I grew up in New Orleans, a city known for its rich and diverse culture, laid-back attitude, music-filled streets, and magnificent food. Ah…the food! Nourishment for body and soul. On a cool, rainy day, there is nothing I desire more than a big warm bowl of gumbo. For those of you unfamiliar with this culinary delight, let me explain. Gumbo is a Creole delicacy, like a spicy, thick soup that is simmered and served over rice.
And if you will indulge me, it is the inspiration behind my metaphor for achieving success. (Which always tastes delicious too.)
The Roux: Talent & Tenacity
The roux, made up of equal parts flour and oil, is the foundation of any Creole dish. It is imperative that you do not turn up the fire to speed up the cooking of the roux. It takes time, commitment, and skill to make a dark brown gumbo roux. Burn the roux, and you ruin the entire dish and have to start over from the beginning.
To succeed at your goals, whether they are personal or business related, you need to start with equal heaping portions of talent and tenacity. You are born with natural talent, but for your skills to develop to their maximum potential, you must be persistent in training for mastery.
One of my favorite musical artists, Leonard Cohen (who performed for the very first time in New Orleans in 2013), had an obvious natural talent for songwriting, but it was his deep smoldering voice and his tenacity that set him apart from his peers. His famous song, “Hallelujah,” did not come to him fully formed in one giant flash of inspiration. In fact, its genesis was quite the opposite. It took him five years to write plus additional time to edit his eighty drafted verses down to the final six that compose the song today.
In essence, Cohen had to throw out “the roux” seventy-four times before he got it right. But boy, did he get it right in the end!
The Trinity: Passion, Focus, & Consistency
Every good Louisiana cook knows about “The Trinity.” It’s the aromatic combination of onions, celery, and bell peppers that, when sautéed, make up the perfect flavor base for other ingredients to build upon. You can make a range of Creole dishes with this base because it works with everything.
The same can be said of goals fueled by passion, focus, and consistency. These traits establish the mindset and work ethic that makes it possible to succeed regardless of any challenges that may arise or the duration of the process.
When you are passionate about something, you want to learn all about it. It captivates you and holds your attention. You focus all your time and energy into nurturing it and watching it evolve and grow. Not a day goes by that you don’t tend to it.
This level of consistency is how real progress is made.
The Meat & Stock
What are you making? Is this going to be a Chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo or a Seafood Gumbo? At this point, you need to decide on what sounds good to you.
In much the same way, in life, you have to keep deciding what’s my “next right thing?” What do I want to do, be, make, learn, or achieve? Answer that question, pull together all the necessary resources, chart a clear plan, and act.
Then raise the fire because now you are really cooking!
Every mama in Louisiana has a cherished family gumbo recipe that’s been passed down through the generations. But the recipe, no matter how closely followed, always tastes just a tiny bit different depending on who is cooking. That’s because each cook brings a little something new to the dish whether they realize it or not.
In business, we attribute this unique flair to a person’s personality and authenticity. Many may try to duplicate their methodology and success, but no matter how hard they try, they won’t succeed until they embrace their unique talents and flavor. Always be yourself and follow your zone of genius.
The Not-So-Secret Ingredient: Love
Louisianians, and New Orleanians in particular, are a rare and wonderful breed. At breakfast, we are thinking about lunch. And at lunch, we are already making plans for dinner, even as we loosen our belts under the table.
When it’s time to celebrate, we gather and feast. When tragedy strikes, we all pitch in to help one another, and I guarantee someone will make sure there is enough food and drinks to feed the crowd. We know the importance of nourishing the body and soul. Need proof? Just listen to the tables around you the next time you are eating in a local NOLA restaurant. You are bound to hear at least one delighted patron exclaim after swallowing their first bite, “You can taste the love.”
Every project you undertake and every job you do that you are passionate about will no doubt be infused with your love, and people will respond to it accordingly. But do you have someone or a group of someones to pour love into you on a regular basis by supporting your dreams, encouraging your hard work, and celebrating the small achievements that, when built upon, will lead to your big success? Simmer on that thought for a bit.
While you have everything you need to succeed all on your own, the cheering on from a supportive team makes it a lot easier (and a lot more fun!) to stay motivated to reach your goals and manifest your dreams.