What a Slice of Pumpkin Pie Taught me About the importance of mastering your craft.

by William Childs

Inspiration is everywhere if you are open to it. Sometimes, it may visit you when you least expect it. It happened to me recently at a lunch meeting at a restaurant in King of Prussia, PA, called J. Al-exanders. I was meeting with Mr. Ed Harris, the Chief Marketing Officer of The Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, and an adjunct professor of marketing strategy at Saint Joseph’s University. After we finished eating, Ed remarked to me that I might want to try the pumpkin pie.

Not wanting to disappoint Ed, I agreed. Before the pie arrived, Ed warned me that it would be the best pumpkin pie I would ever eat. A bold statement, to be sure. I mean, I trusted his judgment, but the best ever? Well, I found out how correct that statement was after I took the first bite. I immedi-ately realized that this was no ordinary pumpkin pie.

I gently put the fork down while attempting to maintain my composure. Ed looked over at me with a satisfied look, and asked, “Well, what do you think?” I had to admit, that was indeed the best pumpkin pie I have ever tasted, and I only needed one bite to realize it. Now, I believe that most people, given the proper ingredients, could probably make a decent pumpkin pie. I’m just not sure everyone could make a life-changing one. Or at least one that could make me contemplate the meaning of mastery and craft and how some of us function at levels of greatness that few ever reach.

Whoever made the pumpkin pie that day was no ordinary baker. They created something remarka-ble and so delicious that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for months afterward. It made me think about what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary? What are the essential ingredients of success? I found a compelling answer in poet Reyna Biddy, who said this, “Trust in your craft enough to admire it, study it, perfect it, breathe it. Never stop getting better at whatever it is that you love to do.”

I don’t think it matters if you’re flipping burgers, writing screenplays, conducting orchestras, teach-ing high school science, roasting coffee, or painting houses. We all should be following Biddy’s advice. Far too many of us are content with the status quo, and I find that unfortunate. Mastery does not reside anywhere near mediocrity. Yes, you can earn a good living being average. But why would you want to? Seriously. Nobody should ever be content with average. While I can appreci-ate that not everyone is prepared to do whatever it takes to master their craft, I believe that mastery is attainable for those who work hard at it.

There is a myriad of factors that are involved in an individual’s journey to mastery, but there is one essential that is the fuel you’ll need to get you to the Promised Land. Passion! Without it, you won’t be able to sustain the energy and drive required for the road ahead. The ability to find your passion is really about finding your authentic self. You will also have to add in some resolve, a heaping amount of determination, equal parts optimism, and top it off with some love and bake it for 30 years.

Harris knows how mastery plays a role in both education and marketing. “As educators, we should never stop learning. In fact, the power of knowledge will continue to be a key ingredient for suc-cess. Students need to remember that learning doesn’t end when you receive a diploma. Whether you’re marketing experiences, apparel, or even food, the best companies understand that consumers seek value and quality. When you have quality products that are unique in some way compared to the competition, it makes our job as marketers easier to craft a memorable story that connects with an audience.”

I will always be grateful to those who consistently show up every day willing to put the time in, who are always

looking for ways to improve their skills, and who are profoundly invested in the outcome of the service they provide or a product they make. Those who take the status quo and turn it into status whoa! They never settle for good enough, and they are always looking for ways to improve both themselves and the people they work around. If it weren’t for them, the world would be a pretty average place. In that world, I would never have had the opportunity to experience how amazing a slice of pumpkin pie could taste when it’s baked with mastery.

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