Kim and I love watching MasterChef on Fox, starring one of our favorite TV personalities, fiery chef Gordon Ramsay. MasterChef conducts a nationwide search for the best home cooks in America, and through a series of exciting elimination rounds, turns one of them into a culinary master.
In the initial audition episodes of the first season, the contestants have to prepare their signature dish for the panel of judges in an effort to win one of 30 aprons in order to advance to the next round. As she prepared her dish, a young Hispanic woman named Adeliz spoke passionately about her family's food history. In a misguided attempt to impress the judges, she used squeeze bottles to begin drawing squiggly lines of reduction sauce on the plate.
It didn't take long for them to sense a disconnect.
"I can hear the passion but I can't taste it. You're missing the most important part, the heart and soul of what you stand for." ~ Gordon Ramsay
In an unprecedented move, Ramsey gave her a second chance. With a time limit of two hours, he implored her to drive home, raid her cupboard, and come back with the ingredients to cook to her strength, something truly authentic.
She returned, free of pretension, and made New Mexican chile rellenos starring green chiles straight from her freezer. A dish she'd made hundreds of times for her family.
The judges loved it. They unanimously rewarded her with a coveted apron. Ramsay encouraged her to continue to play to her strengths and stay authentic.
While this proved to be excellent advice for Adeliz, I think it's a great life lesson for all of us.
You were created to be something special. Every time you pretend to be something you're not, or hide your uniqueness from the world, you lose a little bit of that specialness. You look more and more like everybody else.
School and society teaches us to conform, to follow the leader, and to work on our weaknesses in order to become "well-rounded." We're so used to it, we think of it as solid common sense.
But it's not.
You're creating unnecessary competition for yourself. You're blending in to the crowd. You're becoming both mediocre and invisible.
A school in our area recently hired a new second grade teacher. They had over one hundred applicants to choose from for one position. I'll guarantee you that the person they picked didn't look like everybody else.
Here's a fact: No matter how much work you do, you'll never lift your below-average skills to anything that rivals the efforts of someone who's naturally good at them. However, when focused towards the things you ARE good at, that same amount of effort can easily take you to a world-class level.
When I started out as a speaker (and an artist and writer, for that matter), I naturally imitated the people I admired. It's a great way to learn. But I have found that the more I unleash my own uniqueness into what I offer, the more uncopyable — and successful — I become.
Whether you're looking for a job, looking for a date, or looking for a way to be happy in life, the first step is to just be yourself.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde
It really is a lot easier to be yourself than trying to pretend to be something you're not. The hardest part is getting to the point where you feel like YOU is good enough. Especially if you have yet to enjoy the success of some of your role models.
Let me tell you something. You are MORE than good enough. You have talents that no one else has. (At the very least, you are in a specific position to use them in a way no one else can.) The world doesn't need another (fill in the blank with your biggest hero), it needs you.
It needs your strengths, your passion, your authenticity.
Be you. The world is waiting.