The problem with recipes

is that sometimes the person who writes them isn’t aware of the secret ingredient.

Sometimes people who follow them have the secret ingredient and it works.

Sometimes they don’t, and they’re lucky.

Sometimes they don’t and it fails.

The recipe-writer is certain they’ve written down everything they do. If the recipe doesn’t work, the cook must not have been following the recipe correctly. This is how you bake delicious bread. This is how you train a good dog. This is how you raise a happy child. This is how you do it. This is how you do… almost anything. Art. Creative writing. Leadership. Making money. After all, it worked for me!

Of course, every cook is different. No two cooks implement the recipe the exact same way. They focus on different details. Some worry about what they’re doing wrong. Some decide that if they’re following the steps of the recipe precisely, they must be succeeding. Don’t try telling them they’re not.

These recipes get passed on. And inevitably, there’s a bit of distortion. Maybe they’ll accidentally cobble two recipes together. Maybe they’ll forget every other step. But a recipe is a formula for success, and if you follow each and every step, surely it will work. If it doesn’t, why not try harder? Or, I suppose, if you must, you could look for another recipe. Make sure to follow instructions, though.

You and I do well on reading comprehension, dear reader. But what about those who don’t have time to read the instructions? They want the end result, and they want it fast. They’ve got places to be, they’ve got a lot of recipes to follow already. So they’ll skim for the good bits, just enough so they can sound authoritative later. Just enough so they can pass it on.

Here are some things I’ve learned lately:

  • Many successful people don’t understand what makes them successful. But people will pay to know how and so they try to put it into steps and rules. Without the secret ingredient, the recipe is just some arbitrary rules. But usually the secret ingredient is something integral to who a person is.
  • Paying more attention to a recipe than to the object of your recipe is going to make things worse in the end.
  • Bad things happen because too many people absorb a fraction of a recipe and apply it to the world.
  • Bad things also happen because the recipe writers insist that their recipe, so easy for them, should be easy or at least possible for everybody. Some even insist that their recipe is the only right way. And those who follow them, who have achieved success or convinced themselves they’ve achieved success or failed and blame themselves– they become the recipe writer’s army.

We want so much. Our lives are filled with wanting. Philosophically, that leads to suffering, but practically speaking, it leads to specialization. And centralization and mass production and all those things. And with material things, relying on specialization has worked out pretty well. But people aren’t fungible. Yes, okay, there are trends, there’s psychology and there’s market research. But recipes are instructions of specialists to individuals. The person enacting the recipe is a crucial part of it.

And people try to be good, but they want so much and there are so many recipes promising them they can have what they want…

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I used to be at, but flakiness is one of my primary traits, and the domain expired. Apparently it was popular enough to be snatched up!