I was talking to my pal Ted who runs a pop- up falafel stall. It's very popular and successful but he told me it took him two years to 'get everything right'- from the menu, to the place, the time, even the method of serving. 'You see,' said Ted, 'If one element is a bit off you've lost a customer. I thought it was all about having great falafel- but actually they only have to be 'good enough', just as every other element must be good enough. I started with crappy chairs and no one wanted to sit down. Then I got benches because they were at least 'good enough'. People don't judge food in isolation. The whole experience actually flavours the food too!' What Ted said chimed in with my own experience with many things I have attempted- big and small. A very modest example, but one which shows this at work clearly, was when I tried to get an Egyptian water pipe working. I'd bought it from the market and I just couldn't make it work. An Iranian friend came round and took charge. He explained that we have a wrong image of how the pipe should work. The wrong image is it will be a bit crap at first and then by sealing up leaks etc it will gradually get better and better- we can tune it so to speak. But actually it isn't like that. The water pipe is either on or off. It either works brilliantly or not at all. No single socket or connective piece in the pipe (and it has about five) gives any clue on how things are going with making the pipe work. So you fiddle about, get nowhere, and give up. As I had. But my pal upped the energy levels and kept going from joint to joint sealing each one better and better and then puffing and testing and resealing each joint (using foil if you're interested) until suddenly, as if by a mircale, the thing was working perfectly. Each seal needs to be above a certain level of airtightness. With one just below it, the whole thing won't work. No matter how great your glowing coals and tobacco holder it just won't work, even a bit. This shows the strange synergetic side success in an enterprise can have. You think you just need to focus on the main thing and the rest will kind of catch up as you go along. But it will fail if you think like that. You need to focus on each element in turn, fiercely and intently, raising it above the minimum acceptable level. It doesn't have to be brilliant- just good enough. Then you go to the next element. Keep cycling around all of then until hey presto you have a roaring success on your hands...People seem to know you need energy to succeed. This is one reason- energetic people are more likely to keep fussing around each element of a project until it succeeds. But if you know this is the right procedure you can employ it even if you don't happen to have a surfeit of energy.
The Book of the Book- reprinted in a new issue by ISF Publishing- repays reading, rereading and contemplation of the central idea. Get a copy now!
The Book of the Book
by Idries Shah
ISBN 978 1 78479 078 3
'A writer's reputation is two fold: what we think of his work, and what we think of him. What's more, we expect the two halves to relate: if they don't, one or other of our opinions alters until they do.'