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.