Nothing Is Wrong With The Recipe

It’s not the recipe. It’s you.

Why is it that two people can take the exact same recipe yet have different results? Same ingredients, same cooking supplies, different results.

If The Lady and I were to follow the same 10-step instructions for cooking salmon, they’d taste different.


She’s no master chef and I’m not a complete stranger to the kitchen. It’s just that no recipe can account for the little subtle nuances that bubble to the surface as a result of experience.

The recipe says sauté the onions for six minutes. I do just that. She pulls it off the stove after five.

The recipe says add uncooked diced beets and then cook in the pan for 10–12 minutes until tender. I do just that. She decides to pre-cook the beets in the oven.

You see, she knows it will take longer than suggested for the beets to cook. And also, a bit of a char from the oven will add depth to the flavour profile. (Me: Flavour profile!? What step is that in the recipe? It’s been 20 minutes. Why aren’t these damn beets cooked yet!?)

Brian Shaw plan didn't work out with the Denver Nuggets. Same recipe (as the Zen Master Phil Jackson). Different result. — Photo credit:
Shaw’s plan didn’t work out with the Denver Nuggets. Same recipe (as the Zen Master Phil Jackson). Different result. — Photo credit:

It’s the same in coaching.

Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something completely different.

It’s not always that one is right and the other wrong. It’s just that experience has a big effect on what we see, how we interpret it; and, ultimately, what we do with that information.

“Perspective requires knowing where to look, but also knowing where to stand.”

—John Maeda

It’s why I believe coaching is an exact art and an inexact science. It’s why data and research can never tell the whole story. But, it does help add colour and much-needed detail to the picture. It’s why we are never ‘game ready’ coming out of school—no matter how many letters in the alphabet come after one’s name. And, it’s why, despite our persistent insistence, we still need to earn our stripes.

As you grow more, you can see more.

The voices that are dominating the basketball world are no longer that of the old sages: Wooden, Newell, Riley, Meyer, etc. There’s a new tribe that has the conch. They own the hill.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that with everyone – me included – having a mic, it’s harder to separate the signal from the noise.

It’s not about the latest…

“What’s the latest?” This type of thinking, I’ve learned, is a slippery slope. The better question is: What’s lasted?

Remember: If you use the same knife for 10 years without sharpening it, there’s bound to be a sharper knife out there. Yet, there is a reason that experienced chefs continually sharpen their knives and hold on to a good (old) set.

Vern Gambetta says it well: Learn the ropes. Pay your dues. Earn your stripes. You can’t enlist in the army as a general .

He’s right. Experience is required, but you have to keep sharpening the ‘blade’.

Instead of breadth (of knowledge), seek depth. When that happens, you’ll know when to follow the recipe and when not to.