Hainanese Chicken Rice | http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/306309515/

Learning from Gordon Ramsay

The big news in town is that Gordon Ramsay has challenged a few of Singapore’s top hawkers (traditional street-food vendors) to a cook-off. He was seen at Maxwell Market this afternoon learning the recipe to every Singaporeans’ favourite dish: Chicken Rice.

We’re extremely proud of our food, and while it is easy to get caught up in the hype of having our cuisine challenged, Ramsay’s interview teaches us some very useful tips to getting and staying on top of your game.

Never Stop Learning

Gordon Ramsay is one of the most accomplished chefs in the world. He has published books, owns numerous award-winning restaurants worldwide, and is the star of several television shows. He believes that everyone needs to keep learning, and states that top chefs, or the best folks in any profession for that matter, constantly seek out new knowledge.

Be Respectful

We have become so used to WWE-style confrontations where everyone talks smack, so we were caught by surprise when Ramsay showed a lot of humility on the interview. Where many would assume that a restaurant making millions would be considered more successful than a stall in a hawker center, Ramsay sees success differently. He identifies that Tien Tien has something special going because of the never-ending line of customers they serve every day.

His ability to view other people’s success and his humility in according them the due respect opens up learning opportunities for his highly-inquisitive mind.

Ramsay is also not afraid of adopting different strategies to win. He clearly said that he wouldn’t be reinventing Chicken Rice for the Chicken Rice challenge - he would be improving, rather than reinventing the wheel (often disguised as an effort at innovation).

Work Hard

“When you guys are at home sleeping, I’ll be in the kitchen practising.”

Unless we see understand how much work goes into getting and staying on top, we will always subscribe to the fallacy that success comes through innate qualities like talent, or uncontrollable environmental factors like luck. Sure, those come into play, but sheer hard work is an absolutely necessary prerequisite to being the best.

Top athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods worked harder than just about anyone else. They never took success for granted.

Pressure is Good

There is every chance than Ramsay might lose this challenge. But as he says on the interview, “The more people who expect to see me lose, the better I become.”

He places himself out there because he understands that losing a challenge isn’t losing. Losing is being lazy; not constantly improving; paralysis due to a fear of failure. Putting pressure on oneself forces innovation. Going from challenge to challenge helps us gain experience and knowledge.

As with the zombie apocalypse, staying still will cost you.

Share What You Learn

Ramsay is always teaching. He shared about what he learned from Tien Tien Chicken Rice. Conventional wisdom dictates that you lock new knowledge up behind proprietary laws or obfuscation. Sharing what you learn goes against one’s survival instincts.

But sharing what you know has many, many benefits:

It sharpens what you know. Having to share and teach, you get more acquainted with your knowledge and you gain clarity when being forced to articulate it to another person.

It forces you to move on. Because you’ve just given up your advantage, you’re always on the look out for new angles and new means to stay ahead.

It makes people like you better. This point is terribly underrated, but its importance cannot be overstated. People who share come across as more approachable; and others are much more likely to want them to succeed. Sharing knowledge creates an economy where good ideas are exchanged and made better. Everyone wins, and likeable people win more.

Add Your Own Flavour

At the end of the interview, Ramsay tastefully sneaked in one of his trademark expletives. That little twist defines his public persona: while he is learning from us, he is not entirely a chameleon. He adds his own unique signature.

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