In the Blink of an Eye
“Looking forward has no limits
Looking back reels you in
Thinking about what could be
Gives pause to what might have been
Vision is energy for an active mind while
Reflection is food for the soul
In the blink of an eye our vision and
Reflections intersect as
What was takes center stage and
What could be fades away”
Every now and then it is healthy, and yet humbling, to take inventory of what we have done, and where we have been – to dissect those dreams and actions that brought us to where we are, and to relish the opportunities and the challenges that came along the way. What we have done bears witness to who we are today. “What if” will always plague us, especially those individuals who tend to be serial dreamers – those individuals with evolving plans and limitless ideas that need an outlet. We look back to wrestle with those decisions to turn right when we should have turned left, and to lose sleep over opportunities missed. It is healthy to take this inventory and then look in a mirror. We are where we are and we are whom we are because of those decisions – not necessarily fate – WE made the decision to turn left or turn right. Look in a mirror and know that it is what it is because of the decisions that we made.
Some may look in that mirror and say that everything happens for a reason, and that may be true, but it is also important to note that most things happen as a result of our own free will to make decisions along the way. When we take this inventory it is enlightening to think – I am where I am, I am who I am because this is what I chose – take responsibility.
Vision is only significant if we do something with it. Vision must include a plan of action and the knowledge and ability to adjust to things that interrupt that plan. When we relinquish our responsibility for this then we accept that other people and situations are able to over-ride our free will and ability to move in one direction or another.
From a personal perspective, I look back at how my professional vision evolved and how the decisions made in relation to that vision allowed me to stay the course. I might think that a different decision would have been better at the time, but it was my choice in the moment to turn left or turn right. I am where I am and I am who I am because I chose one direction over another.
Looking in a mirror while you take inventory will likely result in disappointment or a moment of satisfaction. What a terrible feeling it must be to feel disappointment. This does not infer that regret is not a part of even the most successful professionals, but rather acknowledgement that even the regrettable decisions in our lives resulted in a moment of learning and growth.
What is universal for all who reflect is that vision is finite. There is a moment when the clock ticks much faster, when that limitless vision sees the door of opportunity slowly close. Reflection is a wonderful process when we find satisfaction in who we are and what we have done. Acting on our vision and taking responsibility for our own course and destination will result in that feeling of satisfaction. When we relinquish that responsibility to others and find blame for the results realized from our decisions – then satisfaction is overcome by regret, blame, and anger.
Like so many friends and acquaintances that I relish, I find great satisfaction with my evolving vision and the opportunities that came my way as a result of a decision to turn left or turn right. There were bumps along the way, missed opportunities, and there were definitely decisions that could have been made differently – but in the end, when I take inventory I feel satisfied with the results and know that it was within my control.
I hear from a variety of cooks, chefs, restaurateurs, and service staff members who either reflect with great enthusiasm about their careers, the decisions they made, and where they are as a result or who respond with tremendous dissatisfaction. What seems to be universal is that those who are pleased with where they are and who they have become are individuals who have always taken responsibility for their decisions and know that they can and have taken control of their destiny. Those who are dissatisfied are more inclined to blame others (managers, restaurateurs, chefs, or the industry as a whole) for their dissatisfaction. This is not, in any way shape or form, an attempt to ignore that there are poor managers, arrogant chefs, or uncaring owner/operators – there are plenty. But, the choice to stay in that environment is on the shoulders of the individual. When we work in an industry that is in dire need of skilled, passionate, positive workers – then there will always be opportunities to work elsewhere. It is your choice to turn left or turn right.
In the blink of an eye – we move from a young apprentice or dishwasher to a fifty-year veteran of the food business. We rush through those formative years of relentless prep, working early morning breakfast shifts, plating thousands of banquets from a few dozen to a few thousand covers, countless a ‘la carte nights on the line when you feel like it could all fall apart at any given moment only to rise above the fray and push that last plate of food through the pass. We look back on the hundreds of menus planned, budgets made, orders placed, inventories taken, employees hired, trained and sometimes fired, chef coats ironed, cuts stitched and burns treated, and smiles and laughter with team members when service is done. Here you suddenly are, in the blink of an eye, looking in a mirror and reflecting back on a career – hopefully with pride and a sense of satisfaction.
You know now that you can choose to work in a restaurant where everyone is serious about great cooking and where employees are treated with respect, or you can choose to stay in an operation where none of that is true and you feel that sense of despair. You can choose to bite the bullet and invest in a formal culinary education knowing that debt will haunt you for years to come, but you breadth of knowledge will be enhanced – or you can chastise those who invested the time and took out the loans. You can choose in engage in professional organizations and build your network of like-mined cooks and chefs, or you can give a thumbs down to those organizations because they seem to be out of touch with the average line cook. You can choose to invest in your personal skill development by working with accomplished cooks, and yes – even volunteering to work and learn from others – or you can complain that your employer isn’t doing this for you. You can choose to live in a community where great restaurants and terrific opportunities abound – or you can stay in an area that is comfortable for you, but lacks the challenge of excellence. The choice is yours to make – turn right or turn left. The cooks and chefs who look in a mirror and smile at what they see are the ones who chose to control their circumstances rather than have circumstances control them.
In the blink of an eye – your career will come to a close and you will have an opportunity to reflect, to realize that looking back is as important as looking forward. Take control early on, accept the challenges, work through them, make a decision to turn left or right and stand with your vision – even though you may need to adjust the path along the way.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Take Control of Your Career – TODAY!
Harvest America Ventures, LLC