I would go so far as to say that if you don’t really care about what you’re doing, it’s not only never going to be great, it’s probably not even going to be good. And let’s be clear: by not caring, you’re sending a clear signal that no one else should care either.
I see this play out everywhere and it’s simply maddening. Food is a great example. If you’re eating at a restaurant, it’s going to fall into one of three categories: franchise restaurants, corporate food, or a sole proprietorship.
In franchise restaurants (e.g. McDonald’s, etc), the experience has been standardized completely – the whole point of eating in a place like this is that you know exactly what you’re getting; it’s going to be the same every time no matter where you are in the world (well, almost). Greatness doesn’t even factor into the equation. It’s about the reassurance of dependability.
With corporate food (think catering at a Hilton wedding), the meal is being prepared exactly as outlined by whatever faceless institutional committee designed the menu. Ingredients come from corporate suppliers with an eye towards maximizing profit and everything is done on an industrial scale. There will be some variation, but it pretty much is what it is, which is to say it will never be great. Think industrial kitchens – the only difference between hotel and prison food is the ingredients, and they might not be as different as you might think.
So that leaves us with sole proprietorships – the mom and pop restaurants that you’ll still find in most towns and neighborhoods (BTW – I’m including the ultra high end Michelin star restaurants in this category – right along with the food trucks). This is the last bastion of potential greatness, which makes it all the more tragic when you find one that’s just phoning it in.
These are the restaurants that have the potential to create sublime food, primarily because they fucking care. They care, of course, partly because their business depends on it, but also because they take pride in what they do, and gain pleasure from knowing they are doing something well that serves their community. When you eat at a place like this, it’s often a meal you will remember – and sometimes it sets the bar for greatness. Places like this are the reason we go out.
But I’m not just talking about restaurants here – this idea is relevant to everything.
Either do something with 100% effort, or don’t fucking bother doing it at all. It’s your only chance to be great. And here’s another tip – people are watching everything you do, not because they give a shit about you, but because they want to know what kind of person you are in case things go south. They want to see what you’re made of.
Everything you do defines who you are.