A few weeks ago I watched an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and the show had me in fits. For the uninitiated, Ramsay is a famous chef and TV personality with restaurants all over the world, who swoops into troubled eateries and saves them from financial and culinary ruin. Ramsay’s style runs somewhere between foul-mouthed drill sergeant and exasperated life coach. With a little cleaning, some blunt advice, and a whole lot of free publicity, Ramsay usually manages to turn the restaurant around.
Not so with Piccolo Teatro, a tiny vegetarian restaurant in
Despite revamping the menu, hiring a young, talented new chef, starting a lunch service and making the restaurant profitable again, even Ramsay couldn’t save Piccolo Teatro. When he returned to
It seems inconceivable that someone with so many great opportunities, with a road map to success spelled out explicitly, would just throw it all away. I can’t begin to speculate as to her reasons for giving up, but I do know that some people are so afraid of success or failure that they’ll sabotage every opportunity that comes their way, sometimes without even consciously knowing it. I truly believe that what separates successful people from the rest of the pack is not talent or money or connections—it’s hard work, perseverance, and most of all the ability to seize opportunities, no matter how small.
When I moved to
I made a promise to myself that whatever publishing opportunity came along I would take it, no matter what. It didn’t have to be a perfect opportunity, just a good enough opportunity. I didn’t have resources to wait for something perfect, which may or may not have materialized, anyway.
I found my first job through the New York Times’ classifieds. The position was for a file clerk in the accounting office of a small literary agency. It paid very little. I wasn’t sure I could handle the accounting they wanted me to do. It wasn’t a perfect opportunity (or so I thought at the time) but it was good enough. Jump in first, I told myself, and figure out the rest as it comes. I had nothing to lose.
I wasn’t there but five months when I co-worker told me about one of the agency’s clients—a company that packaged book series for teenagers. She told me they needed ghostwriters. That’s all I needed to hear. I asked around and got more information about the process. I made a phone call. I wasn’t really interested in writing books for teenagers, but I was interested in writing, period. Good enough.
Within a few weeks I had my first ghostwriting contract and was writing at night in addition to my day job. My income doubled and I was leading a comfortable existence in
And as far as Kitchen Nightmares goes, the episode did end on bit of a bright note. Even though Piccolo Teatro closed, Gordon Ramsay saw tons of potential in the young chef he had hired for the restaurant, and offered her a new job in one of his own kitchens. I’m happy to say that she jumped at the opportunity.