I Am the Foraged Mushrooms

I am the foraged mushrooms. A friend of mine described his recent state of mind with these words. This wonderful image describes one element of himself, one ingredient of a gourmet dish. He could have told me hours of stories about his last few weeks and it would not have provided as much information as those five words.

Photo: Pixabay

We get caught in stories and details. Unnecessary details. An inconsequential moment can spoil my day if I allow my brain to spin it out of control.

I am the foraged mushrooms. I am the raw, heavy cream. And, I am the minced garlic that goes into the slop that sits on the fancy steak.

Layers and layers of meaning in those metaphors. One layer is that they are all ingredients of a gourmet meal. The deeper layers are personal and less obvious. The interpretations of the metaphors are keys directing ourselves forward.

In high stakes performance situations, we can get caught in story.

This is all or nothing.

Why are they looking at me like I have no business on this stage?

I’ve crumbled so many times at moments like this.

What will people think of me if I fail?

This feels like one person against an army.

Without training our minds, those thoughts can unravel us. They can prevent others from seeing our true potential. They can strip the enjoyment from our favorite things in the world. And they can keep us from our goals.

So we train, in order to quiet the stories that sabotage us and replace them with more helpful messages. Or even complete stillness. The irony is that to find stillness, we need to wander through the clutter of our brain and its messy thought habits. We need to instill order so that when an unhelpful story arrives, it’s not a five foot high stack of 30 year old newspapers. It’s a little speck of dust, easily removed.

Photo by Digital Buggu

Metaphors like “I am the foraged mushrooms” can help us access stories and begin to take leadership in shaping them.

Our metaphors for ourselves will change day to day, as will what they reveal about us. Multiple metaphors can even be true at the same time. “I am the spacewalking astronaut” may describe me on the same day as “I am the undiscovered gigantic emerald“. The next day may be more of a “I am the Olympic big air skier” day.

It’s all good as long as we harness it. Create the metaphor. Reflect as deeply as possible on it (often best when facilitated by a coach). Then apply the learnings.

How are you feeling today? Foraged mushroom? Over ripe mango? Tasty cherry scone?

Those Damned Expectations

Peak performance is about paradox. Be intense and stay relaxed at the same time. Play with bravado and humility simultaneously. Be fully trained nearly beyond the bounds of health – and fully rested too.

The bigger picture of peak performance is the same. When we commit to big goals, we can be seduced by the expectations that go with them. We can lose track of the work needed to get there and lose sight of our progress. Both of these diminish our potential. Today, we’ll talk about setting aside expectations and keeping connected to progress.


Perspective makes the experience of pursuing goals more effective and rewarding.

While it’s useful to attack our huge goals and aspire to greater achievement it’s also important to keep things in perspective and to celebrate successes. Let’s say your huge goal is dominance. You want to be the number one company or the number one athlete or have the greatest social impact of any activist in history. If our expectation is achieving that at the next milestone, we are setting ourselves up for frustration. Becoming the Dominant One can feel like trudging forward, but there is a more rewarding, effective road.

A problem with enormous goals like dominance is that they are always in the future until they aren’t. Sometimes we only see dominance in retrospect.

In the meantime, it can be a pretty bleak road where we only see disappointment at not meeting our expectations. Even the victories seem smaller than we want.

But let’s step back for some perspective. What seems disappointing today might have been an unimaginable performance five years ago. Most of the time we don’t see that. Our progress is entangled with end goals and ego. Expectations. We’ve lost sight of how wonderfully we are moving forward, and with that we’ve lost an opportunity to be even more dominant.


Seeing progress gives us access to confidence. When we are bound by expectations, our self-talk might sound like “why is it never good enough?!?!?!” or “of course! Another mistake that puts me behind everyone else.

Freeing ourself from expectations with a bit of perspective, we are free to say “that’s not the level I’m ultimately going for, but it’s so much better than last time.” We give ourselves credit for progress, but there’s something else available. One of the key factors in clutch, dominant performance is confidence or bravado. By giving ourselves credit, we also give ourselves permission to own a higher level of bravado.

Team leaders take note. If your folks have just hit their number or delivered on a deadline, give ample time for celebration. Talking about the bigger goals too soon spoils the fun and prevents the team from locking in their well-earned bravado. It’s also possible that your newly confident team might have bigger, better ideas for what’s possible next.


Seeing progress also lets us evaluate and see new opportunities. We’ve gained bravado. Now we get to add a dose of humility to shake things up.

True dominance requires tinkering. It requires a paradox of complete immersion in generating momentum toward the goal AND self-awareness of what’s working and what’s not.

Sometimes we get so inside our pursuit of a goal that we lose sight of what it actually takes to succeed. We become reactive instead of strategic. We might take short cuts, sacrificing long-term success for a short-term win. In this moment, we might feel frustrated or drifting or fuzzy about how we’ll ever get where we want to go. It’s at this point that many people give up.

Not you.

By taking a step back and seeing your progress, you can access both the bravado of a champion and the humility that makes a dominant force.

Take an honest look at what’s working and make a comprehensive assessment of what’s needed next. Remember, we don’t always know everything the ultimate goal will require of us. Pausing gives us a chance to notice things like:

Are my assumptions flawed?

What are others doing that might work for me?

What are others doing that might be completely wrong for me…or even them?

How am I enjoying the experience of getting there?

Where can I cultivate a surprising dominant advantage?

We pause. We tinker. Then we do it again.

And through the tinkering, we discover opportunity.

Now go tinker!

Yes Chef


TV addicts are all a flutter over the drama on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. For the first time, the restaurateurs he was trying to help were so offensive and stubborn that he begged off. It’s typical for Ramsay to bump up against major resistance from restaurant owners confronted with the glaring weaknesses of their business. Generally they see the light and at least give Ramsay’s suggestions a try. In this case, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo of Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizone dug their heels in against any critique. Amy melted down repeatedly at the slightest stress and lashed out at team members wading their way through the emotional minefield she and Samy created. Both Amy and Samy were abusive to customers to a level bordering on assault. Ramsay walked away. Major trainwreck. Major internet sensation. Major fail for their business.

The Huffington Post clearly had fun summarizing the episode. Video links included.

I don’t watch much TV anymore. I don’t have a cable subscription, but I love watching cooking documentaries (like El Bulli or Kings of Pastry) or vegging out with the occasional episode of Cake Boss or Chopped.

I’ve learned a lot of things from watching cooking shows, like the inevitability of dirty icing and fondant when making elaborate cakes. More importantly, I’ve learned about the restaurant kitchen tradition of acknowledging orders or feedback with a “Yes Chef” or “No chef.” It’s about letting the boss know you listened. It’s about pacing and information flow and learning and, yes, power structure.

On Kitchen Nightmare, Gordon Ramsay was Samy and Amy’s boss. They brought him in to fix their problems. Their business had been going off the rails, and rather than answering “Yes Chef” when customers had feedback, they labeled them haters or trolls, insulted them and threw them out of the restaurant. They pushed away the people with the most power to transform their business. Then they did the same to Ramsay, who was met with the same lack of “Yes Chef” spirit. It’s no surprise they learned nothing.

I’m finding “Yes Chef” to be an incredible tool in expanding my own skills.
Continue reading “Yes Chef”

Training vs. Working Out

power lifter

Stacey Richardson makes an awesome distinction in her new article It’s Not About The Workouts. Working out isn’t enough. The journey of training toward a goal is the key to huge gains.

She puts it better than I could:

“training is this journey into the deeper parts of yourself as a person, an athlete, and a person with doubts, feelings, a life, a family, and a balancing act. It’s not following some random spreadsheet from a book.”

We can apply this idea wherever we like. Are we going to work just to go to work, or is there a larger purpose for each moment we’re there? Are we waking up because it’s the beginning of the day, or are we waking up in order to take our lives in the most compelling, spectacular direction possible?

I love the idea of noticing when we’re working out vs. training as, well, a training exercise. I’m going to try it.