Airplanes + Epiphanies + The Upside of Slime

Over 20 years ago a book fell (literally) off the shelf and changed my relationship with food (and almost everything else). It wasn’t a health book, a cookbook, or even a self-help book. It was called Skunk Works and it was written about the secret windowless world where my father, a highly regarded aeronautical engineer, spent his days.

Let me back up a little. I grew up paralyzed by perfectionism. I didn’t know it at the time. (I just thought skateboarding instead of doing my homework was way more cool.) My father, the center of my mini-universe, was a focused mathematician. An immigrant success story.  Driven and determined. Things in my house were black or white. The answer was all “right” or all “wrong”.This mindset affected everything– my food, my school work, my relationships. It wasn’t until I read this book that I learned secrets of success.

I learned that in competitive bidding for highly coveted government contracts, Lockheed and Boeing etc… promised delivery of products at accelerated timelines for things that they had no real idea how to accomplish.

Epiphany #1: Commit first. Figure it out later.

I had it backwards. I thought I had to know everything before starting. Wow. Even the “big guys” have things to figure out- they don’t let a silly little thing like a defined plan get in their way.

Say yes. Now. Then call in the troops. Get support. Gather the goods.

As I take on new challenges (like writing my first book) you bet I’ll keep this in mind. And I do this everyday in the kitchen. I rarely have a specific plan- I just “go for it!”. This also applies to setting goals for health. See yourself already having achieved your goal, then reverse engineer the steps.

What was perhaps the most life changing part of the book for me was that once they got the contract and rolled up their sleeves to get the job done,each step was finished to just 80% of “perfection”. The brains behind the operation, most likely through the use of a complicated algorithm, recognized that the effort it would take to accomplish 100% was not worth the return in the additional 20% investment.

Epiphany #2 Set goal high. Move on when close.

If these highly prized and accomplished folks decided that perfection is over-rated, why would I hold that standard for myself? I trusted that they knew something I didn’t about success. Come on, if these guys can feel confident that their aircrafts will stay up in the sky at 80%, I can probably relax my standards a little and actually accomplish more of what I want in life.

So what does this have to do with nutrition?

The 80/20 rule is an approach with eating and lifestyle as well. To keep this post short, I’ll expand more about how you can use it to transform your relationship with food and life in next week’s post.

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