For most of my life, I’ve never really cooked.
For most of my childhood, cooking was something that my mother did while I played games, did my homework, or surfed the internet. Even my freshman year in college, the convenience of the dining hall and the lack of a kitchen made it difficult for me to cook on a regular basis.
I have finally been able to cook for myself this year. Regularly feeding yourself and maintaining a healthy diet all while keeping to a budget is a challenge, but like any other new skill, it comes with a learning curve.
A friend bought me the Four Hour Chef for Christmas last year, and I have been faithfully attempting the different dishes in the book. I’ve tried the arugula salad, rock ‘n’ eel, harissa crab cakes, coconut curry cauliflower mash, and union square zucchini. Tim Ferriss does an amazing job of breaking down different cooking techniques into a simple and straightforward book that yields healthy and delicious results.
But beyond following recipes, learning to cook is also largely about grocery shopping, understanding flavors, and clean up. It’s a whole new world to learn and get accustomed to, as all the different varieties of consumables out there can be overwhelming.
But as I’ve realized over time, and the four hour chef touches upon, learning a new skill is only overwhelming because you have no clue where to start; it’s a collection of little actions that aggregate into an ability to do something. It’s easy to get daunted and scared away from learning something new.
I’ve realized the value of focusing on one area of development at a time, in order to develop the little pieces of the puzzle before putting it all together.
Ever since I started reading material from Tim Ferriss, I’ve started critically breaking things down and understanding all the little parts that go together to make a whole. I’ve made my mistakes, learned some lessons, and picked myself up.
Next, time to learn how to grow my own food.
I’ve shared before that in my younger days, I thought I didn’t like reading.
It wasn’t until I nearly turned 18 that I found my love for reading books about real life situations and perspectives.
This year, I’m going to try to read as many books as I can. Books are pretty much a compilation of a person’s life work and life lessons, and by sitting down for a couple of hours and fifteen dollars, I can get a glimpse into a successful person’s process.
Even if I only get one thing out of a book, it was worth it.
In a casual conversation I had a couple weeks ago, I was sharing some of the books that had completely changed my life, and one of my friends asked me how I had so much time to read so much.
The truth is, I don’t have time not to be reading. By reading the lives of people, I am effectively getting perspective from their lives about the challenges they faced and how they overcame the challenges. By reading books, I am actually helping myself save time. I become more aware of the problems and the questions long before they come up in my personal life.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that I go out and read every single thing that I can find. I’m a big advocate of watching what content you consume. My focus then, is taking the time to figure out what I am learning from each book that I read. Reading reviews is a helpful way to determine whether a book will be helpful for me or not.
In the wise words in Letters from a Stoic by Seneca the Younger,
You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.
Everywhere means nowhere.
When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.
And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner.
Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine; no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another; a plant which is often moved can never grow strong.
Oh. And follow me on goodreads.
Human behavior is oftentimes nothing more than a collection of habits.
Whether it be everyday routines or reactions in emergencies, the pattern of habit can ultimately explain most physical, emotional, and spiritual behaviors.
Waking up in the morning and brushing your teeth is a habit (maybe it isn’t for some people), so is your response when your roommate jumps on you to wake you up in the morning.
Habits can be formed or broken consciously or unconsciously. Habits form because the brain is always looking for ways to take shortcuts and save time and energy.
Gretchen Rubin explains it extremely well in this presentation at 99u.
The short answer is that everyone has different tendencies to build or break habits, and understanding yourself is an extremely powerful way to understanding where you belong.
If you’re interested in learning more, I’m giving away a copy of The Power of Habit this month!
Many of my friends have been going on diets lately, such as becoming vegan or pescatarian. Besides wanting to cook a steak and shove it down their mouth, I have also taken the time to consider my own diet.
But it also got me thinking about the content I digest. I’m constantly finding new books to read, new blogs to follow, and new TED talks to watch. And over the last year, I don’t know if I can really say that all the content that I consume has actually helped me to be a more knowledgeable and wise individual. Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t.
But I think something I did realize was that knowledge isn’t how much content you are able to cover. It isn’t about how many books you read or blogs you follow, but knowledge is more of what you are able to share and produce. Just like with subjects learned in school upon your daily life, it doesn’t really help you to know something unless you are able to apply it and use it.
So while rethinking some critical things about the way that I consume content, I realized a couple of things, and that the content you consume can be seen in a similar way as the food you consume.
Disclaimer: The following is only meant to be an illustration, not a perfect translation of food groups. Nor is it meant to categorize every single type of content out there.
Practical Content – Bread, Starch, Rice, Pasta (carbs) This kind of content is generally things that are interesting to the average person, but also practical and applicable to everyday life. Things like learning how to do better work fall into this category. Also, the average TED talk that is simplified, inspiring, and relevant can be considered in this area.
Necessary Content – Fruits and Vegetables (vitamins) Necessary content is usually the content that contains the little details that may not be fun to read, but are necessary for the work that you do. Things like manuals, research, instructional material, etc.
Perspective Content – Meat (protein) This is the kind of content that helps build you as a person by slowly helping you to see new perspectives. These generally take a longer time of immersion and pondering before any kind of life change becomes visible, but it is always the investment for the long term that makes the difference. This is the stuff that you read about famous and successful people, or the long and involved stories and learning process that eventually helps you to grow as a person.
Entertainment Content – Candy (sugar) This kind of content is usually the kind that is at your edge of understanding and application; things that are generally “out there”. Reading them gets you excited and blows your mind, but ultimately it has little nutritional value in your practical, everyday life.
None of these are bad in it of themselves, but used together and in moderation helps an individual to really learn and grow.