SunsetOverAdriennesIMG_0160There’s a restaurant that’s been a client of my newspaper since they opened. It’s family owned and has been in business for over thirty years. In Vancouver, where there are far too many restaurants, to survive under the same ownership for over three decades is really quite amazing.

How did they do it?

Hard, hard work, we’re talking the entire family making sacrifices. Reasonable prices – not cheap but good value for your dine-out dollar. Good food, not great, but consistently good. Friendly, efficient service, they really made you feel at home.

This trilogy – good product, good price, good work ethic are absolutely essential for a business to succeed. Are they are a guarantee of success? Absolutely not.

Competition, rent increases, economic recession, a change in the neighbourhood’s demographics – any one or a combination of all can broadside a business and, if they’re smart, close their doors in six months.

Somehow this restaurant managed to weather most of these obstacles and slowly, very slowly, business grew. As it did, they grew with it – always learning, always incorporating what worked and discarding what didn’t. After a quarter of a century of being in business in the same neighbourhood they were doing okay – a steady clientele and lineups on special days like Valentine’s and Mother’s Day.

They’d put in their 10,000 hours and then some. They were ready.

The concept of 10,000 was put forward in Outliers, a book by Malcom Gladwell. He postulates that “10,000 hours (ten years) of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything”, and backs it up with research by Daniel Levitin, a neurologist.

Success, according to Gladwell, follows a predictable pattern. It’s not the brightest that succeed, nor is it the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It’s less about talent and more about opportunity, plus accidents of time, birth and place which can matter greatly.

So you’ve put in your 10,000 hours. You’re good, in fact, you’re damn good, but still the kind of success you think you deserve, the kind of success less talented writers are achieving, eludes you.

What’s missing?

The opportunity.

For my restaurant friends it came in the way of a national food show called “You Gotta Eat Here”. Twenty minutes on the Food Channel from coast to coast. The customers came in droves, some as far away as a150 miles. They kept coming, they’re still coming and because the owners had put in their 10,000 hours they can handle it.

Today, the restaurant is more or less full every night with lineups on the weekend. I seldom go there anymore, it’s just too busy, the family members aren’t on the floor, and the food and service has slipped significantly.

Yet the positive reviews just keep piling up. It’s as if no one has the courage to go against the crowd. If they have to wait to get in, wait to be seated, and wait for their order, it must be great, right?

Reminds me of some books I’ve read by bestselling authors. Once great, they now have a reputation that seems to intimidate honest criticism of their current work.

So where would this restaurant be without You Gotta Eat Here featuring them on national television? Likely, still grinding it out one day after another.

Forty years as a journalist and columnist, four novels behind me, three dozen blog posts – I must be coming up on my 10,000 hours.

I think I’m ready.

I’m looking for “the” opportunity and it doesn’t appear to be available through social media or laboriously attempting to cultivate individual relationships with reader’s one email at a time.

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