Food for Thought: Success and Lasagna

Doug Collins - Friday, March 24, 2017

The recipe for success and the recipe for lasagna enjoy many similarities.

First, let us compare the drive to succeed with the desire to make lasagna. We start by observing that nobody makes lasagna for one. No, lasagna is made for others to enjoy: beloved family, close friends, or acquaintances on the path to joining one of the first two groups.

Success, if it is to be meaningful, comes, too, from a need to making something of value for someone else: providing, for example, a good or a service that they need or that would otherwise delight them, were they to have it.

The most authentic realization of success comes through our service to others.

Second, success and lasagna, if they are to be done properly, require an abiding commitment to quality.

With lasagna, the cook who prepares their own noodles from flour and water earns our regard. We grant further points to the cook who prepares their own mozzarella.

It’s assumed the sauce is homemade, of course. Table stakes.  

The best cooks presume that this is the only way in which the work is done: the only way in which they can be sure of a good outcome. Experienced hands treat the preparation of lasagna as a journey, not a sprint.

Success, for its part, demands, too, a deep appreciation of the fundamentals. The basics. A slow and steady termination of faking it while making it. Only then, with the required time in the saddle—or the kitchen, as it were—can one claim unqualified success, as opposed to being that lucky soul who finds themselves at the right place at the right time.

How often have we been presented with an “overnight success,” only to find they have spent the past decade, laboring in obscurity, mastering their craft with a small number of true believers?

Third, success, as with lasagna, is meant to be shared fully with those closest to us, in person.

It is possible in theory to enjoy a plate of lasagna by oneself. I do not recommend the practice. No, the best way to eat lasagna properly is to bring a big dish of it to a table filled to overflowing with family and friends. See the light return to their eyes as the aroma of the pasta, sauce, and cheese, layered with great benevolence, fill the room. See conversation pause respectfully as they first catch sight of the feast to come. Enjoy as they partake in second helpings.

Success, if it be meaningful, acts upon us in the same way. It is in our human nature to seek to share our success with others—our benefactors, our true believers, our contributors. Success, as with lasagna, is ultimately measure by the net increase in happiness that our labors have fomented in the world.

Fourth, we learn that success, as with lasagna, is best at second tasting. Indeed, some cooks insist that their lasagna set overnight in the refrigerator to give all the disparate flavors more time to become acquainted, creating something far superior in the process. With lasagna, the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. The wise cook accommodates this reality in full. They plan ahead.

Success shares the same characteristic. We pause at our first taste of it if it comes too soon and suddenly to us. Was it a fluke? Were we responsible for any part of it? Could we do it again, if needed?

At the second tasting of success our confidence grows. We know what we are doing—that we have in truth attained a new level of mastery that is ours to apply as we see fit. We observe that people who are successful in one part of their lives or their careers tend to be successful, later, in other venues.

One closing thought: the recipe for lasagna, as with the recipe for success, should never remain a closely guarded secret. View your creation as a gift to be shared with others.

My ramblings on success and, more to the point, lasagna, has made you hungry. Hungry for success. Hungry for lasagna.

Lamentably, I cannot help you with the first. For the second I commend you to the following recipe. Make it this weekend. Invite your family and friends to partake. You will not be disappointed.

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