On being … just as well

By Ingrid Sapona

MasterClass is a website that’s been around since 2015. I first heard about it a few years ago when a friend mentioned the site. She had just taken a negotiation skills MasterClass taught by some business guru. I made a mental note of the site but didn’t take the plunge into a subscription until I noticed there was a MasterClass given by a very famous pastry chef – Dominique Ansel. So, I subscribed. After watching Ansel’s course, I watched a number of food-theme courses – including a few by chefs I was not sure I’d like. I found all of them fascinating. 

The classes are videoed “lectures” of the instructor (the Master) looking straight at the camera and monologuing about their life, their career, and their profession. The lectures are thoughtfully structured and are divided into bite-size segments so you don’t have to watch it all at once. There’s also downloadable course material that provides additional information and useful references.  

I truly love cooking and I’m always interested in learning about it, so I was especially interested in the food-themed classes. Though the chefs do demonstrate how to make different dishes, they aren’t just cooking shows. The chefs talk about so much more. They talk about what first drew them to the profession and what excites them about it. They also talk about things like the significance of farmers, food security, and cooking as an act of love.  

Because I’ve dabbled in scriptwriting and dreamed about writing a play, I decided to check out a few of the film, television, and theatre MasterClasses. To my surprise, the high-profile writers and directors also talked at length about practical business aspects of their profession. It’s clear that their success isn’t just about their artistic talents – their understanding of how the entertainment industry works is also critical.  

All the instructors are experts in their fields. But what really sets MasterClasses apart is that the instructors have managed to distill from their knowledge and experience information that’s interesting and useful. Put another way, the MasterClass instructors I’ve watched are true teachers.  

As odd as this may sound, the most important thing I took away from watching different MasterClasses was knowledge about myself. I realized I don’t have the intensity, drive, and joy toward cooking or scriptwriting that seems necessary to succeed in those fields. While that realization may sound depressing – it’s not. It’s actually a real gift. When I hear Shonda Rhimes explain the steps involved in developing a script, or talking about writing dialog, or about creating characters, a part of me thinks “I could do that.” But when she describes the collaborative process required to get a script produced, it just sounds horrible to me. So, even if I had Rhimes’ writing talent, given my personality, I don’t think I’d like working in the business.  

Similarly, while I was enthralled listening to chefs describe their creative process and how they develop dishes, I don’t feel creative in that way. As well, though I appreciate artful presentation, chefs clearly feel pride and pleasure I don’t think I’d get from it night after night. It’s not that I think I’d get bored, it’s more that I think doing that would get tedious and if that happens, I think the quality of my work would suffer.  

As I watched different MastersClass instructors, I was struck by the fact that it isn’t just talent that they have in common. They also exhibit a focus and drive to achieve in their chosen fields. And, it seems clear that they couldn’t really imagine themselves doing anything else.   

When I signed up for MasterClass, I thought it was a bit of a splurge. But, I figured taking a few classes might be a fun way to pass time during the pandemic. Well, I’m pleased to say that I got my money’s worth. I definitely learned a few things about cooking and writing. But more importantly, the classes helped me realize it’s just as well I didn’t try to become a chef or a scriptwriter – I don’t think I have the right personality for either of those careers.  

What about you? Any field you’ve felt passionate about but haven’t pursued? Any alternative career paths you wish you’d gone down?  

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona


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