Cook like no one is watching
For a French chef, its a dream to be rated three stars on the Michelin guide. This is the highest rating possible, and only a few chefs are ever rated at this level. Today I read about a chef who wants to live the rest of his years out without being rated by Michelin. After twenty years of being continuously rated three Michelin stars, he will still run the same restaurant, and will still serve the same great food to his customers. He just doesn’t want the attention and the stress that accompanies the ratings. A few years ago, another French chef had committed suicide when he heard that his rating was coming down from three stars. At only 46 years of age, the chef in this week’s story has had enough. The daily pressure, that any single meal of the day could be the one that could bring his ratings down, meant that he could not enjoy making food any longer. He wanted to enjoy his craft again, and so he rose above the ratings game. He wants to cook like no one is watching.
I’m writing about #LivingDeeply this month, and today is day 21.
Most of our lives, we work for something. When we are learning, that ‘something’ can be an inspirational goal. But later, as our mastery of our work grows, that something becomes a distraction. We can’t enjoy our work if we’re worried about the results of our work. Some people accept a life of drudgery, but to really live deeply, we have to care about our work.
There are wonderful stories about runners who are ahead of the race until the end and, fractions of seconds before they touch the victory tape, they turn around to see if they are winning by a wide margin. A sort of a “pre-gloat”. And in that turning of the head they lose the lead and the race. Sad! When you are running your race, you should run like no one is watching.
This is the pivotal teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. Sri Krishna says, You surely have the right to your karma, not to its fruit; the fruit of karma should not become your motive, nor be attached to sloth.
This isn’t to say that the runner shouldn’t care about winning, or the chef about adulation and respect for the cooking. If you’re looking at the scoreboard as you are playing, you’re not scoring.
The mastery of our own work should be it’s own reward. As I am writing these posts, if I cared only about how many people liked of commented on this post on Facebook, I would only end up writing things that are claptrap trash. If I want to master the art of writing, I have to care for the act of writing alone. Your feedback is important for me to improve my craft, but not as an encouragement or inducement. Its the only way to be great. Write like no one is reading.
Work like no one is watching. Let it be rewarding in itself. Any other rewards will be a plus. I’m betting that the french chef of this week’s story will become even more legendary because he will cook from the heart. His rewards will be greater if he only cares about his craft.
Do as if no one is watching.
Tansen was the best singer in Mughal king Akbar’s court. His singing was magical- he could make the clouds rain down, or set fire to the forest, with his singing. Akbar was very pleased with him, and called him the best singer on Earth. Tansen bowed, but disagreed. He said the best singer is his teacher. Akbar was used to the best of everything, and this was news to him. He asked to have the teacher come to the court and sing for him. “My teacher doesn’t sing for anyone any more”, said Tansen. Akbar was sad, he would never be able to hear the best singer in the world. A few days later, he cajoled Tansen into taking him to the teacher. Tansen agreed to take him with one condition- they have to hide behind the bushes to make sure the teacher doesn’t see them there. The teacher only sings for himself. Akbar agreed, and went incognito with Tansen. Hiding behind the bushes, Akbar heard the most beautiful singing of his life. When the teacher was done singing, Akbar and Tansen started back for the court. With tears still in his eyes, Akbar said, “He’s the best singer because he sings for himself, not caring for reputation or money”.