I made a Sunday roast the other day (because not being able to cook is like not being able to cuddle – right, Robert Rodriguez fans?) and it made me think about fighting. More specifically, it made me think about the process of getting good at anything.
You can’t make a flawless Sunday roast first time. Nobody can. To take just one part of the Platonic ideal of a roast, I’ve seen some films where bomb disposal looks less stressful than making proper Yorkshire puddings. You have to have the right flour, and sieve it, and mix it so it doesn’t get lumpy, then get the tray (and oil) hotter than the fires of hell, then tip the batter in without letting the tray-heat drop more than a couple of degrees or burning your hands off, then play the game of chicken that is watching the puddings through the oven-window (clue: when they look done, when you’re sure they’re done and they’re about to burn, they still aren’t done enough to stop them deflating as soon as you open the door). Now combine that with managing every other element of the roast, bearing in mind that all of them have to go in and out of the oven at the optimum time, and it looks like an impossible task – like playing six games of chess when you still aren’t really sure how the horsey ones move.
But here’s the thing: you don’t have to make a flawless roast first time. You make one, or (preferably) help someone else make a bit of one, and some things go right and some things go wrong. Then you refine the process, by learning how much you need to baste the potatoes or that you need to make a tiny carrot-rack for the chicken to stop it getting soggy, and then you refine it some more. Then one day you make a roast that everyone says is amazing, and you can’t even remember when you couldn’t cook like this.
This process is remarkably similar to how everything else works. Learning judo, or Chinese, or bass guitar, can seem insanely difficult, if you look at it in the same way as a Sunday roast – if someone puts you in front of a large aggressive man and tells you to throw him on the floor, or gives you a guitar and the tab for Seven Nation Army. But you don’t have to learn them all in one go. You learn bits here and there, you enjoy the process and keep plugging away, and then one day you realise you’re pretty good at throwing people on the floor or you can understand most of Ip-Man. And here’s the real secret: life is going to go on whether you do any of this stuff or not. In five years, you’re going to be five years older, but you could have had five years’ practice at cooking or fighting – enough to get really, really good. Start it today. Nothing’s impossible.
HOMEWORK: Figure out something you want to learn, and take the first step to learning it today. That could be Googling a recipe and buying the ingredients, or anything else you like. And if you want any Sunday roast tips, give me a shout in the comments.