What I learned from Kitchen Nightmares, Part Two

On Friday, I started sharing with you the lessons I’ve learned from watching Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. It turns out that I learned more than I realized, and the post spanned way out of control for a blog post. So here then is part two of what I learned from Kitchen Nightmares.

Part two focuses more on one of my favorite things; being a boss. I was once a manager of two different retail stores. I won’t name them because they were shitty places and I don’t want to admit to working for them. I did my best as a manager, and I came out of the other side a lot stronger. Now, I’m a mom, and I’m a boss in a whole different way. I’m also an indie writer, which means I’ve got to be the boss of my tiny small business in which I’m the only employee. Beyond all of that, I am the boss of my own life.

Here’s what Gordon Ramsey has taught me about being a boss.

Act like the boss

Some of the restaurants have people running them that are really great cooks, really nice imagespeople and they really want to be a great success in their field. But they’re not always the best boss. They’re not good at cracking the whip and making other people to put the honest work in. I used to be the manager of two different retail stores. I was young, and I had never been in charge of other adults before. I had to learn how to motivate people into doing a good job.

When people were doing what they should be doing, I was a great manager. I did everything I could do to reward the hard workers and make it a fun work environment.

When someone wasn’t doing what they should be doing, I didn’t know how to handle that. I couldn’t stand up for myself, and couldn’t make people who were unwilling to work pull their weight. So I did almost everything, leaning hard on my good workers. It wasn’t fair to me, and it sure wasn’t fair to my good employees. I wish I could go back there and apologize to those awesome men and women I worked with.

Now, you may never be in the position where you are the boss. But you are the boss of your writing, and you are the boss of your life. Act like it. If you contract with someone to do a job for you, like edit your work or create a cover for your book, expect them to do what they say they are going to do. Insist that they give you their best work. If you have a partner in your life, don’t be the one doing all the work. Insist on being the boss in your own life and in your writing.

When you are the boss, you have to be willing to do all the shit work.

Whenever Gordon finds a kitchen that needs a scrubbing, he rolls up his sleeves and works just like everyone else. He gets the managers and owners in there too, and everyone works.

This is something I’ve learned as a manager and as a parent. Now that my kids are teenagers, I consider keeping our home in order a group effort. We all work together, and I make sure that my kids see me working just as hard as them. It was the same rule when I managed a store. I mopped floors, stocked shelves, faced the store (go over a shelf and make sure it looks straight and beautiful) and helped customers.

Always be the person who sets a good example, whether you’re the boss or a team member.

Critique in private, congratulate in public

This is actually something that I think Gordon could learn. It’s something that I work on with my kids. If I have something to say to one of my kids about their behavior, I take them to the side. I don’t yell at one of my kids in front of her sister or in public. I certainly don’t rebuke my husband in front of the kids. No one needs to know someone else’s screw ups. Along the same line, if I have a problem with someone professionally, I will not make a public deal of it. I will not post on Facebook, I will not leave scathing comments. I’ll deal with it one on one. That’s why I don’t post about books I don’t like on PBW.

Then there’s the other side of that coin, and it’s one that Gordon does well. When someone does something good, he praises the people in front of everyone.

When my kids do something good, everyone knows it! If I like a product or a story, I promise you that I will tell you. You guys know my favorite pens, planner, coffee and authors for a reason. When I’m happy about something, I want everyone to know.

Put your health first

In one episode of Kitchen Nightmares, an owner had diabetes. In another, the patriarch of the family had a heart condition.

In both cases, the first thing Gordon did was to sit down and talk to them about their health and how they’ve been managing their health. Because that’s how you have to manage your life.

I will call off work, skip writing time, and order pizza instead of cooking dinner if I’m not feeling well. I make doctors appointments when I need them. I exercise and take my vitamins. I eat well. I drink water (lemon water. Trust me, it’s worth the time and a little extra money.) I meditate and do yoga. I make health a priority, and I teach my daughters to do the same.

If you’re not already doing the same, make that a priority now. Right now, today. When was the last time you saw your PCP? When was the last time you were at the dentist? (Side note, if you don’t have health insurance, that’s a problem. Please reach out to public assistance and get the help you need to afford health care. I get it if you can’t afford it, but please find a way. Please put the effort into yourself. Because if you don’t care for yourself, everyone who depends on you is going to suffer when they lose you.

Put out your best work. If it’s not your best, don’t send it out.

I love nothing more when watching this show than when Gordon picks up a dish and asks, “Are you happy about this? Are you proud to serve this?” Very often the answer is no, and look of embarrassment.

I think we know when we’re not doing our best. No, scratch that. I can’t speak for you, but I damn well know when I’m not doing my best. But sometimes we are just up against a deadline or feeling overworked. When that happens, we put out work that is less than our best.

Sometimes a half ass job is fine. Housecleaning doesn’t have to be perfect for instance, nor does yard work.

My writing is not housework! Neither is my day job. It’s not my dream, but it’s still something I take pride in.

And that’s the difference between the two. Anything you should take pride in, you should give your best to. You should put your best out there. Even if it’s just a blog post, it should be the best damn blog post you can put out there.

You know, of course, that I had a big mess up last year when I self-published Starting Chains. It was not my best effort, and I went into detail about that here.

Why do I keep bringing up this embarrassing thing I did? Because I want you all to learn from it. And, because I want to make sure I remember the lessons as well.

When I finally came to my senses about what level of screw up that book launch was, I pulled it. I pulled the paperback version before it even became a thing because it wasn’t my best effort. It certainly wasn’t what Starting Chains deserved. And I never want to put out any story or blog post that is anything less than my best.

Nothing is unfix-able if you’re willing to change.

Sometimes when Gordon walks into a restaurant, he looks like he wants to walk right the hell back out. The kitchen is deplorable, the food is vile, the whole thing is a shit fest. But not a bit of that stops him because those are all easily fixed issues.

What the real issue is, every single episode, is a severe attitude issue from an owner or manager. It’s never the food that’s the problem, it’s always the people. And while Gordon will scream about a kitchen being in shambles he’ll walk right the hell out if the owners aren’t willing to change.

Sad to say, we are often our own biggest roadblocks. Yeah, many of us have issues we’re fighting against. Poverty, illness, responsibilities, ignorance. We aren’t immune to this as writers. Sometimes I swear we’re more prone to it.

But there’s never a point in our lives when all is lost. We can always be redeemed, always make our lives better. We have to want to change, though, or it’s never going to happen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this two-part post. I wish all of my guilty pleasures gave me so much inspiration.


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