August 28, 2004

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" ....


Years ago, when I was still learning to cook, I was told that the proper way to cook a ham is to "Cut off the end and set it aside. Put the ham into a pan, bathe the top with honey - or sprinkle it with brown sugar, if preferred. Then, bake the ham at 350 degrees 35 minutes for each pound, making sure to baste frequently to keep the ham moist".
 
I found the instructions easy enough to follow. That first ham did indeed turn out to be quite enjoyable. But I was a curious sort. And, I found one step in this recipe troubling. What does cutting off the end of the ham have to do with anything?
 
The person who gave me the recipe didn't know. She could only tell me, "It's just the way you have to do it. That's how my mother taught me and it's how her mother taught her."
 
It took some sleuthing to discover that her Grandmother had been a poor immigrant. An excellent cook, she had very few pans.  Invariably, the ham she was cooking was too large for the pan she had available. So, she had to cut off the end in order to get it into the pan.
 
The point here is not how to cook a ham. Rather, to encourage you to think about how often in our daily lives - and especially in business practices - we follow procedures and formulas that someone tells us will guarantee success...without thinking about what we're really doing. 
 
We may indeed learn by observing what works...and, even by following instructions to the letter. But, we succeed by taking the best of the best and making it our own...not by blind imitation. As creative entrepreneurs, it's important that we keep this in mind, particularly when we're told so often that we need to fit a mold or follow established formulas if we want to succeed.
 
Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832), the author of today's Bits 'N' Tidbits heading, had a terrific sense of humor. Think about what he's saying...
 
And, then, recall Ralph Waldo Emerson's (1803-1882), words of caution, "Imitation is suicide."
 
Dare to ask questions...then, look for ways to improve on what you've learned - as only you can.
 
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