Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why Gordon Ramsay is My Hero

Gordon Ramsay is my new hero. Not the nasty, petulant, downright mean Gordon Ramsay of "Hell's Kitchen." That's a horrible show and not his best career decision. Sorry, Gordon, your agent steered you wrong on that one.

I'm talking about the Gordon Ramsay of "Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares," the BBC America version, to be exact. By now, most people have seen the Americanized version on Fox, but the original BBC show is tops. It's a brilliant show: world renowned chef Gordon Ramsay spends a week at a failing restaurant helping the owner turn it into a success. These are desperately failing establishments, their owners tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because they are in over their heads in a business they know nothing about and can’t see any way out.

Enter Gordon Ramsay. In a matter of minutes, he pinpoints all the problems—the first of which is always horrible food. How can a restaurant be successful when its sole product is terrible? The food is always followed by bad management on the part of the owner, an unmotivated staff, poor marketing and usually one or two bad apples on staff that threaten to bring the whole place down.

The fascinating part of every show is watching Gordon handle the psychology behind all of these moving parts. Because people are so resistant to change—even if not changing the menu in their restaurant means they could lose their home—Gordon must come on strong, yelling and swearing right in their faces. They hate Gordon for saying their food is terrible—for saying it tastes like "baby sick." At one restaurant, he ran to the bathroom to throw up after a few bites of the main course. And while their restaurant sits empty and they sink deeper and deeper into debt, and while they tell the camera that they are desperate and need to do something to save their business or it will fold, they then turn around and tell Gordon he's wrong, their food is perfectly good and they get great feedback from their customers, the ones who do come in to eat, that is.

This is the human being's natural response to change. We hate it. Even when we know it will be the best thing for us. Even when we want to change, we have a natural aversion to it and resist it with all of our strength.

Gordon deals with this human aversion to change in a way that makes for great drama. He pushes people to the brink until, falling flat on their asses, they can come to terms with their own folly. Only then can they pick themselves up and begin to change. Not everyone does, and a lot of people revert back to their old ways. Change is slow and fleeting. But they mostly all love him by the end of the show.

Another thing I love about Gordon: He seeks out the hidden talent. He looks for the quiet person lurking in the background and see what he or she can do. He gives that person confidence in their abilities and lights a fire in them. It's an admirable quality and a pleasure to watch Gordon bring out the best in these hidden gems.

One other reason Gordon Ramsay is my hero: He is passionate about everything he does. All of that yelling and swearing—it's because he cares about what he's doing, and he cares about the people he's trying to help. He coaches people, and in the best sense of the word "coach," striving to bring out the best in everything—people, his restaurants, the food he prepares. It's part of the reason he's so fun to watch on television. This passion, it makes Gordon Ramsay a truly magnetic personality.

So, thanks, Gordon, for being my hero.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

You're a genius! What, no one told you?

According to this article by Brian Tracy,, you are a genius. You just need to practice the skills of creative thinking.

A lot of what he says here makes sense. As a writer, I especially identify with Thomas Edison's famous quote about invention being one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I know from experience that the idea plays an important, but small part in the writing process. The writing is the real work. My current manuscript has taken more than three years to write.

This article is definitely worth the read. You'll find some helpful tips about how to think creatively in all areas of your life.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Meet Jinson Joseph

I am of that generation who grew up without computers and entered the working world with them. E-mail and the Internet came on the scene while I was in college, and so I am still amazed at how people separated by hundreds of thousands of miles can connect to each other through the Web.

It boggled my mind, for example, to learn that my little blog written in my little room in my little house in my little town in New England had struck a chord with Jinson Joseph—halfway around the world in India. Jinson Joseph is an artist, and I encourage you to visit his blog and look at his beautiful paintings:

Jinson Joseph is a teacher in Hyderabad, India, but pursues his passion of painting after work, just like I pursue my passion for writing at the end of the work day. He had been preparing for an exhibit of his work on February 16. Jinson Joseph, please let us know how your show went. I hope it was a great success!

What artistic endeavors are you pursuing when your workday ends? Share your story in the comments section, or e-mail me and I'll share your blog address, too.