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Anthony Bourdain on Continuous Improvement: Be "Less Awful Every Day"

Posted by Mark Graban

Dec 17, 2014 7:11:00 AM


I'm a big fan of Anthony Bourdain, having read his book Kitchen Confidential and watching his various TV series on food and travel. Of all of the people in the media, I've always thought it would be a lot fun to have dinner with him if somehow given the chance.

It turns out, as this video from the PBS interview show "Charlie Rose" illustrates, that Anthony and I would be able to talk about continuous improvement. He's learning the martial art of jiu-jitsu and from it, he seems to be learning principles that would apply "kaizen" - getting a little better every day about how we try to get better every day.

Here is a video clip via YouTube



Bourdain says it's "humbling" to learn something new and to not be good at something. He started learning jiu jitsu at age 58, something Rose is surprised to hear.

Bourdain says "it's the last thing I could have imagined wanting to do... or enjoying." 

He adds, "At my age, to learn an entirely new skill is deeply satisfying.... The incremental tiny satisfactions of being a little less awful at something every day, it's like that in jiu jitsu for me.... I want to suck less each day or looking forward to the day when I might possibly be a little bit better. It's a never ending journey and it appeals to some part of my brain that I haven't visited before."

Many leaders in the workplace, maybe at age 58, decide to learn about Lean, Kaizen, and other improvement methodologies. They often say they didn't realize they'd ever want to do (or enjoy) improvement work. This style of leadership requires learning and new skills. We might think we're terrible at leading improvement or awful at problem solving... but we can get better through daily practice. We can look forward to a day when we're not terrible. But, to get there, we have to start today. And we have to keep working at it.

I hope Bourdain's words are inspiring to you!

(hat tip to our CEO Allan Wilson for finding this and tweeting about the video)

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