It doesn’t make any difference what you choose to do or whom you choose to do it for – “good” is only a tease. Good is a “C” grade in life, an acknowledgement that you tried, but not hard enough. When you are good, in your heart you know that you could be better, but that requires some adjustment, more effort, maybe a few changes along the way. If you are “good”, it really means that you could be “GREAT”, and if you learn how to become great, you could have WORLD CLASS within your reach.

We have become somewhat immune to what greatness is and what it takes to reach it. As we freely throw around terms like fantastic, excellent, and awesome, we do so without any recognition of what that means, thus it loses its appeal. If awesome simply means that you showed up and did what you were assigned to do, then where is the incentive to push forward?

“I finished dicing those 20 pounds of onions and peeling a 50-pound bag of carrots.”


Okay, so where do you go from there? If awesome is the highest expectation and peeling carrots gets you there, then your benchmarks for world-class are pretty low. How do you jump out of bed in the morning and push yourself to be extraordinary, when extraordinary is pretty ordinary?

How does a restaurant move forward and inspire cooks, servers, and guests if extraordinary means that the food they serve fits the basic model of: “hot food hot, and cold food cold”? Where is the sizzle in that? How do you attract exceptional employees and inspire return guests if extraordinary is so basic?

If the proverbial carrot just out of reach only needs to be peeled to be worthy of effort, then there will be very few carrots grabbed.

Expectations and definitions are important – so are rewards given and accolades pronounced publicly. We need to up the ante. It was John Housman, the actor who once proclaimed:

“We made money the old-fashioned way – we earned it.”

It really isn’t the prize or accolade that is a motivator – it is the process. Self-motivation, the only form of real motivation, stems from learning, growing, and pushing yourself to be exceptional. This is a state of mind and a way to live, it is not a mission, not a one-time only “cram for the exam” initiative. Those who understand what it truly means to be awesome or excellent, don’t need a project with a prize to convince them to exceed expectations – it is who they are, and how they approach everything.

You can pick this type of person or business out in a crowd – they stand out, they shine, and have magnetism. These “doers” inspire without even knowing they do so. These individuals and businesses are who we want to be – the only difference is they do the work to get there for no other reason than “this is how you do things”. They rarely do it just for the prize, they do because: “why wouldn’t I push myself to be exceptional?”

Martin Luther King, Jr. hit the nail on the head when he said:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well. ‘”

Kitchen work is sometimes gratifying, sometimes monotonous, sometimes frustrating, occasionally invigorating, often exhausting, but always loaded with opportunity for excellence. It’s all in how we approach it. As an example, knife work is tedious at times, especially if there is a pile of vegetables in front of you. What if you made a commitment:

 “I intend to be the absolute best person with a knife in this kitchen and maybe the best in the neighborhood or town. I want to be so good that other cooks will stop in on their day off to watch me work and marvel at the beauty of my knife skills. I want people to ask me how I can possibly be this good and I want other chefs to fight over ways to hire me for my knife skills.”

What would it take to be that extraordinary and if you made the commitment how would that feel, how would it change your life, or at least your career. Awesome would be a word that was fitting if you were a world-class wielder of kitchen knives. You would become the benchmark for others and as such excited about jumping out of bed in the morning to attack those onions, carrots, and potatoes.

Okay, so maybe this is somewhat exaggerated and maybe knife cuts is not the best example, but then again, maybe they are. When Martin Luther King, Jr. referenced “streetsweeper”, he was talking about each one of us and anything that we might approach, anything that carried our signature or impacted our reputation: plumber, electrician, stockbroker, doctor, nurse, teacher, or cook. Excellence does not pick and choose – the pursuit of excellence applies to everyone and everything – it is a habit, not a destination. Those cooks who pushed to be world-class with a knife probably took great care of their car, always washed the dishes, polished their shoes, checked for spelling on a letter or email, and folded side towels just so at his or her line station. The steaks from the grill where this cook worked would always have perfect grill marks, potatoes would be perfectly caramelized, and scallops browned golden but still rare on the inside. Guaranteed the cook’s bed was made in the morning, sidewalk was shoveled after a snowstorm, and there was never a day when the cook showed up to work late. Awesomeness is an everyday and everything way of life.

So, why do we sometimes allow mediocrity to creep into our lives? Why do we select the things that we intend to do well, only finding reasons to think: “this is good enough”, when we really know better. It is because excellence has not been embraced as who we are. When it becomes a habit, we never stray. When awesomeness is a goal, then there will always be reasons why an “exception” is allowed.

We all want to hear others say: “that was fantastic, you are awesome, WOW, what a great job!” This is a fact, but let’s use the word sparingly and reserve it for times when it is earned. Make excellence, extraordinary, and awesome representative of who you are – always, with everything, for everyone. This is how you will be able to sleep with a smile on your face; this is how you build your brand; this is how real success is defined.

BE EXTRAORDINARY – START TODAY, start with the small things and learn to embrace it as the only way. Good enough, never is.


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  1. Thank you, this is a wonderful message and a great way to start the day. A reminder to ‘push for greatness instead of mediocrity ..even when peeling carrots, cutting onions or pounding chicken. I like to convey to my people that working hard and challenging ourselves can be very rewarding, even therapeutic.

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About Me

PAUL SORGULE is a seasoned chef, culinary educator, established author, and industry consultant. These are his stories of cooks, chefs, and the environment of the professional kitchen.


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