Perfection

Meet Mr Kwee.

mr_kwee.jpg
Source: HGW

He arguably fries one of the best plates of char kway teow, an intricate noodle dish constructed from the most basic of ingredients. For the past 40 years, Mr Kwee has been frying the same plate of noodles, every day.

Mr Kwee is a hawker in Singapore. Hawkers serve food out of stalls that are barely large enough to fit two people, in what can be best described as an outdoor food court. The very best earn over $10,000 a month. And there’s a good number of them who have been at it since the 1960s.

40 years on, Mr Kwee still starts the day to long lines of customers. Even though ingredients have changed, generations have grown, and taste buds have evolved.

Every portion of char kway teow that Mr Kwee fries is delicately balanced to be as perfect as it can be, for only that moment in time. The next one will be different – perhaps with a slight improvement only noticeable to him. You don’t achieve such sustained success without adapting and iterating. And he knows that.

One becomes an expert after 10,000 hours of practice. But what happens after 10,000 days?

There will come a point at which a job becomes a lifestyle. Hawkers like Mr Kwee don’t do it for the money. They don’t do it because it’s easy. They do it because they take pride in their craft, and seek to serve the perfect plate to their customers every single time.

Perfection is a moving target. Be relentless in pursuing it.

 
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