A few weeks ago, I finished reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin and was struck by this passage:

The future belongs to chefs, not to cooks or bottle washers…A cook is not an artist. A cook follows a recipe, and he’s a good cook if he follows the recipe correctly. A chef is an artist. She’s an artist when she invents a new way of cooking or a new type of dish that creates surprise or joy or pleasure for the person she created it for.

I’d been mulling that over until what finally came out was my Entrepreneur’s Manifesto, which starts off: Be a Chef, not a Cook.

As small business owners, we all wear many hats during the day. Usually it’s the bottle washer hat!

But how much time are you spending as the Chef? How much time do you allow your Genius to have its time in the kitchen?

Yes, the dirty work has to get done. But if you don’t let your Inner Chef take charge on a regular basis, your default setting will be The Cook. And you’ll only ever get average (e.g. boring) work done. This is not a way to stand out in your niche. There are really just two ways to succeed in business:

  1. By being ordinary, providing standard products or services, and competing on price.
  2. By being faster, more remarkable, more human and more valuable.

Guess which one of these gets to charge more? Yep, the genius. The one who’s in touch with her creativity. Many folks have written eloquently on what it takes to be an expert. I especially loved this piece on The Blog Herald that delves into the intricacies of calling yourself an expert.

This is how you get there:

  1. Play with your food! Recipes are useful for those who are just learning how to cook. But really, they’re just guidelines! Trust yourself more. Taste everything and see which combinations work and which ones don’t. New gourmet masterpieces aren’t made by following someone else’s recipe.
  2. Be the expert that you are. What is it that you really love to do? Given the choice, what would you learn about all day every day? Your answers are clues to where your niche is hiding. Narrow it down as much as you can in the beginning. Dig really deep and uncover every bit of information you can about that one thing. Now experiment with it. And keep learning. That’s what makes you the go-to expert.
  3. Kick your addiction to instant gratification. This stuff takes real time. And dedication. And most of all, passion. Passion is what feeds you and keeps your momentum up when you would otherwise feel like throwing in the towel. It keeps you on your path.
  4. Say goodbye to perfectionism. Don’t let your inner critic share space with your Inner Chef. Perfectionism is the great killer of creativity.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. Real experts are made, not born. Research suggests that less than 1% of an expert’s success is attributable to natural talent. The rest is freakin learned! Through practice and (wait for it) experimentation!
  6. Share generously. Your knowledge and abilities aren’t really yours. They belong to all of us. And if you don’t share what you’ve got, if you hold on to it too tightly, it won’t grow. Get it out there, and leave your ego at home.

Okay, that’s all well and good, you say. But how do you find the time to wear your chef’s hat?

First you have to commit. Then you’ve got to carve out the space on your calendar.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. You could watch one less hour of TV every day. Or get up one hour earlier every morning.

But schedule it. Because your Chef needs a play date!

What do you think? Did I leave anything out? Please share in a comment.