I’ve always had a very specific vision for my writing.
I imagine a tiny restaurant.
You know the one. Before sitting down, your favorite dish is on the grill. The owner greets you with a hug, inquires about your family, and cares about the answer.
The meal is always the same. Consistent. Hot. Cooked with love.
It’s a question I ask myself often: Am I cooking with love? Readers can taste a lack of effort; it’s no different than a restaurant-goer.
Most cannot explain why the meal is different. Something is missing. Maybe too much salt, maybe not enough. Not sure. But something is not quite right. The same is true with just about everything we create. In my case, readers may not be able to put their finger on what is not working, and even if they can't distinguish between a dangling participle and a sentence fragment (neither can I), they know something is off.
Almost always it comes back to love.
That is why I am constantly thinking about that tiny restaurant. And why I believe we should all visualize it in the work we do, no matter what sort of work we do, whether we are journalists, or chefs, or teachers, or dentists, or electricians.
And the key to cooking with love, I have come to realize after interviewing thousands of people here in America’s Happiest City on California’s Central Coast, is to first find meaningful work. Find work that does not feel like work.
That is the trick. The secret sauce. Everything.
The idea of doing one thing with so much care and attention to the point of perfection is a beautiful thing to witness. And rare.
Perfection in itself, as we know, is nothing more than a fleeting moment of time. It’s not something you can possess, but an idea—something to seek. And, because there is no such thing as perfection, only our attempt to attain it, we appreciate the effort, the journey.
The burnt crust, the typo, the upside-down light switch. We are all human. It's not perfection that matters; it's striving for perfection that does.
Whatever you do all day in your 9-to-5 is a manifestation of who you are, and what you believe, and what you value. Think about that tiny restaurant and ask yourself whether or not you are cooking with love. And, if not, find out why. Maybe it's time to change the recipe, or buy a new oven if you need to, or start making plans to work at a different restaurant; or perhaps get out of the kitchen altogether.
It does not do any of us any good when you strive for anything less than perfection, even though we all know you will never get there—because it’s not a place.
All you can do is cook with love.