Jeanine Cogan
Executive coach

Jeanine Cogan

Heads Cogan Coaching and is on the faculty of the Center for Continuing and Professional Education at Georgetown University.

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Success' shadow side

Q: Some Japanese chefs have a "problem" -- their restaurants earned one or more Michelin stars, the world's biggest culinary honor. The chefs say they cook for their customers, not strangers, and they don't relish the attention. Top Western chefs have a beef, too, saying Japanese chefs mostly stick to tradition, so their dishes aren't as praiseworthy. The two cultures seem to define success differently. What are the consequences of each approach, and is one better than the other?


The recent awarding of Michelin stars to Western Japanese chefs is a classic example of how success has a shadow side.

The chefs in Western Japan recently awarded the Michelin stars for their culinary magic were not seeking this award and for the most part didn't want it. Their idea of success was to cook in a way that drew a regular and loyal customer base. Receiving the Michelin honor may interfere with their continued sense of success -- as they have to cook for strangers and expand their production.

This reminds me of endless stories over time -- about how attention has a downside. For some of us notoriety can be painful, with unwanted consequences. I think of well-known examples such as Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson.

And I think of examples in my own life. When I was in 10th grade, a few of us decided to go out for the track team on a whim. To my surprise, I was a fast runner. I ended up running the 800-meter dash that season and placing fifth in all of Europe (I went to school in Germany at a Department of Defense School).

The next year when I returned to the track team, my coach treated me and another successful runner like we were rock stars. He put us on a pedestal and encouraged everyone to be like us. Well, for me that ended up being the beginning of the end.

This new-found stardom came with high expectations that weighed on me heavily. Instead of thinking at the beginning of my race "I am going to place 1st or 2nd," I now thought "what if I come in last?" Clearly, mindset is critical to being a successful athlete and indeed my performance plummeted. I didn't make it to the championships that year, to say the least.

This brings us to an interesting question -- how do we give praise and awards without interfering with a person's intrinsic desire to succeed?

By Jeanine Cogan  |  November 1, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Defining success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Give the praise and don't worry about the reaction. If people can't handle it, let them crumble under the weight of it all.

Posted by: pamschuh9 | November 8, 2010 12:41 PM
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my only problem is that you compared japanese chefs to american entertainers. elvis, monroe, jackson ultimatley were in it for the attention. these chefs truly want to cook

Posted by: nall92 | November 1, 2010 12:29 PM
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my only problem is that you compared japanese chefs to american entertainers. elvis, monroe, jackson ultimatley were in it for the attention. these chefs truly want to cook

Posted by: nall92 | November 1, 2010 12:28 PM
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