Can I have a recipe please?

by Simon Goland, January 25, 2010

Today’s Reflection is about recipes, in all areas of our lives.

In one of the courses I am currently co-teaching, one of the assigned readings is “Conscious Business” by Fred Kofman. I read this book a while back, and remember my initial excitement browsing through the first few chapters of setting the context to bringing consciousness to the business arena. Finally, I thought, someone is talking about a topic that has been taboo for such a long time. Consciousness. In business. In print. For the world to see. Yes!

“I learned that happiness and fulfillment do not come from pleasure but from meaning, from the pursuit of a noble purpose.” – Fred Kofman

Later, while reading more thoroughly the rest of the book, I was actually quite disappointed. I will come back to this point. Soon. But first, a few steps back.

Two lifetimes ago, when I was deeply immersed in the fascinating world of computers and programming, there was a particular category of books I had a real problem with. “How to become a Java Guru in 21 days” or “Masterful Database Administrator in 1 week” or whatever promises a concrete and tangible recipe, even in the tangible and concrete area of computer programming. Every science can become art, at a mastery level. The promise to reach a level of art by following several prescribed steps is an illusion that our culture has elevated to a beyond-ridiculous level. One example is an ad I keep seeing in various magazines, selling a set of meditation CDs, which promise you to “learn to meditate like a Buddhist monk” – over a weekend. Pahhh-leaseeee…

I think our culture is pushing this concept of “here is a how-to recipe” everywhere, more and more. That Conscious Business book ended up providing a semi-recipe, by way of principles, for a lack of a better word. Inspiring concept and direction, and valuable and provoking writing, yet of a recipe flavour nevertheless. Teaching leadership is another example of a flood of books, models, and frameworks that promise an Enlightened, Servant, Level 5, or any other terminology-related process of reaching the leadership nirvana. Perhaps it is because we have so much going on right now in our lives that we really cannot spend any time actually thinking about a topic, struggling with it, being in the unknown mystery and the messy chaos. Who has time? If someone comes along and simply gives me the answer, or several “guaranteed” steps that will get me there, I am on board. Got it. Check. And on to the next thing.

“Moments of dynamic quality, moments with the potential to move our very souls, are all around us. Though unpredictable, they require only one thing from us in order for us to experience them: We must be available. Because it resides in your response, dynamic quality is everywhere you are, if you are open to the experience, willing to seek it out, interested and alert to what is happening within and beyond yourself. In life, you must be present to win.” – anonymous

You know, it is a funny thing really. In high school, we spent time reading various poems and spending countless useless hours (according to me then) trying to guess what the author might have meant. Yet, we explored possibilities, engaged our imagination, and actually engaged with the poem in a deep and meaningful way. Now, I am actually thinking that when I teach, these are the kinds of books I want to bring into the classroom more. It will be of a form that students will have to struggle with and through, explore the different learnings and lessons, extract ideas and concepts that are relevant to their own leadership, and figure out ways they can implement such learning process in the various areas of their lives. I think I am actually doing my students a major disservice by feeding them pre-digested tidbits of recipe ingredients.

Now, if I could only find a book to teach me how to do it… 😉

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.