Trying to enjoy a weekend together, which has gotten harder than usual, given the current limitations on how dates were supposed to be, Farrah and I decided to stream movies this weekend.
Her choice, was the movie–Chef.
Written and Directed by Jon Favreau, released in 2014 and hitting the Box Office with $46 Million and scoring 87% on Rotten Tomatoes review, it was a good a mix of drama, comedy and some feel good moments.
The movie takes on the life of a creative and dreamer Chef, who quits after after several creative difference with the restaurant owner to eventually own a food cart, reigniting his passion for cooking and rekindling his relationship with his ex-wife and nearly-ignored son.
Again, as a habit, i found three things that I learned from the movie.
Lesson 1, Work For What Makes You Happy
At the start of the movie, we see Casper (Jon Favreau), a creative and maverick chef, brimming with excitement to change the old menu in preparation for the visit of a popular blogger and food-critic. The plan, however, goes awry as, as Riva (Dustin Hoffman), the owner, persuades Casper to stick to the old menu which cost them a poor review.
There is a Casper in all of us. We all have that desire to do something out of the ordinary, to do something new. It may not be just entirely because we are bored, but it is human after all to challenge the status quo, experiment and innovate.
There, too, is a Riva, in all of us and at some point we have to had been a Riva in someone’s life. To me Riva symbolized the adult world. That thing, situation or individuals, often close to us, that attempt to silence our wild imaginations, that make us stick to what we know, stay where we are and situate ourselves to what is certain—because it is safe.
Like in the movies, Riva succeeds to persuade Casper, in real life. Ask the next person you meet and see if they had become the people they wanted to be as kids. Should you find three in a row, that says, they have, you are in a much better place, but drawing from experience many had forgone their dreams as children, abandoned what they really wanted to do and settled down for what is safe.
Safe is good and there is nothing wrong with that. We all have responsibilities and safe pays the bills.
But, when we start letting safe take to rule our lives—when we stop chasing our dreams, trying to improve ourselves, neglect the things that make us grow, fulfilled and happy—this is where the Riva in all of us wins.
Sadly, unlike Casper getting the review a few hours after the big visit, we do not get the review of our lives after we check out and it may be too late, by then.
So, find a job, earn, stay safe, but never let go at working for what makes you happy.
Lesson 2, Learning. Mastery. Decay.
Architecture school taught me that.
It did not make too much sense back then, but this movie made me remember it.
The quote’s premise is that all art styles and movement even civilizations reach these phases. A phase where we are so eager to learn, a phase where we become masters which then takes most artists to that plateau of producing a work so immensely sublime, it leaves the artist clueless about how to take it further, which then contributes to his skill’s decay.
In the scene where Casper reads the review, we hear the first few lines were reminiscent of the critic’s first review of the chef. It pointed out his potential, his revolutionary take and his fresh ideas. While the rest of the review tells an awful denouement, this scene made me think of the lines shared atop.
Learning, Mastery, Decay.
Like Casper, when we are new to our jobs, we get through a phase of learning. This stage gets us pumped up, excited and enthusiastic. Eventually, depending on the effort we put at it, we get to a level where what was so hard at first, is now routine, something we barely even put much attention to.
That report that we worked for an entire day, after a year, or maybe less than that, becomes something we finish in an hour, or less—we have reached Mastery.
This new level puts people at crucial junctions. Once a person reaches mastery, they are offered two choices, to either continually seek room for growth or situate and just stay for the ride.
Those who choose the latter, sooner reach decay. You see that someone who started work like a superstar descend to low depths of productivity, creativity and energy. Like routine they go to work and like robots they go home—it was same thing, different day.
Then, there are those who realize that they see themselves decay, those that, though, clueless about what is next to Mastery never give up to go back to learning to avoid staying at the plateau of mastery only to roll down to decay.
The neat solution we have created around this was to continually push mastery by putting a number to it. So, you are a master if you have reached this salary, this degree or this income. Then, to avoid decay, you just simply have to do more, if you earn this much, you strive to get this much. If you have a PhD, you can always get two.
While this works for most, this is not the way out of the plateau of Mastery and certainly not a way to the phase of re-learning. This is just an escape, a distraction we all to readily accept.
As Casper continually searched for a new menu, that new taste, that perfect food (if there is such, I do not intend to be an expert in the goals of those in the culinary world)—you also see, that he barely spends time with his kid, he is divorced and broke.
How many times did we miss out on family, to chase that next thing? Have we occupied ourselves seeking that next promotion, higher pay, new car, higher degree than what we already have thinking it will give us a sense of fulfilment in the eyes of the critics?
Learning one thing is good. Mastering it is another. Decay, however, comes for those who fail to nurture the other things in their lives, chasing a next level of Mastery over something they have initially mastered.
Rightfully, we see that Casper, becomes the happiest, when he goes back to Miami, does business on a foodcart, selling food, that was not something he would normally do in a fancy restaurant with his kid and friend.
This is what we all need in life. Balance.
Lesson 3, Happiness is fleeting, make those moments possible
Amongst, the many scenes I liked, what stood out the most, was Casper stopping his son from serving a burnt sandwich and telling him about how passionate he is with cooking, how it makes him feel and how for him he touches lives through it.
I bet we all have something we are passionate about. That thing, we always wanted to do. While these things may not always pay, it does not mean they are less important, nor does it mean that we should give up on them.
Life is always a struggle, but it does not mean we should not leave time to do the things that make us feel happy.
As the world is transformed by this pandemic, it is true that we are left with very few options to do the things we want, we may have been struck by unfortunate times, but it is our decision, at the end of the day, that is the difference between being miserable and being happy.
We ought to take ownership of our emotions, understand that there are things outside our control and stressing over them is a waste of energy. Meanwhile, there are things that we can definitely do something about that is a much better way of expending our attention and our best efforts I.
Life is about choices and how you decide can make the difference.