I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough experience. I don’t have enough resources. I sure as hell don’t have enough money.
In 2006, I started my first company with Y Combinator, Inkling. Three of us moved in together and rented a house that doubled as our office space.
One of my favorite memories was cooking. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, when I could be spending time building features or talking to users, so I brought this cookbook with me: The Best 1001 Short, Easy Recipes.
It’s amazing what you can do with chicken and a can of soda. I love cookbooks like these. What can I do with the fewest resources possible?
The constraint of cooking is the perfect playground to practice resourcefullness. There are so many ways to substitute things you have on hand for what a recipe actually calls for: ingredients, methods of cooking, even cookware.
Why can’t a cookie sheet also serve as a lid to a pot? I need fruit juice. Would the liquid in a fruit cup from 7-11 suffice? I don’t have any fresh tomatoes. How about a jar of salsa from Walgreens?
So this last weekend was a treat. My wife and I got to see Robert Irvine - live.
Robert is a chef on The Food Network. He’s got a couple shows called Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible. They’re both about constraints.
A typical challenge on Dinner Impossible: “Using only the kitchens in a basketball arena, with equipment usually just meant to warm up hotdogs, you have 10 hours to feed 2000 people at a Fundraising Gala. Oh, and you have no budget and this staff of 3.”
Of course he does the impossible, and creates a ridiculously delicious meal.
Restaurant Impossible is also about constraints. He gets $10,000 and 36 hours to help turn a dying restaurant around. His results so far?
Out of 74 restaurants he’s visited, 64 have turned around and are still operating. 5 have been bought out and turned into something else. And 5 have failed.
So this last weekend, we saw a theater show with Robert cooking live against similar constraints. He’d get a situation where the audience would pick 5 random ingredients: corn flakes, lamb chops, sardines, french onion dip, Mediterranean pickles. And 10 minutes.
He makes something incredible.
It’s inspiring to think about what this guy can do in my kitchen. The place where I’m constantly finding: I don’t have that ingredient or that type of pan. I definitely don’t have 60 minutes to make dinner tonight.
And this guy can cook the best food most of us have probably ever tasted in 10 minutes with random objects.
Watching Robert is a great reminder. What other situations am I in where I could be doing so much more with the things I already have at my disposal? Where else am I getting stuck and if I just open up my vision to what’s already around me, I’d see a solution?
What other constraints can I work with rather than complaining: I don’t have enough.
Robert ended the show with one thought I’ll pass along.
When you’re in a grocery store checkout line, and you see the person ahead of you struggling in that position where they realize they can’t afford all the items they put on the belt. And now they’re trying to figure out what they or their family can do without this week. (I know we’ve all been there. I’ve been on both sides of this. It can happen to any of us.)
But next time this happens. Next time you see someone struggling in your line.
Open your mouth. Listen to them. And ask if you can help.
If the world worked like that more often, we’d be in a much better place.
P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter: here.