Saturday, March 19, 2016

How to Know If You're Doing it Right

"You shut your eyes when you taste my food because I keep my eyes wide open every second." - a great soul food chef, quoted by Newsday's Sylvia Carter

As I've mentioned, I've been building yet another crazy-ambitious project (I'm a glutton for punishment), along with a great, highly-dedicated team. One member of that team is a fellow who's as appreciative of Great Stuff, generally, as anyone I've ever met. It's been a bit rocky for him - as it inevitably is for us all - to come to realize the super-human exertions necessary to produce the magical, delightful sort of result he himself so richly appreciates.

I once tried to pin down the commonalities present in all the times I managed to attain such results, and it came down to the following:
Love. Care. Fervor. Attention. Intention. Subtlety. Detail. Commitment. "Doing justice to..." Or, as I more succinctly explained in my article explaining the magic of Steve Jobs, it's about "lavishing heart-breaking love and caring generosity and ingenuity into something - so much so that you almost can't stand it."

This is all that's necessary to transcend humanity's needlessly grey, grim, grinding experience. It's the open doorway of the divine. ... You only have to give a damn.
I went further still in describing the quiet, banal miracles I've seen produced by a certain "lowly" car detailer:
There is a level of care and ingenuity where miracles happen - though few appreciate them (the Bible's got it all wrong; miracles aren't big flashy affairs, they are subtle and easily overlooked). Wherever mere greatness is possible, there's always "a whole higher level" waiting to be mined in the asymptotic real estate atop the curve of declining results.

...The secret involves a wanton lavishing of embarrassingly earnest qualities such as love, attention, intention, and commitment.
My team member's work mostly involves cataloging a type of web site no one's ever previously catalogued. He must use his expert surfing skills (and knowledge of the topic) to ferret out not just good examples, but small miracles...again and again. A great big mountain of triumphant discoveries - akin to what I try to pull off in my food writing.

Most people would merely grind out the work, settling for good enough ("good enough" being, inherently, good enough). What's excruciatingly hard - like, "weep-while-you-work" hard - is to keep one's level of commitment jammed onto the very highest setting. To care much more, and try much harder, than is necessary. To break yourself a little trying to heat the whole ocean. Very few people manage this, and that's why there's not more greatness, or magic, or delight, in the world.

This morning, he shot me a quick email about a fantastic link he'd just excavated:
Great site. I'll have to return to explore that one further
It seems like an ordinary enough communication, but I knew better. I wrote back:
That is precisely how it feels to create something great.

A chef yearns for a moment to sit down and actually ENJOY the soup. A novelist wants to stand back and passively appreciate his fictional world. I, myself, have eaten 10,000 investigatory meals praying to someday return to relax and experience great meals.

This is how it feels to be of service, and to create something great. Shitty chefs, shitty novelists, and shitty food writers never experience this! They enjoy the process as it happens, because they're hardly working!

That feeling is the unmistakable sign that you’re doing it right. If you’re not feeling that feeling - if you're not just a bit envious of those who will be enjoying the fruits of your labors - then you’re just grinding it out, and not truly serving them. If you let this feeling become a drug, you'll forever NEED it, and will never settle for less from yourself.

"You shut your eyes when you taste my food because I keep my eyes wide open every second."

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