There is No Such Thing as a Solo Act

In the Academy Award-winning film “20 Feet From Stardom,” superstars such as Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, and Sting pay homage to the relatively unknown background singers who bring harmony to their music. In one of my favorite quotes from the movie, Sting says, “My greatest pleasure is to stand back and let them do what they can do.”

Despite Sting’s massive success, he is still humble enough to realize he can’t do it all on his own. And guess what – that’s something to emulate. No matter what position we hold professionally or in our day-to-day lives, there are people who support us. None of us stand alone. It’s important to remember to have gratitude for those who make us shine.

In my own experience, I recently enjoyed the distinct pleasure of serving as guest chef with Crystal Cruises, sailing through exotic South American ports. While on board the Crystal Serenity, I was fortunate enough to conduct live cooking demonstrations, take part in the ship’s morning TV show, and customize a dinner for close to 1,000 passengers. When guest complimented me, I took the opportunity to sing the praises of the kitchen staff and chefs who do the real work day in and day out. Although acclimation always feels good, it’s important to share the limelight. I could never execute my cooking design without a well engined machine.

Taking stock in your own personal gratitude makes you realize how lucky you are and makes the gifts you are given seem even more special.

Last week I filmed at the Seven Seas Food Festival at SeaWorld Orlando (I can’t wait to share the upcoming video series) and after seeing a sneak preview of the first cut, I was further reminded

that although I’m the chef interviewing and narrating the footage, it’s the photographers and videographers, post-production people, magazine editors at “Parade,” kitchen staff, and transportation crew that bring everything together like movie magic. I simply couldn’t do my job without the help of hundreds of behind-the-scenes experts every year. And I tell them so at every opportunity. I thank my support team for dedicating their time and effort to our mutual success.

My advice for not developing an astronomical ego when things are going well for you?

1. Never forget where you started. Your roots will always ground you.

2. All Honey. No Vinegar. Yep, the old adage of “you get more flies with honey than with vinegar” still rings true. Just because you’ve gained some success doesn’t give you the license to be demanding or unkind.

3. Try to Inspire. Recently I was in a kitchen where an entry level chef wasn’t following the methods I had suggested. Rather than singling him out and dwelling on the negative, I offered some gentle guidance. I said, “Hey, mate. I want to teach you a little trick that another chef shared with me years ago. All I ask in return is that you pass it along to another chef down the road.”

In the end, it’s as easy as remembering to always say ‘thanks’. And not just to the people who support you in your career but to the cashier at the grocery store, the school crossing guard, and that helpful woman at the cleaners. Your parents. Your children. Your personal background singers.

Look them in the eye and say how grateful you are for what they bring to your journey.

Then follow Sting’s advice. Stand back and let them do what they can do.

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© 2016 Jon Ashton