I & Sandwich – The Secret to Failure

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The easiest way to success is to know the secret to failure.

As a kid, I read Edison’s story where he was trying to figure out what works as a filament. He tried with every damn thing, but it didn’t work out. When someone asked about his failures, he said, “I discovered a thousand ways that don’t work.”

When you know what it takes to fail, you’ll know the other side of the coin too. That’s the easiest approach.

I discovered the secret to failure when I was in high school. There’s this master-chef competition where we have to experiment our recipes on teachers. It’s kind of a revenge game.

Well, nobody likes to be bad. We were trying our best at cooking.

Let me be frank: I wasn’t prepared. But to me, the easiest of all is a sandwich. Maybe that’s a misconception, but my perception of a sandwich, at that point of life is stuff between two bread loaves. That stuff can be anything leftover in the refrigerator.

My friends were trying North Indian, Mexican, Italian recipes. It’s de-motivating. But then I found someone who was trying a sandwich too. But he took all measures so that I don’t steal his recipe.

I was worried. Inferior. I was loitering in the school balconies.

As I was walking through a staff room, I heard the judges. They were three of them. One of them said, “I’m really looking out for lots of mayonnaise.” The other said, “I’m waiting for chocolate recipes. Nothing beats sweetness.” And the third one said, “Nah. Fast food is my favorite. I somehow like that flavor of soy sauce.”

That was a hint to me. More than a hint. I got a peek into their tastes, so I felt my job is almost done.

The time limit was for one hour and I chopped stuff—tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce. I was staring at my friends sandwich which looked pathetic. There isn’t much stuff. He was just grilling bread loaves with butter.

The competition is done. And you know, none of them could actually complete their cooking. It was just three and I’m one of it. The other sandwich guy is done too. And noodles were another option. It looked over-cooked, anyway.

I was super confident until the judges took a bite. To my surprise, their faces showed different colors as they chewed. “What did you put in it?” all three asked with one voice.

I explained that I added stuff with mayonnaise, Hershey’s choco spread and soy sauce.

“It tastes disgusting,” they said without any hesitation.

I wished I could jump off a cliff, that minute.

“But why?” I asked.

“Why did you add soy sauce and chocolate?”

“I thought you’d like it,” I said.

“But, No. You don’t do that with a sandwich,” they left with a sympathetic glance.

I failed. Just like they can’t digest my sandwich, I couldn’t digest my defeat. Unexpectedly, my friend’s sandwich was applauded. He’s on the winners list.

I walked to him and asked innocently, “What did you put in it?”

“Just stuff with some cheese. And I grilled it.”

“Mayonnaise, chocolate and soy sauce?”

“Dude, but why? I just added what a sandwich needs.

He’s right. He didn’t satisfy the judges’ personal favorites. He just did what has to be done.

I realized that the secret to my failure was that I was trying to please all the judges. I was trying to make something they love and it was a disaster. I never thought how the sandwich would taste or what actually does a sandwich need. It was all simple. But I messed up.

I’m not sure what it takes to succeed, but that day I realized what it takes to fail. It’s easy to learn failure.

Whatever you are doing, do it in a way it has to be done. I’m sure we cannot please everyone. Because everyone has their own taste and if we try to add all their favorites, you’ll end up making a disgusting sandwich, just like I did.

There are always people whom you cannot satisfy. It’s a simple fact that people’s tastes are different. Some like soy sauce. Some like chocolate. How can you satisfy both of them simultaneously? It’s impossible.

Whatever you do, you face comments. But that’s just one side of the coin.

The other side is, whatever you do, someone will love it.

If what you doing don’t satisfy someone, it means you are exhibiting to the wrong audience. There’s a place for every one of us. The world is bigger than we think.

Understanding failure is simple—stop pleasing everyone. Once you get that, you’re already halfway to success.

Everything in life has a recipe. Just do it the way it has to be done. Not more. Not less. That’s all you need to know. For god’s sake, next time when you make a sandwich, don’t add mayonnaise, soy, and chocolate.


I & Pearl Store – How to be different

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Who doesn’t want to stand out from the crowd?
Everybody wants to be different, wants to be unique. I too. But I had no idea what makes someone different from others until I visited a Pearl Store.

Last evening, I hung out on a beach with my girlfriend. We were walking by the tiny stores on the way to beach. There’s a Pearl Store—the busiest of all. She rushed in to buy pearls. I wasn’t really interested, though.

I was standing in the store like one of those mannequins, staring at the crowd and the pearls on desk. They were two bowls on the desk, one of which had hundreds of pearls—round, white and equally glittering. The other bowl had just a dozen pearls—different in shapes, different in colors. I was fascinated by the second bowl, and so was everyone. How are they different? I asked the shopkeeper. He smiled as a reply.

I didn’t get his smile. The price of those different pearls was twice. And it had the attention it deserved.

Unique things attract, and isn’t that why we all want to be different? After all, the unquenchable thirst of everyone is to be recognized, is to be identified and appreciated. And that cannot happen when we are one among the crowd. It only happens when we stand out.
I just wanted to be like the pearls in second bowl. I asked the shopkeeper again, How are they different? He returned the same smile as if he’s hiding a secret.
He asked, “Are you buying them?”
I nodded, “No,” and stepped back as if-if I’m not buying them, I don’t have the right to know the secret.

The shopping is done. She bought two of those different pearls and we walked out. I held one of those and examined it. It wasn’t perfectly round and white. It had a shade of deep blue and orange blended on surface. It was much of an oval. Beautiful!

My curiosity was still up when I found the shopkeeper shutting his store. One last time, I asked him the same question. “How are they different? Are you hiding any secret?”
“I’ll tell you if only you don’t exchange the pearls back.”
“Why would I? They are stunningly beautiful. Tell me what did you do to the pearls in second bowl?”
“Well, it’s simple. I didn’t do anything with those. But I’ve polished the pearls in first bowl. The second bowl pearls were just crude and unpolished.”
“But this unique shape, unique colors?”
He laughed, “Haven’t you seen pearls before? That’s how you get them. We polish, coat, and cut them into same size and same color. Else, every pearl will be unique.”

He walked away laughing at my ignorance. What came startlingly was the fact that he didn’t do anything for those second bowl pearls to look beautiful. In fact, he damaged every unique pearl to make them look same.
Nothing made those pearls look different. They were different, in the first case. The efforts were made to look same.

Isn’t it the same story with all of us? We try to be different forgetting the fact that we are already different. All we have to do is to stop being same. You might have read or listened to people say Be yourself, because you are intrinsically different, just like an original pearl.

But we got things wrong. We thought it would take many efforts for us to be different. We were struggling to stand out. But that will never happen.

Efforts are needed for you to become similar, to fit in the crowd. When you stop putting those efforts and realize that you are already what you’re trying to be… that’s it.

The shopkeeper was smiling because my question was foolish. He didn’t do anything with pearls in second bowl, but it appears as if he’s done something to make them beautiful. Because we still believe we can achieve beauty. We can only achieve ugliness. What’s there first, is always beautiful.

He had no idea what impact did his little bowls of pearls had on me.
He unknowingly taught me:

The best way to be different is—not to be the same.


Have you read Monday Motive #2 What you can do?
No? Read on to unleash your potential.