Radical Introspection

Monday, January 21, 2013

The New York Times recently ran an article about the power of what the authors call "self-awareness" or "brutal self-assessment", and argue that this is the "missing ingredient" of success. The article provides three similar examples to make its case, such as the following:

[Celebrity restauranteur David] Chang could have blamed someone else for his troubles, or worked harder (though available evidence suggests that might not have been possible) or he could have made minor tweaks to the menu. Instead he looked inward and subjected himself to brutal self-assessment.

Was the humble noodle bar of his dreams economically viable? Sure, a traditional noodle dish had its charm but wouldn't work as the mainstay of a restaurant if he hoped to pay his bills.

Mr. Chang changed course. Rather than worry about what a noodle bar should serve, he and his cooks stalked the produce at the greenmarket for inspiration. Then they went back to the kitchen and cooked as if it was their last meal, crowding the menu with wild combinations of dishes they'd want to eat -- tripe and sweetbreads, headcheese and flavor-packed culinary mashups like a Korean-style burrito. What happened next Mr. Chang still considers "kind of ridiculous" -- the crowds came, rave reviews piled up, awards followed and unimaginable opportunities presented themselves.
Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield appear to be on to something, and they have a book on the subject forthcoming.

One thing I'd be interested in learning from such a book is the following: Everyone faces major obstacles, but not every success story features such dramatic turnarounds as David Chang's. Might this be because some "superachievers" learn how to introspect more effectively than most early on, whereas others, such as David Chang, took longer to catch on or had to acquire that skill? I would also like to know whether the authors have suggestions as to how to conduct such an assessment.

-- CAV

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