Spicy food is in my blood. I’m pretty sure my Indian mom seeded my baby bottles with masala.
Yesterday, a friend (Craig) and I decided to take on the famous Phaal Curry from Brick Lane Curry House- the spiciest curry in the USA. It was featured in a Man vs Food episode. Winners get a free beer and their name on the “Phall” of Fame
I grew up in an Indian household, eating spicy food with every meal. Even after seeing how the chef prepared the curry—a gas mask required to prepare this mixture of 10 peppers, including habanero and ghost peppers—my friend and I both took it on.
We took a bite, and looked at each other. “This isn’t so spicy,” Ten seconds passed. Twenty. And then we began to sweat. I asked for a towel and began downing water faster than a NYFD truck fights fires.
I gave up within a minute.
Believe me: I was embarrassed. I lost instantly to my friend—a white friend, at that. Please don’t forward this email to my parents, as I think it would bring shame upon my family.
But for my friend—well, it was his second attempt at the Phaal. And he wasn’t willing to lose.
30 minutes passed. Everyone else had finished eating. Craig still had half a plate to go. And he just couldn’t eat anymore.
“My mouth has already been burned, it’s not the spice that is stopping me. I just can’t eat another bite. It’s too…much…food.”
He started to quit. He told us to call the waiter and cancel the bet. But the five other people at his dinner would let him.
“Hell no, you are not giving up. You need to digest. Let’s go outside and get some fresh air.”
Craig and I stepped outside in the cool New York Breeze. “Come on Craig. We’ll walk for 5 minutes, then do 10 pushups, then push through.”
We watched the passing taxis, Craig huddled in a standing fetal position against a wall, recognizing that the pain would shortly be appearing from all ends of his body.
“Screw it. 10 pushups, then let’s go in and murder it.”
Ten pushups on a NYC street later, and we were both back in the restaurant. Diners at three different tables were cheering him on. “Go Craig! Go Craig!”
And he pushed through. As he ate the last spoon, the entire back room erupted in applause and cheers.
Craig decided to walk home. A full 80 blocks. I’m sure he is coiling in pain over a toilet seat right now. Or still walking—80 blocks is really far.
- Acceptance of Failure and the Will to Persevere
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.” – Vince LombardiCraig had tried to eat the spicy curry once before, and failed. But that’s okay, you don’t have to win on your first try. When trying to form a new habit, or build a new business, expect to fail. But plan to stand up and try again.
- Collaboration‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
Craig surrounded himself by supporters, not naysayers. When he was going to quit, hit support group wouldn’t let him. (I was probably the biggest critic, since I lost so quickly).Have you surrounded yourself with a support network? Or do you spend more time near critical people, who think you are going to fail? The people around you are the among the most influential factors in determining if you will succeed or fail.
- Persistence“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence…Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin CoolidgeCraig was going to quit—but he rephrased the problem. “It’s not a quarter of the dish I have to complete. It’s just 3 big spoons. So, I’ll eat one big spoon. Then another. Then the last one.”In attacking any obstacle, you have to be unreasonably persistent and patient, and break down your problems into specific steps. As a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, the journey to the Phaal of Fame starts, continues, and ends with a single spoon of spicy curry.
Achieving a goal requires an acceptance (even expectation) of failure, collaboration, and persistence.