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Don’t Rely on How-To’s Alone

For a while I was quite famous (in small circles) for my skills in the kitchen. I traveled to Southeast Asia for an extended period after I graduated from university. While I was there, I fell in love with many things Asian and Indian, especially the food (I still think Indian food is the best on the planet).

Upon returning to Canada, I went out and bought all kinds of cookbooks and began my passionate affair with cooking. I practiced. I experimented. Much to the envy of my coworkers, I’d bring leftovers to work, heat them up in the lunch room and have everyone drooling. For quite a few years, the love affair continued.

Over time though, my life changed. My priorities shifted and I got lazy in the kitchen. I’d spend less time there. In my mind, I’d convince myself that I still WANTED to cook. I’d peruse the cookbook section in bookstores. I’d flip through the books and find one that sparked my interest again. Somehow I’d justify the purchase to myself: “Wouldn’t it be great if I tried THIS recipe…”

Today, with the exception of a few favorites, most of my cookbooks stare down at me from a shelf in the kitchen, lonely and wondering when they’ll get some attention. Without me really noticing, I slowly settled into a routine with my cooking. I’ve taken the easy route. I became comfortable.

Settling in the kitchen may be fine if you’ve genuinely moved on to other interests, but settling about the stuff that’s important in your life just leads to regret in the long run.

The answers to leading a great life (or being a great cook) don’t lie in a metaphorical cruise down the “cookbook aisle” looking at others’ solutions. The most difficult (and fruitful) place to look is inside ourselves.

After all, we have far more answers than we often trust we do.

Coaching Fieldwork:

A great myth of leadership is that there is a magical “how-to” (cookbook) formula out there. Don’t get me wrong, “how-to’s” are important, but the heart of most leadership challenges lies in actually APPLYING what we already know to do (which is a lot) and not searching for more cookbooks.

The difficulty of course is that creating the life, company or team you really want is rarely the easy route, short term. In fact, I liken it to learning to play the violin in public. It’s usually messy, uncomfortable and sometimes downright unnerving – a far cry from the safe halls of always “looking good,” or “doing it right” – and THAT’S why it’s a road less commonly traveled.

Take out a sheet of paper and ask yourself:

1. In what area of your life or role have you slipped into comfort-mode unknowingly?

2. Do you wish you approached this area(s) differently? If so, how? What results could be available to you if you did?

3. How are you justifying giving it less than your best?

4. In the long run, would you prefer to have your reasons and excuses or the comfort of knowing you gave it your best shot?

Over the next week, pick an action step that will move you forward and do it.

Jamie Broughton