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Outlier’s Path

The Work is in the Prep

Last weekend, Rebecca and I spent our date night at one of our favorite sushi restaurants, where three chefs make great-tasting sushi effortlessly and consistently, regardless of which chef serves you. I’ve always been fascinated by the art of sushi-making. With essentially the same simple ingredients, it is fascinating how dramatically dissimilar the product will taste in the hands of different chefs at different establishments. While enjoying our meal, I politely asked our chef how this could be. He said something interesting: the work is in the prep.

Every morning, the team starts by choosing the freshest and highest quality fish and cleans, debones, and filets the selected fish. The chefs taste the fish. From there, the menu is planned out from the selection of usable fish, considering the timeframes of the various fish that will be aged, cured, seasoned, or marinated, depending on how the fish tastes beforehand. That selection is then stored for future service.

The fish for today’s service is brought out and tasted to ensure the team achieves the intended flavor profile. Last-minute modifications are considered. Sushi rice is made right before the service, but the rice, water, vinegar, and sugar levels are adjusted depending on the season and the seasoning of the fish. After years of forming rice, the chefs know how many grams of rice are in their hands. Depending on the flavor profile of the fish, the chef will have already predetermined how much rice should be paired with each piece of fish for a balanced bite. The fish is sliced into bite-size pieces, the right amount of rice is formed, and the two are combined with any final seasoning before the specimen is placed on your plate.

Our chef explained that “the work is in the prep. Serving you the fish is just the performance. The performance is for two seatings spread across four total hours. That’s a third or less of our twelve-hour-plus workday. Over two-thirds is the preparation.”

Preparation is deliberate and focused work before accomplishing our task, goal, or performance. Diligent preparation allows us to push limits and achieve our full potential. The work starts by embracing growth and improvement. The work is about more than going through the motions. By going through the motions, we learn the value of the work is about the ongoing journey rather than a single performance. After learning and experimenting over four years, our chef is the one responsible for aging, curing, seasoning, and marinating the fish to achieve the right flavor profile. Yet, he emphatically stated that he is still learning, modifying, and experimenting.

One of the most quoted phrases is, “success occurs when opportunity meets preparation” by Zig Ziglar. Have you prepared for your upcoming week? If you haven’t, Benjamin Franklin can offer some prodding, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Prepare to have a great week!