If you like to cook like I do, there’s probably only one thing you enjoy more than finding a good recipe, and that’s adapting it to suit your own purposes.
Maybe you like to add a little more pepper and spice. Maybe you like to cut down on the oil and fat, or scale it down or double it up to feed a crowd.
Whatever you do, there’s a longstanding tradition of cooks adapting recipes to make their own taste sensations.
Why, then, do so many of us think there’s only one recipe for success?
You know how it goes…
- Take 1 cup ambition.
- Mix it with a 4-year college degree.
- Add 2-3 highly marketable skills.
- Fold in 1-2 heaping helpings of upper level training.
- Season with a good work ethic and people skills.
- Bake in a 50-60 hour workweek for upwards of 25 years.
- Serves 1-4, without work-life balance.
I’m not sure if this sounds appealing to you. For one thing, there’s no guarantee it will really turn out because the economy is still as hard to predict as a poorly calibrated oven.
For me, personally, the problem is that I like variety. I don’t know if I could handle eating the same food, or doing the same job, for years on end. Then again, other people can’t stand change, like that kid who ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day all through elementary school.
Another drawback stems from the assumption that everyone defines success in the same way. But that’s just silly. If we can’t get a bunch of Italian cooks to agree on how to make the most delicious tomato sauce – and I’m sure we can’t – why should people agree on something even more complicated?
So why not try adapting that success recipe?
First of all, many of us might not want to cook up anything that doesn’t come with work-life balance. It would be worse than a burger without fries, so adapt your notion of success to accommodate the amount of time you’re able to spend in your career kitchen.
Next, take that cup of ambition… it’s not going to be the same size throughout your career. It could be overflowing when you’re just starting out and be positively scant by the time you’re approaching retirement. Is this a problem?
The combination of ingredients you assemble – a college degree, marketable skills and upper level training – will determine the flavor of your career.
And that’s not a call anyone else can make for you. Just as the greatest chefs in the world can’t convince me that sweetbreads are delicious, or help me get over my allergy to mangos, no career coach or social imperative can tell you what should go into your recipe for success.
That’s a dish we all have to season ourselves.
by Danielle Dresden