towards those who love what they do, as they are full of life.

Passion gives life life.

Keep the most important thing, the most important thing. | Note To Self

It’s easy to forget our goals.

In the age of social media, we often gravitate towards tasks that will give us the most attention. Why? Immediate gratification. It fuels us with external validation. Dopamine hits are addicting, but does building a fancy website or posting on Instagram every day further our goal of becoming a better _____?

I often have to remind myself of this:

Stay focused and put in your reps. 

Want to be a better writer? Write every day.
A better speaker? Practice speaking every day.
A better photographer? Take photos every single day.

Whatever your craft is, improve it every single day. Consistency is key to exponential growth.

Though marketing is crucial to building any business, the quality of your craft is what will keep your audience engaged long-term. How beneficial is it to build an audience when you have only completed pieces of the prototype? When it’s time to market, you’ll market.

Fixating on publicity will not enhance the quality of your work.

Keep the most important thing, the most important thing.

Related reads:
Continuous Improvement: How It Works and How to Master It
The 1 Percent Rule: Why a Few People Get Most of the Rewards

Goal: vlog for a month / Me: *vlogs for 6 months*

I have a list of 100 things I want to accomplish in my lifetime, and “vlog for a month” was one of those things. This was a goal for a few reasons: 1) I wanted to try making a video to my favorite songs, and 2) It would solve my constant balance of being present and documenting life’s precious moments.

In need of a creative challenge (and a way to clear my phone’s memory), I started putting monthly vlogs in July 2018. I was surprised to learn how much I loved the process of crafting a video to a song. The first time I made one, I worked for at least three hours trying to pick the perfect song, trim clips, and sync them to the beats – only to realize I was experiencing flow. Another benefit, watching the videos allowed me to reminisce and relive my favorite memories. It became my therapy and a monthly reminder to remain grateful despite my turmoil.

For those who have supported this series, thank you for joining me on my journey.

Vlogs: July | August | September | October | November | December

Also, designing thumbnails was process in itself. I began by using Adobe Photoshop, but midway, I lost access to the program. The thumbnails from October to December were made on Figma. I might have purposely made it atrocious. At least I used complementary colors.