When you’re learning to cook, there’s nothing like a good recipe to guide you. Being walked through each step is both reassuring and immensely valuable. Even though you’re moving tentatively, you’re moving in the right direction. And if you follow the guidelines – assembling the right ingredients, measuring carefully, and following the steps in the prescribed order – you’ll end up with a lovely meal. Well, almost certainly.
There are pitfalls, of course. You may struggle to find ingredients, measure inaccurately, or misinterpret the instructions. It takes a while to get acclimated to the lingo and to get a bit of a feel for the work. This makes the recipe all the more valuable. The more closely you are able to follow its instructions, the better off you’ll be.
Eventually, following the steps becomes easier. As you follow more recipes, you start to get the sense of the larger picture. Patterns emerge. Ingredients and technique become more familiar. Your technique improves.
Next, the challenge is finding good recipes. Recipes that are not just well-written, but ones that lead to better outcomes. They use good ingredients in good ways to arrive at good creations. You know how to follow the steps already. The finesse at this level is in finding the best sets of steps to follow. That’s how you can exert some creativity over what you’re doing. You become an explorer, a curator, a connoisseur of recipes.
This gives you a sense of control and some expertise. You have developed a valuable skill, after all. You can cook, and you can cook well.
But are you a chef?
Chefs create recipes. They take the learnings from the experience of exploring and exploiting recipes and create something new. The outcome isn’t always good, but it informs the knowledge and the process. Which helps to bring the overall approach to the next level.
Learning to cook is like learning to work. Recipes are like best practices. Following them will save you from struggling needlessly. They are your (almost) surefire path to quick and good results. It would be silly not to follow them. But it would be equally silly to not learn from that experience. And it’s a shame if you don’t use that knowledge to unlock your own potential and to reach the next level of performance. To create your own recipes for success.
Photo credit: Mercy Health