"When you are inspired by some great purpose – some extraordinary project – all of your thoughts break their binds. Your mind transcends limitations. Your consciousness expands in every direction. And you find yourself in a new, and a great, and a wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties, talents come alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever
dreamed yourself to be." Yogi Patanjali
At first, I thought I should title this post “Thoughts without a thinker” since I am no big thinker. I am no Deepak Chopra or Tony Robbins and so I wondered if I should even be attempting to write something like this.
Well, passion always wins over logic, so here goes. Please forgive me if I am wrong but I feel so strongly, I at least have to share some observations.
It started with a conversation I had with a few writing colleagues over lunch. We were discussing a very successful chef we know and all of us said together, “Ah, he has such amazing energy.” We were speaking of Chef Jose Andres, who owns several terrific restaurants in the US, and is getting ready to open more! The conversation got me thinking: what is the secret to this boundless energy that people like Jose seem to possess. Where does it come from? I ran down in my mind all the people I know who seem to possess a similar energy and are equally successful at what they do.
I think the engineer-side of me shows up every now and again: As I thought of all the energy-filled people I knew, I decided to write down some traits I saw in all of them. At first, I decided they seem to have a lot in common: They are all very successful at what they do: Chef Jose Andres is a famous chef, Chef Carla Hall is a TV-reality show star, New Yorker writer Susan Orlean is a writer’s ( and a reader’s) dream, Oprah’s former Chef Art Smith owns successful restaurants and runs a great charity, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is possibly one of the most famous chefs in the world, Jaden Hair is a terrific and prolific blogger, TV host and cookbook author, cookbook author Ramin Ganeshram, NY TImes best selling author Alison Winn Scotch has gained a legendary status when it comes to helpful posts, and finally, Nycci Nellis runs her own food talk show in DC. Yes, this was my list. First, let me state the obvious – these names came to my mind because I associate these people with what seems like endless reserves of energy and positive spirit. Yes, it is true that they are very talented at their crafts. That is a given. You cannot succeed and go where you need to go without talent. So that is a given.
What else? As common sense would say, they love what they do. Okay. I buy that. Yes, their love of their craft makes them stand out and their passion shows. But I kept feeling there is more.
So at first, I decided to break their traits down into a list ( my type A personality showing through here). Again this is just my observation:
Curiosity: Have you ever read any of Susan Orlean’s work? If you haven’t, head to the nearest library and read a few of her essays. Her curiosity will stun you. She peeks into everything, loves to follow all kinds of people, and talks about everything under the sun. Follow her on Twitter and you will get information on the world of writing and on, um, donkeys and chickens! And she is always asking questions, always. I cooked a meal for Chef Jose Andres recently and the minute he stepped into my kitchen, his questions started: what is this, what spice, what is this smell. Chef Carla Hall is super successful, cooking meals around the country and yet, she tells me, she is curious about Indian cuisine, how can she incorporate spices in what she does. I don’t know if the ter
of this section should be curiosity or learning: they are always learning, always seeking out new things.
Focus: DC-own Nycci Nellis comes to my mind when I think of someone who has single-handedly created a terrific name for herself in the food media world. She loves to tell people about what fun things are going on in terms of food, so she started a newsletter, then she moved to TV and then she decided to start her own radio show about food. Amazing focus. They all have it. Ramin Ganeshram, who has come out with the second addition of her cookbook and is now working on various fiction projects, has the most laser sharp focus of anyone I know. How? She will focus in and create works of arts in weeks that take people months to do. And here is the real kicker: she works full-time so all that she creates for fiction is on her time off. Jaden Hair is another example of focus: her blog, her TV, her tweets, her emails are all laced with her true love of food. Everything she does seems to be magnified by underlying focused passion around her cuisine.
Persistence: Another trait I see in all of them is persistence and I don’t mean doing the same things again when they feel like it. I mean being focused and curious persistently. Take restaurateur Jose Andres: every time he opens a new restaurant, it is successful, and I don’t mean ordinarily successful. When Bazaar opened up in LA.. the reviews were outstanding. This man’s persistence and focus towards his vision is unquestionable. He is always persisting in his quest to fulfill his vision. It seems like second nature when you see him.
Faith: I am not speaking of religious faith here. I am speaking of an internal faith they seem to all have. The faith that they are destined to do what they are doing. The faith that the Universe will open the doors when they need them. The faith that they are always going to be in the right place when needed. Chef Art Smith and Chef Sanjeev Kapoor both epitomize this concept for me. When I speak with them, there is never any negative energy or a thought that something they are working on will not work out. They show enduring faith and I think the Universe says, “ Your wish is my command.”
Generosity: I have been on the receiving end of this trait from every person who is mentioned in this post. These folks are not only about growing themselves, constantly, but about sharing their knowledge, their insights, their experiences. I have spoken to each one during a time of need, and every time, in spite of have schedules that make them gallop around the world, in spite of being so busy that they can barely answer all their emails/calls, in spite of being pulled in seven directions at the same time, their response has always been: How can I help? Whether it is the answer to a simple recipe question to a "what am I doing with my life" question to what makes a true brand to can you help me learn Mexican cuisine.. my questions are endless, their generosity triumphs that endlessness. Alison Winn Scotch is just amazing at this – check out her blog for questions and answers on the publishing world. I think this works well for these folks because all the positive energy they put out, they get back in spades. Karma rocks!
After writing down this list, I kept thinking I was missing something big. Something that only these people have mastered and I think I have it. Yes, they love what they do, yes they are really good at it but I think here is the key: With every ounce of their being, they feel like they are making a difference. They believe that what they are doing makes a difference. They have discovered that their cause is bigger than them. It think internalizing this belief gives them the energy of the Universe behind them.
So tell me, do you have boundless energy? What makes you tick?
(photo – iSTOCK)
Monica, in this story if you were to replace all names with a single name, the story would still be true. And that name is Monica Bhide.
Must agree with Sanjeev. You embody all the qualities listed.
Curiosity and passion keep me going. I also like the satisfaction of seeing final results — or at least decent progress.
Maybe this is why I like food blogging? Instant gratification with the food (most times) and no long waits to see my words.
Great post, Monica. I would also add that the most successful people probably feel like they don’t belong. They think differently.
There’s a great article in the Harvard Business Review about it: http://blogs.hbr.org/pallotta/2010/07/misfit-entrepreneurs.html
Great post, Monica. I’d agree that curiosity, passion, generosity and faith are all key ingredients to carving out a successful path.
In addition to the 5 traits, having fun and enjoying what I do keeps me going like the energizer bunny.
Curiosity, Focus, Persistence, Faith, Generosity…all of these play a part.
For me, the main motivator is love – I need to share what I discover so others can benefit 🙂
@Sanjeev: Truer words were never spoken!! Monica–look to yourself! You are the most inspiring of all!
Love this post, Monica and I think you’re right on. Passion usually comes when we can make a difference by doing what we love. We all have this opportunity. Sometimes we have to experiment and search and practice to find out what really makes our hearts beat stronger, but it’s worth the search. When you are doing something that matters to you, most often it will also matter in a big way to others. Thanks for this post. You’ve got me thinking.
wow.. reading this piece deflates & inflates innate passion simultaneously.. Deflates, because of the sobering thought of how much more there is to learn about all aspects related to culinary science & cuisines, and inspires, when faced an adrenalin rush at the thought of forging ahead (we called it RG giri @ IIT-B). Can’t say I’ve heard of most of the names listed above (except for Chef Kapoor & Jose Andres), but Its a fabulous set of reading material to start!! Thanks!
Great post Monica—love this.
Great post and being in the food industry, working 14 hour days for days on end, you gotta have passion for this! And they all have that. Jose Andres is someone I look up to; I remember watching him on Television Espanola and it’s so amazing much he has accomplished. If you dream it AND work hard for it, it comes. Thanks for this great article.
I think you captured this beautifully. It distills so many of my own motivations in a way I have not yet done. There is one more for me. It is this constant feeling that there is so much that needs to be written and there will never be enough time to get to all I wish to put on paper. For me it is like standing in a library and realizing that I will only be able to read a small portion of the books in my lifetime. So now I must write as well and as fully as I can.
I love this piece. You always capture everything so beautifully. Thanks for sharing this insightful article. As always, you’ve inspired me again, Monica. Hugs 🙂
Another terrific and inspiring post, Monica and it came at the exact moment I needed to read it! Along with your last point about feeling one is making a difference, I think successful people are able to get out of their own way in order to serve their larger purpose. That it comes back to the larger mission is, I agree, key. As for boundless energy, for the most part yes, I do. Although fear and doubt can be wicked at times, ultimately it’s learning to tune those emotions out and get down to the essence of helping people live healthier and more inspired lives.