The Science of Creative Mastery

There are only two types of creatives...Chefs or Cooks: which one are you?
The Science of Creative Mastery
Jake McNeill
May 26, 2021
5 min read
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Jiro Ono is widely considered to be the greatest Sushi master alive. 

He is 95. And works every day. 

He is a master of his art. Jiro is what is known as a “shokunin.” 

(n) master of one’s profession; craftsman, artisan

His restaurant in Tokyo only seats 10 people. Customers sit on bar stools facing the chefs. 

Barack Obama, Tom Cruise, David Beckham, and Arnold Schwarzenegger are just some of the celebrities who have sat opposite Ono eating his delicacies.

The restaurant recently lost its 3 Michelin stars. Why? 

Not because the food has declined but because the Michelin guide recognise regular people can no longer get in.

There is a year-long waiting list. Bookings only come via exclusive concierge services. 

Ono is credited with innovating methods used in modern sushi preparation.

Jiro Ono is a chef. He is an artist. 

Chefs vs Cooks

Life is about decisions. Decisions that change the course of our lives. 

The most important decision in your creative career? 

Are you going to be a chef or a cook? 

What’s the difference? 

A cook is somebody that has skills but doesn’t have the drive or creativity to be a chef.

Cooks can really cook but they can’t create. They follow others people’s recipes.

Chefs on the others hand are experts at balancing delicate flavours to create something magical.

They are culinary professors pioneering exquisite taste sensations. Chefs are obsessed with creating the perfect plate of food. 

Chefs are artists who create beautiful music. Cooks are singers who sing someone else’s music. 

There is nothing wrong with being a cook. In fact, often cooks are more financially successful than the chefs who create the art.

Chefs and mainstream success

Some chefs want success and fame. That’s fair enough.

But chefs can’t go to the mainstream. The mainstream is for cooks to produce watered down wares for the masses.

But if Chefs can master the niches. Create a big enough buzz then the mainstream comes to the chefs. 

Then they can change the culture. 

Cooks can only copy a diluted version of it. 

Chefs focus on creating extraordinary work that is worth sharing. Work that is remarkable. Work that matters. Work that makes a difference.

In the end, Chefs are happier. They get deep joy from the love of creating. They have internal validation.

Cooks are unhappier. They get joy from likes, views, and comments. They need external validation. When their popularity fades they are left with nothing but their memories.

It is intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic motivation

“I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.”

― Saul Bass

Psychologists and researchers say the key to being happier is intrinsic motivation. These are internal motivations based on our true selves and core values. 

Internal motivations are things we enjoy doing. It is our true authentic self. It is creating with integrity to serve others. 

Extrinsic motivations are external validations and the applause of strangers.

Your creativity is a gift. It is intrinsic motivation. In other words, the joy is in the creating, and not the results.  Finding happiness in the journey and not the mythical destination.

This is also true of life. 

The theory of motivation

Psychologists Deci and Ryan argue there’s three basic needs to create intrinsic motivation —and be happier.

  1. Autonomy

This is simple. We want to make our own decisions.

  1. Competence

The second essential psychological need is mastery. We must feel competent in what we like to do. It’s an important part of our identity.

We take great joy in growing and developing mastery. 

  1. Relatedness

We want to connect with others. It is a basic human need. It’s what drives us. 

We need to belong, to attach, to feel intimacy with others. Without connection, we feel lonely and isolated. 

Connections are a fundamental human need. Without them, we can’t be happy. 

This is why our creativity is such a gift. We have the tools before us to master our art, increase and stabilise our self-worth.

We can take our creativity and connect with an audience.

“This is why we’re here. To fight through the pain and, when possible, to relieve the pain of others. So simple. So hard to see.”

— Andre Agassi

This is the opportunity your creativity presents to you. To take your pain, your experiences, your angst, your ecstasy; to process, distill and articulate them. 

And connect them with an audience.

Music, art, creativity is communication. They existed before language was even invented. Music and creativity is a form of humanity.

You can reach out with your art, connect to people and create your community. 

Do this and you will have created your purpose. Build a big enough community and you will have created a career. 

But the former will mean more than the latter.

Society has got it all wrong: Success doesn’t make you happy and fulfilled. 

Being happy and fulfilled makes you successful.

A bit about me

I help maverick artists and creators hack into their true creative genius, crush the creative blocks that hold them back, and build highly engaged audiences

Every creative rebel’s worst enemy?

Creative mediocrity: Being bland. Staying in our lane. Creating in our comfort zone and following the crowds.

The Goal? 

To create authentic work that matters. Take creative risks, avoid creative burnout, and make a racket in saturated markets.

I’m a former multi-platinum artist manager who burnt out and became a creative blogger, coach, and consultant.

I’ve challenged myself to write 50 articles in 50 working days. 10 down, 40 to go.

Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

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