With any endeavor, one must seek out a "WHY", after all its that "why" that will keep you going in the dark times. I struggle with the darkness often. Jocko Willink does a great job of covering this darkness if you happen to be looking for a great podcast to start listening to. The darkness for me comes in as self-doubt, am I good enough, can I really deliver my part to this crazy experiment we call Flavor Anonymous. How can I ever live up to this, I don’t have the qualifications and pedigree of some? Is all of this just dumb luck or am I actually talented?
It also is this whisper that is constantly there. This inner monologue is a constant Mr. Robot episode is voiced by Rami Malek. My own personal Elliot to talk to. He's always there asking "what if they find you out," "what will they say when they realize you are winging this whole thing," "are you sure you can pull this off, you failed that one time." You would think with enough awards and praise that little voice inside your head would finally take the hint and shut up. But it doesn’t.
Success only means that the next thing you do must also be equally successful. Winning only slides the bar up a few more inches and hell, you weren't sure you were going to pull this last rabbit out of the hat. The sophomore blues are real. Being a music fan I see time and time again how a band is great on their first album and stumbles on their second. I can also see how success becomes this wicked room that some get trapped in. You start to understand how some of these stars who are depressed, to begin with, end up doing the unthinkable. That whisper gets louder and louder and you start to live in an echo chamber of internal doubt even while being lavished with external praise. It can be a dangerous cocktail and if you don’t have some real people around you who genuinely understand it can be treacherous waters to navigate.
With the passing of Kobe Bryant, I have really examined my personal motivations. Are they still true? Are they still worthy of being the fuel to the fire? Is it all just a mirage that I made up to keep me going? Being a basketball fan I remember hearing stories of Jordan using things like someone giving him a dirty look as the motivation to push him that extra mile to win. Kobe never really needed that. Winning and the love of the game were enough. Don't get me wrong there are stories where he took it to a naysayer more than a few times, but who is right? Which one is better? The one who does it slightly embittered or the one who does it for the love?
If I'm being completely honest I'm driven by one consuming thought. To be the best rub and sauce maker in the world. To amass the greatest library of homerun products. Not to only have the best products, but the most unquestionably great products. Yes, I read the trash talk, I see the comments and I do try to smile through it. I use it. It powers a turbine of rage to not only win but win so completely that its irrefutable.
So I guess in this manner I'm probably more like Jordan. There are days it consumes me. There are others I can let it wash over me and let it go because I have other things that have to be the priority. But the turbine still turns, the only variable being the RPM at which it spins. It's always there, always spinning, seething, standing ready to whirl to full speed when needed.
It is apart of me that I am both thankful for and partially afraid of. I love the drive, the blind commitment to the mission no matter the cost, the willingness to go without sleep, the hyper-focus, the unwillingness to compromise, the giant middle finger to failure. I was built for this. The Navy conditioned me to operate like this for months on end if needed. To thrive against insurmountable odds and win when everyone thinks it's crazy to even fight.
Then comes the consequences and having to pull life back together after giving myself over to those moments of extreme motivation. It's akin to being Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. The litany of apologies for missing out on events. The guilt for being so committed to something my family doesn’t understand fully, even though it is for them that I am so committed to winning. The shame in winning at one thing, but success coming at the willful blindness to the things I am responsible for. Does everyone who is this driven go through this? Am I just doing this so badly that I am the cause of the problems? How can anyone balance all of this? These are whispers that come not in Rami Malek's voice, but Christian Slater's who is often the voice of reason and protection for Elliot's character in Mr. Robot.
By now you've probably noted that I'm likely playing a game against an opponent that doesn't even know they are playing. Is it unfair? Possibly. Was it crazy the number of hours Jordan would put in just practicing free throws while being an MVP? Possibly. It takes a little crazy or maniacal to be the best in my opinion.
I mean if you break it down, how do you even measure this? How much is enough? How many rewrites of a recipe are enough? Some would argue I'm functioning as my own enemy more days than not. It's a burden to carry, but all I can say is that I love the fight to be the best the way that Kobe loved the game. This is my process, for better or worse. I don’t know how to do this any other way and I'm afraid the excellence and winning will stop if I change any part of it.
Just this past week we could have put the finishing touches on CockaVoodoo and released it. Frankly, you guys would have loved it. I knew it. Dylan knew it. Mike Southerland knew it. But I couldn't help but hear the gnawing in my gut that it could be better. It wasn't the best I could do and the more I thought about it, the more I knew exactly what it needed. So about an hour later in the hotel room, I said:
"I'm benching the rub and making the following changes." Thankfully I work with people who understand being unrelenting. That last line is another way of saying, that the people in this thing with me understand working with an insecure perfectionist. The next day Dylan said, "I thought about it last night, you're spot on with the ingredient change, it will take it up that next notch."
In the end, there can be no Kobe's or Jordan's without people willing to get on the court with them. For me, there can be no "me" without my inner Elliot and Mr. Robot. So while I'm so individually consumed to be the best, my "why" of comes from trying to be the best for my family, this team, and this thing we now call Flavor Anonymous. For me, it's equally driven by perfectionist tendencies and what is likely a clinical level of insecurity some days.
So while I know our customers get frustrated that we don't just toss out all these rubs at once that we have in our heads. I hope you understand why we don't. If we did, we wouldn't be true to ourselves. We would just be another company trying to grab your money and run away. That's not us. We are the best, nothing less. We are Flavor F'n Anonymous and we don't have customers we have Flavor Freaks.
Do you have the Flavor? I know I do. Pitmaster Shane D