Life Lessons from “Chopped Junior”

I am a fan of Food Network’s Chopped® cooking show.  I am an even bigger Chopped Junior fan.

Chopped Junior - blog imageI am amazed at the skill and creativity of the Chopped chefs in taking a mass of ingredients (some of which are very foreign to me) and combining them into a dish that is edible and, in fact, enjoyable.

But of course, this would astound me for my motto is “give me a recipe or give me take-out!”

I am even more amazed at the pre-teen chefs competing on Chopped Junior. Did I even know how to boil water at the age of 11?

Beyond the creative cooking skills, these young people provide us with behavioral lessons to apply both at work and at home.

First of all – the Chopped Junior contestants offer their help freely – to each other – during the heat of battle.

The other day, one contestant had plated her entree round and had time to spare. She noticed another contestant was struggling and may not have completed her plating. She offered to help. Help was accepted and plating was completed within the time limit. The judges noticed the kind gesture.

On Chopped, you rarely see a contestant digging in to help others. In some cases, I have even seen contestants refuse to give an extra ingredient that they have on their table to a fellow contestant in need.

Secondly, the Chopped Junior contestants encourage each other.

At the end of each round, the eliminated contestant will hug or shake hands with his/her competitors. Whereas on Chopped, you see the chopped contestant leave the area without a glance at his/her competitors.

Third, the Chopped Junior contestants see failure as a learning opportunity.

Each Chopped Junior contestant speaks to the lessons they have learned and the value of the experience as they leave the studio. Whereas on Chopped, you often hear the competitors saying that they know better than the judges and that their dish was, indeed, superior. They believe they were wrongly chopped!

Why the vast difference?  Is it due to the “dangling carrot” of the $10,000 prize to the winner? The Chopped contestants are planning to use their winnings for their livelihood. The Chopped Junior contestants covet the Chef’s jacket while their winnings will go into their college fund.

As we often see, a scarcity mentality leads to behaviors unbecoming to adults.

Maybe it is time for all of us “all-knowing grownups” to take a lesson from these 11- and 12-year old aspiring chefs? Maybe it is time for us to respond to our life’s situations with the maturity and composure of the Chopped Junior contestants?

  • Offer help freely.
  • Encourage each other.
  • See failure as a learning opportunity.

Exercising these simple lessons could very well result in all of us being winners, regardless of our chosen path!


The Ego-Contained Leader

Pope Francis’ presence and dialogue during his visit to the United States serves as a stark contrast to the war of words we hear on television from those candidates who propose to LEAD our country.   Pope Francis represents a true servant of the people … all people. The presidential candidates we see monopolizing the airwaves seem to serve only themselves.

If one espouses to be a leader (of a team, an organization, or the United States), is there not a responsibility to wear the mantle of leadership? And should that mantle be decorated with scorn or respect?

Respect – unequivocally.  The ego-contained leader embodies respect – of others’ thoughts, words, and deeds. The ego-contained leader knows she is part of a bigger picture. The ego-contained leader is driven by:

  • mental briefcase - blog imageHumility – I am here to serve you. I am not better than you. You are no better than me. I exist with you.
  • Compassion – I care. I have a breadth of interests that expands to you and your health and happiness.
  • Interdependence – I care about hearing your thoughts and I speak my thoughts. I have no hidden agenda. I will listen to understand first, so I may better communicate with you through a shared perspective.

We have a responsibility to coexist, to do no harm, and to act according to the Golden Rule. Yes – we face challenges. But lowering our standards to the level of vitriol does not get us ahead.

To all who lead or aspire to lead, ask yourself:

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]What’s in my mental briefcase?[/inlinetweet]

girl staring in space blog image“If your ego starts out, ‘I am important, I am big, I am special,’ you’re in for some disappointments when you look around at what we’ve discovered about the universe. No, you’re not big. No, you’re not. You’re small in time and in space. And you have this frail vessel called the human body that’s limited on Earth.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson