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What does cooking and food have to do with leadership and life? For executive chef, Culinary Olympics gold medalist, and author of The Recipe: A Story of Love, Loss and the Ingredients of Greatness Charles Carroll, the answer is: everything. In today’s episode of the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay, Charles shares his seven rules of the kitchen (and specifically how they apply to life and leadership), the three things you need to do as a leader to make your team succeed, as well as a deceptively simple tip that he says is actually the biggest secret of his success! Listen to be enlightened, entertained, and inspired (and don’t forget to subscribe and share!)
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
- What’s Charles’ rule number 1 of the kitchen? And how does the rule also apply to life in general? (7:00)
- What about rule number 2? (7:34)
- Why it’s so important to pay attention to the “little things” (8:50)
- Halelly takes an extreme example from the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi and contrasts it with the other extreme of how a lot of people are today to support Charles’ rule number 3 (9:46)
- What’s one of the biggest successes Charles has had as a leader? (11:06)
- Charles explains the importance of painting a picture of success for your team (11:50)
- What does Charles mean by “get on the porch”? (12:30)
- Charles explains an interesting leadership practice of his: employee sit-downs (13:39)
- What’s rule number 4 of the kitchen? (hint: it relates to the phrase, “if you try to control what you can’t control, you’re out of control”) (14:40)
- Charles shares what he thinks is an “awesome comment” from NBA star Stephen Curry (it’s related to his rule number 4) (15:30)
- As a leader, what can’t you be threatened by? (you need to embrace it) (16:20)
- Rule number 6 (it has to do with committing yourself to a certain something) (16:37)
- What’s the last (number 7) rule of the kitchen? (17:10)
- Charles shares a story about a leadership mistake he made—and gives a piece of advice for other leaders so that they can avoid making it themselves (19:44)
- Charles’ 3 simple steps for leading a successful team (good stuff here!) (23:54)
- Movie interest, children’s books, and celebrity reality shows (good on you, Charles!) (25:10)
- What’s Charles’s actionable tip? He says it’s his “biggest secret” (it might sound simple, but we agree that it’s incredibly powerful) (27:36)
- What did Charles learn while cooking for the soldiers in Afghanistan? (29:08)
- Charles uses some powerful examples to further concretize his actionable tip (30:16)
- “WIN”: Charles’ advice to people who feel overwhelmed (34:03)
- Pre-order Charles’ book: The Recipe: A Story of Love, Loss and the Ingredients of Greatness
- Check out Charles’ website
- Get Charles' other book, Leadership Lessons from a Chef: Finding Time to Be Great
- Find out more about Charles’ co-author, John David Mann
- Follow Charles on Twitter
- Charles’ Facebook page
- Here’s that documentary Halelly was talking about: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
- Check out the TalentGrow Show on C-Suite Radio
- Like the Facebook page of The TalentGrow Show!
- Join the Facebook group – The TalentGrowers Community! Share your advice, your progress, your successes and your challenges and questions. Interact with other listeners and with me. Let’s support each other in becoming the kind of leader that people *want* to follow!
- Download the 10 Mistakes Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them free tool
- Intro/outro music for The TalentGrow Show: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians, and good friends of mine
ABOUT CHARLES CARROLL:
Award winning author of Leadership Lessons From A Chef: Finding Time To Be Great and Tasting Success: Your Guide to Becoming a Professional Chef, Chef Carroll is currently the Executive Chef of River Oaks Country Club, in Houston Texas. River Oaks Country Club enjoys the reputation of being rated the number four Country Club in the United States. The Club has 1500 members and 61 culinary team members.
Charles is a 1985 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He served as a Coach for the 2008 United States Culinary Olympic National Team, his seventh Olympic Team. Other teams have included 2004 Manager of the United States Regional Team which captured third in the world and the best in the world Category B, Team USA 2000 national team which received 4 gold and one silver in the world Culinary Olympics held in Germany, ACF New England Olympic Team in 1988, which won more gold than any other regional team; Team USA Northeast 1992, which placed number two in the world; Team USA National 1993, Basel Switzerland, which placed third in the world; and was Manager of Team USA National Apprentice Team, which placed number two in the Taste of Canada Competition.
Charles has received over seventy national and international awards, including chapter Chef of the Year in 1988, 2005 and the American Culinary Federation President’s Medallion four times from four decades, 1989, 1999, 2005 and 2014. Chef Carroll serves as President to the Board of Trusties of the LeNotre Culinary Institute and Secretary Treasurer of the Les Amis d’ Escoffier Society Houston. In 2008 Chef Carroll was appointed chairman of ACF certification appeals committee and in 2010 has been appointed chairman of the World Association of Chef’s Society (WACS) world congress to be held in the year of 2012 in Daejeon, Korea and Norway 2014. He currently serves as Vice President of WACS, World Chefs, an organization that encompasses over 10 million chefs and 100 countries.
Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.
Halelly: Hey, hey, welcome back. This is Halelly Azulay, I’m your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow and this is yet another episode of the TalentGrow Show, but this time we have a pretty unique guest in that he doesn’t fit the mold of most of the guests that we’ve had on this show. Most of them are kind of in the business world, but this guest, a world-renowned executive chef, Charles Carroll. And he shares with you the seven rules of the kitchen and how specifically they completely convey to life and to leadership. He also shares three things that you need to do as a leader to make sure that your team succeeds, and a really simple, deceptively-simple tip, that he says is actually the biggest secret of his success. And I have to give you a little confession – while I always try to keep these interview shows to 30 minutes or so, I allowed this show to go a little bit longer and that’s because right as we were wrapping up, all this goodness started coming out. All of these just wise, golden nuggets that Chef Charles was sharing that I could not stop. I really wanted to make sure you heard them, because there is so much goodness in there.
I think you’re going to love the whole episode, but make sure you stay tuned all the way until the end and I do have a challenge for you. As you’re listening, I want you to think who specifically do you know that’s going to absolutely gobble up this episode? Who is the perfect person who needs to hear this one? I know there is someone, either that you work with or who works for you or that you’re friends with or that you know from your family or from your extracurricular activities that you think will be the perfect fit to listen to this specific episode. And then, when you finish listening and if you agree that it was a great one, send it to them – email it to them, text them, whatever – so that they can listen too, okay? That’s my challenge to you and I would love to hear about this. So, let me know too. But most importantly, I hope that you enjoy it and here we go, Chef Charles Carroll.
Hey there, Talent Growers. I am happy to have you meet today’s guest, Chef Charles Carroll. He is the executive chef of the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas. He has a unique perspective on success, on greatness, on leadership and on what makes amazing teams. And this is not your typical TalentGrow Show guest, because he is usually thinking about and working in kitchens. But, he has such a unique perspective. First of all, he has been a Culinary Olympics gold medalist since the age of 24. He’s participated in eight different Olympics over three decades. He’s Executive Chef at one of the highest-rated country clubs in the nation. He manages and mentors a team of 75 in six kitchens and three restaurants, putting on 80 to 100 banquet functions per week. And he maintains an incredible sense of family spirit and team morale in the process, so we want to try and get leadership lessons from Chef Charles Carroll. Chef, welcome to the show.
Charles: Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Happy to be here.
Halelly: I’m really happy that you’ve come along, and one of the main reasons that I’ve come across your work is your latest book, which we will also talk about. It’s called The Recipe: A Story of Loss, Love and the Ingredients of Greatness. But before we do that, I always ask my guests to briefly describe your whole professional journey. Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?
Charles: I think you did a good job with that already, but I grew up in a country inn in Vermont, which my mom and dad owned, and I went to the Culinary Institute of America for culinary school and I spent 13 years at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, where I kind of climbed the ladder, eventually through sous chef and executive chef. Went on to New York for four years at Oak Hill Country Club, and now I’m here in Houston, at River Oaks Country Club. Along the way did a lot of competitions all over the world and a lot of people don’t realize there actually is a World Culinary Olympics and it involves a lot of teams representing the United States of America, which is pretty special, so I don't think I’d be here today without that. I guess that’s in a quick nutshell.
Halelly: I certainly did not know there were culinary Olympics, that’s pretty cool. Let’s think for a minute about this new book. First of all, it’s co-authored with John David Mann, who is a co-author of a few other books that are written in a parable format, and this one is like that as well. And so I read it, it’s really an easy read and it has a lot of lessons that you say are the ingredients of greatness. So, break that down for us. What do you mean by that?
Charles: Even the title is fun, The Recipe, you know? When I first started writing the concept of the story seven years ago, I wanted it to be a book that you would see everywhere – at the airport, in Barnes and Noble, everywhere. Hopefully it would intrigue the foodie right away, and pick it up and then you realize that each chapter has a life lesson or the mentoring of this chef and a young boy, and each chapter they cook something together, which immediately, usually, when I describe that to people, they’re like, “How cool is that idea?” There are so many lessons in food that you could easily tie to life lessons, having patience and waiting for a vegetable to be perfect before you harvest it, or not wasting any product. There are so many lessons in food that you’re easily able to compare to life. So, we really allow the reader to use their imagination in so many ways. You mentioned the rules for living or the chef’s rules in the kitchen. They’re all carefully tied and it allows the reader to kind of go on their own journey.
Halelly: Let’s talk about that. So, the book cover is seven rules. And they are the rules of the kitchen, but then they are sort of conveyed over to how they can also be rules for life. So, really, I hope that everybody goes out and gets a copy of your book, but just briefly, if you could give us the lowdown of these seven rules? And then maybe because of the angle of the TalentGrow Show is very much on developing leaders, which of these rules do you think particularly apply to leaders?
Charles: Let’s start with the kitchen. I have 75 employees and it’s amazing that sometimes you have to remind people, you’ve got to taste everything. That’s rule number one. Taste everything. Food changes as it sits longer, as it cooks longer as it’s chilled down longer. Food has so many different dynamics, so we ask all our chefs to taste everything all the time. I guess I should compare that now over to the rule of life. You have to kind of savor every moment, you see what I mean? Kind of a comparison in that. And then rule number two in the kitchen would be improve every dish that you touch, because you mentioned how busy we are here at the club. A lot of times you can find people just punching in and going 100 miles an hour, just to get the food out. Just do whatever you can, don’t be late and get the food out. So we don’t really want our people working that way. We want them to slow down a little bit and you get the recipe in front of you, but that’s a guideline. That’s a guideline for what you have to do today. We want you to take, because the products that come, the onion that you taste today may taste different tomorrow. The tomato that you had today is going to taste different tomorrow. So you taste everything, and once you get that recipe, you get that dish, you improve on it. So you have to stop and smell and touch and taste and see what you can do to make that dish a little bit better. In life, you want to try to take that practice in everything that you do.
So that’s how we make this play between while they’re talking in the kitchen, the young boy is mentored by kind of a crusty old military chef, and he kind of relates those kitchen rules to life. And that’s where Owen comes up with his own rules of living. I guess you can go to the next one, pay attention to all the little things. You know, as a young chef coming up through the ranks, many times in competition, everybody wants to go do the show piece but they don’t want to take the necessary steps to be successful. They just want to go immediately to the gold medal, immediately to the fun stuff, immediately to the centerpieces because that’s fun and that’s the biggest show. But you really have to slow down and be willing to take all the steps that you need to build a really solid foundation. That’s true to anybody or to anything in life. And I think that a lot of the leaders listening to today’s podcast probably are experiencing the same thing. You get the younger person, fresh out of college, and they immediately want to be successful, immediately want the corner office, but you have to earn that and you have to gain the experience. One thing this generation can’t do, you can’t click around experience.
Halelly: It reminds me, I don’t know if you’ve watched the documentary, I think it’s called Jiro Dreams of Sushi? And it’s about, it’s very interesting, a Japanese Sushi Chef. I hope I’m not mangling it, I’ll put the correct link in the show notes if anybody is curious. I watched it because my son is a foodie, so he turned me on, and he loves sushi and Japanese food in general. He turned me onto this and this is one of the best sushi chefs in the world, but he explains that anybody that comes to his kitchen has to do prep for 10 years or something like that, before they can even put a dish in front of a customer. And that seemed so excessive when we think about that, and to reflect on what you just said about people coming in and they’re so impatient. They don’t really want to put in the time to do what maybe seems like grunt work, but I agree that a lot of times when you do something that is not very glamorous and it seems very repetitive, it teaches you foundational skills that help you then be able to go above and beyond and maybe be more intuitive or in the moment. You’re building your intuition through practice and experience.
Charles: There’s absolutely not question. And as leaders today, we have to be very careful to recognize that and also to put our people in positions where they can be successful. And one of the biggest successes I’ve had in that – getting off the book a little bit – is that as a leader, in my case a chef, it’s my job to make sure I paint the picture for all my employees, all my young people, about where they are right now and then find out what their goals are and how can I help them reach those goals? I have a particular reputation here in the United States and across the world, and the club has a fantastic reputation in the United States, and my background has a pretty good reputation. So, if you put those three things together, and you are really successful here at this club, and the amount of volume that we do at this club, then you are going to be pretty darn successful if you take these steps. My job is to help paint that picture for them. This is where you are now, these steps that you’re taking to get on the porch are investment steps for you, and at the end of the day, at the end of the tunnel, I can paint how successful you will be if you’re willing to do whatever it takes. It’s easy to paint that picture, but I think a lot of times, what happens in today’s businesses, you jump in and just go in there and you don’t have – I don’t want to say in a lot of cases – but we’re so busy that there are not a lot of people that stop and then help mentor these young people and put a hand on their shoulder and say, “Hey, I see this for you.”
Halelly: That’s great advice. You said something, “Get on the porch,” what do you mean by that?
Charles: Well, you know, I kind of use that analogy, but you have to, if you want to get on the porch, you have to take three or four steps to get up on the porch. You can’t just jump. A lot of today’s generation just wants, they don’t want to have to take the steps. They want to jump. They don’t want to do the actual two, three, four, five years of work. They don’t want to take the escalator. They want to get on the elevator. Just get on there, push a button and let’s go. You just can’t Google around or punch around or use the computer to get you experience. It’s just not going to happen.
Halelly: Got you. You can’t shortcut that. What I’m hearing you say is if you give people a great vision of what’s possible for them, and then get curious about what specifically are their aspirations and then help mentor them along the way, it sounds like that’s how you can help people not be so impatient as they’re working with you? Is there more to it?
Charles: No, that’s it. I guess there is one other step – we’ve kind of formulated that a little bit more. I mentioned one of my other books called Leadership Lessons from a Chef, and there’s a lot of lessons in there. One of them, to take that step further, I have what we call sit-downs with a lot of my to employees, or all my employees at some point or another, and that’s to sit down with them for 30 or 40 minutes, uninterrupted, talk about their life, what they’re doing, where they’re going, how their family is and what are their hobbies, where do they seem themselves in three to five years? Because how often do we do that? So if you schedule these sit-downs, then the employees are looking in the office and say, “Hey, who is in there now? What do I have to do to get that meeting, one-on-one with the chef?” It helps everybody grow. As you do that, you have these opportunities to help paint that picture for them. So everyone’s eyeballs are wide open. It’s about investing your time with your people and formulating that into a plan.
Halelly: Love it. I think we’ve covered three of the rules? So what’s the fourth?
Charles: Compose your space. Kind of control your environment that you’re in, because you can only control what you control. If you try to control what you can’t control, you’re out of control. Everyone has heard that kind of saying, and so while you’re jumping these, taking these steps, trying to be successful in whatever business you’re in, just worry about you right now, and your space. And the same goes in a life rules, really. You want to put all your efforts into controlling the sail and not the wind. You can’t control the wind. But you can react to the wind. That’s what you want to try and keep focused on. Just worry about you.
There was an interesting saying I heard Seth Curry, that plays for the Warriors, there was an interview – this may be off track – but when they were bringing Durant onto the team and some of the press was trying to get his juices flowing. “This guy is getting paid more than you are, and do you have a problem with that? You’re the star of the team. What do you think about all of this?” The awesome comment, that I thought, that he came out with was, “My daddy told me a long time ago, never count somebody else’s money.” Never count another man’s money. I thought that was a really mature, well-put comment. Just worry about you right now. And where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. I kind of like that. SO that’s number four.
Build your team, you’re only as good as your team. I have 75 people here and as a leader out there, you can’t be afraid to hire somebody more talented than you are. You can’t be afraid to hire somebody that is a really great thinker. You can be threatened by these things. You should embrace them. The better your team is, the better you are. That’s important, number five, and then number six, commit to excellence. There’s a lot of people that when taking those steps, whether they want, they want to just take the step and maybe not be as thorough as they could be. You can do something excellent today but are you going to do something excellent tomorrow? Is it going to be a habit for you? Is it going to be a way of life? You have to commit to it and of course getting into life, you never compromise your standards. So it’s kind of like what you do when the lights are off or when no one is looking, kind of that concept.
Then number seven is to cook with honor. Care about the food. Respect where it has come from. Respect the people that planted the seed and if everybody thought for a second how much work it took to get that carrot onto your cutting board, you probably would treat it a little bit differently. That’s the same thing in life. You live with honor and you treat everybody around you with respect. That’s why we had so much fun with the book, The Recipe, and in cooking and food and how we work in a kitchen, it relates so well to life. It was great fun.
Halelly: It does sound like fun, and it is a really nice way to read it, in that format and in the story, because you get kind of two for the price of one. You get an interesting story, but you also get to learn all of these lessons and see them come to life. So, thank you for coming up with that and for sharing it with the world. Share with us a story, I think, speaking of stories, you have a very exceptional career and have been a leader for a very long time, so I know that there are probably plenty of stories in your bag of stories of times when you realized you were making a mistake as a leader? And if you could think of one such story, like what was a mistake you were making, a leadership type of mistake? How did you become aware of it and then what did you change as a result of it to improve your leadership?
Charles: I think earlier on, when I became executive chef at the Balsams Resort at age 27 or 28, which is on the younger side I think for such a large resort, and I had to kind of hunt and peck and kind of feel and read who my mentors were, as opposed to a lot of really great hands-on experience. But as you’re growing and climbing, you’re climbing as an individual. You’re climbing as an employee that wants to excel, that wants to do better, and wants to be a manager one day, wants to be an executive one day. All the sudden, one day you’ve reached that plateau and you’re up there and now you’re supposed to have all the answers. Now you’re that guy. Now you’re that person. But now you don’t think, you can’t think as an individual. You have to think as a team. So that’s a big lesson. Prepare yourself on leading teams. So I guess my lesson for this would be to listen really, really well. To be a really good listener.
One of the first challenges I had as a young chef, and that first couple of months into the job was an employee came to me with a situation and I was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that happened. I can’t believe what you’re saying, what you’re telling me. This is unbelievable. I need to go have a serious talk with this other employee that was involved.” So without listening to the other person’s side of the story, I immediately started disciplining this person in my own way and you can’t do this and without giving that person an opportunity to tell their side of the story. You have to, I’ll encourage everybody to practice to be really good listeners. Because there’s always two sides of the story, and just be patient and let the story play out. Also, in that particular situation, I would bring both of the employees into the office at the same time, because stories quickly change when you have the two people involved in the same office. So that would be one.
Quickly, another one on listening, when you’re in that executive meeting with 10, 12, 14 other managers/executives in a boardroom, listen as much as you can. Don’t be the first one to speak. Don’t be worried about getting everything that’s in your head out on the table. Don’t be concerned with being a chatterbox of the room. I would encourage you to do the opposite. I would sit in that executive board meeting and learn as much as you can from everybody who is in that room. And you’re going to have your chance to talk. You’re going to have your chance to add to the conversation, but chances are you’re going to learn a ton more if you keep your mouth shut and listen to everybody else, and then you can have that last word. You can have that educated response and a better response, had you not listened and tried to respond earlier in the conversation. The moral of the story is, be the best listener you can be. That’s what I would say.
Halelly: Love it. Very good. Well, so this has been a great lesson you’ve shared. What else can you share with us about building team morale? So that’s one of the things you take pride in. You said you have 75 employees and you’ve already shared a couple of techniques with us, but one of the things that I know you experience in the world of kitchen, which is also true in every corporate environment, every organizational environment I’ve ever heard of or seen, is people always feel like they don’t have enough time. Lots of times, when you’re called on to be a leader, you’re rarely just purely leading others and doing nothing else. You’re often, you have your hands in the food, right? To use your metaphor. So, how do you make time or what do you do to ensure that it doesn’t become an after thought or something that you just didn’t have time to do?
Charles: Yeah, I have a lot of answers to that, I guess. I try to relate it to the book, and in The Recipe, just to give you a little taste, so all your listeners go out and buy The Recipe! Because I don’t want to ruin the book for you, but in The Recipe, the boy loses his father at a very young age and he gets mad at life and mad at the world and the chief, this chef of a diner sees this and he pulls the boy in and starts mentoring him. So, getting to your question, in the book, the chef allows Owen to be himself. He allows Owen to see his own mistakes as they happen. He allows him to make the mistakes. He allows them to make decisions, to correct them. My point is, he allows Owen to become a man on his terms. He’s just simply pointing him in the right direction. And then later in the book, Owen becomes very successful.
So, relating that to the leadership world, it’s my job, you mentioned 80 to 100 parties a week and 75 employees, six kitchens, three restaurants, I can’t be everywhere at all times. I can’t control the wind everywhere. So, it’s your job to do a couple of things. Hire really good people and two, let them do their job. Three, do everything in your power to make sure that they have everything they need to be successful. Those three things. If you do those three things, they will be successful. But allow them, allow your people, your good people that you’ve hired, to run their own ship. It’s my job just to give them guidance. So we have sous chef meetings everything other Saturday and we talk about what’s going on in the club. We talk about everything that’s happening and standards. We talk about what’s happened in the past and where we’re going in the future. And if there’s any new policy that comes up, and then you allow your leaders go to out into your property, into your business, and be successful. It’s your job to stay ahead of them and help in the planning of the future of the property, but you’ve got to allow your sous chefs, if you will, to run their show, so get out of their way, don’t micromanage and let them be successful. That would be my biggest advice for them.
Halelly: Beautiful. So, we are getting to the point where we have to start wrapping up, and one of the last things we’ll do is you’ll share one very, very actionable tip. But before, what’s exciting on your horizon? What’s got your attention these days?
Charles: Well, I mean, The Recipe, we’re launching in October, but you know, we’re in a promotional period now, so we just finished eight short films which some of the recipes the chef cooks with Owen in the book, so it’s a beautiful, emotional story and it’s really great twists in it and so what we’ve done is we’ve picked eight of the recipes and John and I have cooked them in a kitchen and we’ve had a lot of fun. Then we banter back and forth about why that recipe was chosen and how Owen is working with a chef. We pull out all the great moments of the book, so we just finished filming those last weekend and we have some editing to do, so that’s going to keep us busy for the next six weeks. We’re also making a trailer for the book and we do have movie interests, believe it or not. We have the book in front of three different producers, so there’s some work going on with that.
Charles: And of course I have my real job and then I have another show that I’m working with right now called Celebrity Sweat, and that’s on A&E. It’s a show with fitness with celebrities and I’m doing a cooking segment on that. There’s 12 shows a year. I’m also working on a TV show which we will see if that happens. It’s getting really, really close on some, I’m putting together a pilot. That show at the moment would be called The Recipe, which would be a really fun concept and really great TV show. We have, we’re real close, on putting something together there. And we have a couple of other projects that possibly we’re dipping our toe in the water with some children’s books.
Halelly: Oh my goodness! You’re extremely busy and very productive. Good on you! That is so exciting.
Charles: Thank you. We’re excited. We have a lot of good people. It’s fun. You just keep pounding on doors and wait to see which ones open.
Halelly: That’s super interesting. Well, I wish we could keep talking for a lot longer, but I bet some people are about to get to work or about to finish their treadmill run or whatever it is that they do when they listen to us, so what’s one really specific action that they can take this afternoon, today, this week, that can help them become a better leader, using your perspective?
Charles: You know, everybody asks me, “How do you do all this or how do you balance it all?” And then there’s a lot of other people that say, “I wish I could do that, but I don’t have time. I wish, I wish …” and I guess I would say if you want to be successful, if you want to be an entrepreneur or if you want to do that thing – what is it in your life that you want to do? You want to be incredibly successful and you want to be great, want to be extraordinary? My advice would be get started. You’ve got to get started. You can’t finish until you start. What I find is a lot of people never start just because they think it’s going to be impossible, or that guy on TV does it but I could never do it. I’m living proof that you can do it. I mean, I’m a chef full-time, and now we’re finishing my third book and I’ve been to eight different Culinary Olympics, I’ve been to Afghanistan three times, where we fed the troops and put on amazing entertainment shows. Nobody does that as a civilian, but we did it twice and been to Afghanistan three times. Now we’re talking about TV shows and kids books and my biggest secret to anybody who asks is, all I did was got started. You just keep pounding and pounding and pounding until it happens. This book, The Recipe, becoming a movie is because I keep pounding. We have it in front of some really exciting people, one in particular is amazingly exciting. So you just keep pounding.
Quickly, one of the things I learned in Afghanistan when doing these shows is that there’s nothing that phases me. Everyday someone tells me it’s not going to happen. Everyday it says the General is going to pull the plug, everyday the food isn’t going to make it there. The gifts, the 8,000 pounds of gifts that you raised and got donated are going to make it on time. I just take a deep breath and say, “Okay, hold on, we’ll figure this out.” There’s nothing that phases me and as long as you look at life that way, and you keep pounding, you will be successful. You will get something done. And I believe it as sure as I’m talking to you right now.
Halelly: I can tell, I can hear your conviction, and that is very inspiring. So thank you for that. Because we’re pretty much almost done with our time, I still want to help people. Let’s say they do experience this challenge that you describe – it’s overwhelming, they feel like they don’t have time. They listen to people like you and it’s either inspires them or makes them feel like, “Oh my God, I can never be like that,” and you say, “Keep pounding, or just get started.” But let’s concretize that. What specifically would you say to someone, if you were mentoring someone right now who said that to you, “I don’t know even what that means. What do you mean get started?” What would be a really specific action someone could take if they feel kind of overwhelmed by why you just said?
Charles: There’s a couple of things. First of all, let’s use the example of a book. Who am I to be writing a book? I went to see my mom for her birthday one time. I got off the plane and I was reading this nice little book and I told my dad, “I’m going to write a book,” and he slapped me on the back and said, “Good for you. Now come on, get in the car.” I said, “No, really, I’m going to write a book,” and then six months later I had a contract with a publisher. So let’s take writing a book, for example. What I started doing, I started punching the keys. There’s this great movie, I forget the name of it now, but there was a professor that was trying to teach this boy to start writing, and he just sat there and looked at the typewriter. He said, “Start punching the keys. Start punching the keys.” You’ve got to punch the keys. I just started writing. I was writing and writing and writing, and next thing I knew, I had 80 or 90 pages. You know, it wasn’t a book. I thought it was a book. But it was 80 or 90 pages of what poured out of my heart. But you’ve got to start. You’ve got to punch the keys. You’ve got to use that in anything. How do I get over to Afghanistan? Well, who do I know? I know one of the most important guys in the military, so I went and talked to him. Anything in your life, what do I know about TV shows? Zero. Zilch. Nothing. I know nothing about TV shows, but I’ve already had 80 conversations with experts, people in L.A., people in Hollywood, local people from the NBC and CBS channels in town and I’ve had over 80 conversations. There’s not one that was a waste of my time. I may use two or three of those conversations to the 100 percent of its max, but I learned so much in those 80 conversations. I just keep calling the meetings.
Halelly: This is great. We’re going to stop that right there, but listeners, the part we see is where the TV show is almost about to happen, and then it’s launched, or we see the book launched. But 80 conversations, that takes a lot of time and a lot of perseverance, and it probably revolved a lot of rejections along the way or obstacles and blocks, and so it’s getting up and doing the very next thing, and being willing to put in all that legwork to have the outcome rather than just imagining the life is about people having magic unicorns deliver the results to them.
Charles: Well, and you’ve got to ask yourself, do you want to be great or not? If you don’t, that’s okay. In the kitchen, I need people to peel carrots too. I need people to sit in the corner and peel carrots all day long and that’s fine. We’re not expecting everybody to want to run through walls for you. But you’ve got to ask yourself, “Do you want it bad enough or if you don’t?” But if you do, every single conversation, there’s never a bad one. And if something fails along the way, it all depends on your focus. Where are you looking? If it fails, you can thank yourself. “Okay, that’s fantastic. Now I know that’s a direction I don’t need to go in right now.” Look at it that way. I just learned something else. I spent several meetings talking to local NBC stations and then I realized after several conversations that we don’t want to go local, we want to go national. But I learned, so much, along that way.
Let me leave you with this one last thought – if the audience, the people in the audience if they’re listening right now. You’re overwhelmed, great, that’s all great Chef Carroll, but I can’t do it. Or I’m just overwhelmed, I have too much on my desk right now. I can’t even breathe right now. I want to inspire everybody out there to be exercising, going to the gym, but that’s a whole other conversation. But when you’re sitting there and you’re overwhelmed, the phone is ringing and your boss is after you and you are trying to balance everything – just stop, take a deep breath and stop and think of these three things. WIN. What’s Important Now? What is important right now? WIN. Just remember that acronym. Then take a deep breath and say, “You know what? I’ve got this. I know I’m plastered and I’ve got all kinds of stuff on my desk, but what’s the most important thing right now?” That becomes number one. What’s next important? That’s number two. Okay, I can breathe now. I know my desk has 40 other things, but I’m just going to focus on what’s important right now, and you can be successful. So that’s a good, a really good leadership, when you’re just getting pounded with a bunch of stuff, just worry about what’s important right now and you can breathe.
Halelly: Great, I love it. I think we tied everything right back into a big circle to where we started and so I’m super happy about that. Chef Carroll, how can people stay in touch with you, learn more about all the great stuff that you’re doing and learn more from you?
Charles: I appreciate that. First of all, I need you all to go out and buy The Recipe, because the more people that buy The Recipe, the more chances we have of it becoming a movie.
Halelly: We will link to that in the show notes.
Charles: That’s Therecipethebook.com. You can order the book there. My website is ChefCharlesCarroll.com, and we have links to the book there. And of course my co-author is the famous New York Best Selling author John David Mann. So between that and Facebook and Twitter, I’m pretty active on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, if you go there you can see all kinds of our filming that we did last weekend.
Halelly: All right, good. We will link to all of that in the show notes and thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate that you’ve shared your experience and your insights with the Talent Growers community, and I hope that you have lots of great success, continued success, with everything that you’re doing.
Charles: I appreciate that very much. Thank you for having me and I look forward to talking to you in the future. Happy to come on any time.
Halelly: Awesome, great. Thank you. I hope you agree, this was really an interesting take. A little bit different from what we’re used to sharing here on the TalentGrow Show and I hope that you will take my challenge up and send this episode to someone you know that could really enjoy it and learned from it. Of course there’s no limit to how many people you can send it to, but let’s just do one, right? Kind of like Chef Carroll said. What’s the next one thing that you can take action on? Let that be this one favor for me, and also, a favor for this person. If it’s a good fit for them, they will appreciate it, so you’ll actually be getting bonus points from both of us. How’s that? That’s a pretty good way to start your day or end your day, do something at lunch, whatever time it is that you’re listening. So I hope that you enjoyed it. I hope you’ll take action. Check out our show, also on the C-Suite Radio Network. That’s an exciting place that our show has been featured as one of their excellent business-related podcasts for people in the C Suite and beyond. That’s at C-SuiteRadio.com. Thank you for listening. Until the next time, I am Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow, hoping that you make today great.
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