Anthony Bourdain is not known for holding back. It was just that straight talk we we were seeking when we caught up with the outspoken chef and personality this past week at SXSW where he spoke about passion in small business at the festival's Capital One's Spark Small Business House. He shared his thoughts on standing apart and what to stop worrying about right now. As you’d expect, his advice is simple and straight to the point.
Worry about the right things
Bourdain doesn’t worry about standing out -- and suggests you don’t either. “I’m not looking to separate myself from everyone else; that’s a counterintuitive process.” Instead, he doubles down on his passions and the work that interests him. Being true to yourself puts you far ahead of the others looking for shortcuts, he says. “I’ve had a lot of success in my career by doing things that are creatively satisfying and not really concerning myself with the market.”
Never confuse great work with popular work. Bourdain cautions entrepreneurs against racing to the middle in the name of building wide appeal. “I’m willing to accept less of an audience or maybe no audience rather than suck.” He suggests thinking carefully about the work you want to do and the market you want to capture. Betraying what makes you special is “the road to probable suicide and spectacular self-loathing and madness.”
Know when to fold ‘em
Be willing to walk away. By standing up for himself and showing integrity, Bourdain says he was able to bend rules and avoid exploitative situations. “That’s a fundamental part of my business model,” he explains. “We can do business together or not. Tell me now.” If someone wants something derivative or down the middle from you, Bourdain says, you should just tell them to ask the other guy.
Don’t fake it and don’t play it safe
You can’t make exciting work if you’re not excited. Following some template just because it’s familiar or recognizable will hurt creativity and authenticity. “Don’t put me in a kitchen and ask me to feign enthusiasm for a Denver fucking omelet.” Consistency may be the key to running a great restaurant, but it’s “the enemy of creativity” for other industries. “The next thing you know, it’s Two and a Half Men season 19,” Bourdain quips, cautioning anyone from getting too complacent.