“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
— Gustave Flaubert
After miraculously putting our kids down to bed one night, my wife and I decided to give the Chef’s Table a shot. It’s an original series on Netflix that profiles famous chefs from all over the world. In a 50-minute episode you can expect to learn about the history and cooking philosophy of these celebrated “heads of the kitchen.”
Early in Season one, they profiled the renowned Argentinian chef, Francis Mallmann. His cooking philosophy is fascinating and unorthodox, but what really got my attention was the place he calls home.
Francis lives on a tiny island in Patagonia, 100 miles from modern civilization. To get there, you must spend a couple of hours driving down dirt highways until you reach the shore of a lake engulfed by mountains. From there, you must take to the waters by boat until, about an hour in, you arrive at his remote, floating patch of earth.
At first glance the island appears both glorious and frightening. Glorious because the unspoiled landscapes are a beauty to behold. Frightening because the trappings of modernity are no where to be found!
In referring to his cold, forested island-home, this place he's lived for some time, Francis said:
"It's a land you learn to love very slowly."
As the episode marched on, I kept returning to those nine words that contradicted everything my culture had ever taught me about love.
I must admit, the idea that love could be cultivated was foreign to me in my youth. I just assumed you either fell head-over-heels for something or someone—or you didn’t. That’s what the movies & music I grew up on preached anyway. Having to learn to love something? That sounded like settling. Actually, it sounded like a sacrifice of love itself.
But, for those who have ears to hear, Francis’s passing remark imparts a nugget of wisdom; a much needed message, especially for those who, like me, were raised in a “love at first sight” culture:
• Just because you don’t fall head-over-heels...
• Just because you’re disinclined at the outset...
• Just because you dislike, or even loathe something in the beginning... doesn’t mean you won’t come to love and cherish that thing in the end.
Just as Francis, very slowly, fell in love with his island home, I too, after surveying my own list of loves, recognized a handful that took considerable time to cultivate. One I now deeply cherish took longer than most: The infamous morning routine.
The Least Interesting Word in the English Language
I get it. Routines, especially morning ones, aren’t something the young are eager to establish. But anyone who’s gone to the trouble of implementing one will tell you it’s the essential ritual in their day they wouldn’t dare live without.
Nevertheless, the word, routine, is the least interesting word in the English language. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a sequence of actions regularly followed.” Another describes it as “an unvarying method or procedure.” How many of us have a passion for following unvarying procedures? It’s only when we discover the word’s etymology, however, that it gets a real chance at redemption.
Routine originated in the late 17th century and is derived from the word route. As we all know, a route is a well-worn path or trail leading to some important or satisfying destination. When I hear the words, “well-worn path,” I can’t help but think back to U.S. History class and to the unit on the Oregon Trail.
The Oregon Trail and many other east-to-west routes were carved out of the earth by the great mountain men of the early 1800s. These frontiersmen and fur trappers were the first to blaze new trails that eventually hundreds of thousands of emigrants would trek in the second-half of the 19th century.
These rugged individuals were incentivized to clear paths so they could get their goods, especially furs, to market back east. The route was one of the keys to these explorer’s productivity and prosperity because it facilitated a free flowing network that made their hopes and dreams possible.
If these pioneers were still alive today they’d be the first to tell you that the trail wasn’t the thing. It was important. But it was what passed though the trail and the speed and ease with which it passed that was the rationale for putting in the backbreaking work of clearing and connecting hundreds of miles of track back east.
Here’s where I’m going with this. Stout-hearted mountain men aren’t the only ones who need an established route. You need one too. Not a 2,000 mile wagon trail, but a well-worn routine that provides the time & space for fruitful patterns of behavior to ritualize. This process of ritualization is the very thing that facilitates the calling welling up inside you.
From hence forward banish the idea of a routine as some “monotonous method” or “unvarying procedure,” and instead start seeing it as the quickest and easiest way to reach the kind of productivity that produces the desired result.
What you’re about to read may sound strange, but I believe it’s true; and it’s the thing I wish someone would’ve told me when I was just starting out:
A routine practiced routinely is what separates a regular life from a remarkable one.
If you’re of the mindset that you have yet to become as you ought, if you wish to give more than you take, if you desire to impact the world and those around you, if you long to taste something of the Divine, then you ought to get serious about blazing a trail. Sharpen your axe, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to swing. The work will be painful—excruciatingly so at the start. There’s no getting around it. But my promise to you is this: If you put in the hard work of clearing a path, and you stick with it, you’ll not only establish a routine that facilitates your deepest calling, you’ll build a ritual that brings fulfillment to everyday life.
About Joshua Bailey
Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.