A Gold Medal Experience

Have you ever had someone tell you, “You can’t do that”? How did that make you feel? And what did you do with that? Have you ever had someone who told you, “You can do anything”? How did that make you feel, and what did you do with it? While we were working on our book, The Recipe, my buddy Chef Charles Carroll told me about an experience he had as a boy that addressed those questions in a fascinating and revealing way. When Charles was a senior in high school, he participated in a huge culinary competition in Boston, competing in a professional category for his very first time — and took third place. His own bronze medal! As you can imagine, this was a very huge deal for him. (Wicked huge, as we used to say in Boston.) He was so excited he couldn’t stand still. When a judge came over to critique his work, Charles tugged on the man’s sleeve and blurted out: “One of these days, I’m going to win an Olympic gold medal!” The judge put his hand on Charles’s shoulder and said, “Son, just getting onto the Olympic team is next to impossible. Why don’t you stick with the local events, and just focus on getting a silver next time?” And he moved on to critique the next contestant. Charles was utterly devastated. “When you do these competitions,” he says, “typically you’re sleep-deprived by the time the judging happens. You’ve been up for as much as forty or fifty hours getting ready, and now you’re here, and all your emotions are dialed up to...

You Have What You Need

The other day I was being interviewed for the “The Entrepreneur Way” podcast, talking about my forthcoming book The Recipe. Among the many excellent questions my host, Neil Ball, asked me was this one: “What is your favorite quote?” Hmm. What was my favorite quote? Did I have one? And what bubbled up from the murky recesses of my brain was this, from Raymond Chandler’s iconic Philip Marlowe novel, Farewell, My Lovely: “I needed a drink, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country, I needed a lot of life insurance. What I had was a coat, a hat, and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” We both had a good laugh at that, and then I set about to explain myself, or try to, anyway. The truth was, I wasn’t sure exactly why that surfaced as my favorite quote. It was more than three years ago that I read the book. But there it was. After the podcast, I pondered it some more. It made me think about how unqualified I am to be a writer. That isn’t some sort of false modesty. It’s a serious thought that often pops into my mind, and always prompts a bit of internal dialogue when it does. The fact is, I never really intended to be a writer, and I certainly never gave myself the kind of education that an aspiring writer ought to have. Sometimes I am flabbergasted by the sheer volume of reading I haven’t done, all the great books whose covers I’ve never cracked. I have read no Dostoyevsky, no Tolstoy, no Solzhenitsyn,...