First by Feel: Visualizing a Future Moment to Define Your Goal
In conversation with Lana Porcello and Dave Muller, Owners of Outerlands Restaurant
Lana Porcello and Dave Muller are the owners and operators of Outerlands, one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, renowned city- and countrywide for its sophisticated home-style California fare. In the latest episode of Making Ways, I chat with the married duo about their path to opening the restaurant, their backgrounds as artists and musicians, Dave’s bread making, and the advice they give to friends about pursing any creative or business endeavor. Lana and Dave didn’t have a master plan to open a restaurant one day, but they followed a feeling for the kind of environment they wanted to create, the types of conversations they wanted to foster, and the reactions they wanted from their guests. Lana explains, “I would always visualize this space with people talking and laughing around me and everybody having a great time. And that was really what I wanted. I wanted a community.” Read on for more insights from Dave and Lana. And listen to the full episode of Making Ways right here. I hope that their approach to formulating and pursuing a creative project or business serves you well as you plot your own journey.
Let Go (of What You Thought You Wanted to Be)
One of the biggest constraints in finding the thing that brings you creative and professional fulfillment may just be the idea that you already know what you want to do or who you want to become. There are certainly career philosophies around choosing a path and sticking to it doggedly, but another approach offers surprising freedom and opportunity. Lana shared, “Before the restaurant, I had more categorized ideas about what I wanted to do. I wanted to write, make music in a particular way, and draw. Those were the things I did and how I defined myself.” She went on to say that oftentimes in college or young adult life, you have this clear idea of who you want to be, this external model you think you have to get to. But after spending some time in the real world, she realized there were so many more opportunities to explore than she had ever imagined, which gave her a new perspective. “I feel like I didn’t actually know that when I said, ‘I want to be this, this, or this,’ I was [actually] saying something else. I was really saying, ‘I want to feel a certain way, or I want to be able to share this part of myself, or I want to be around these types of people.’”
Being part of the restaurant brought Lana closer to what she was trying to achieve than any of her more strictly defined notions. So when you are exploring your career path, stay open to letting go of your predetermined ideas while reaching toward new avenues that may offer you career fulfillment in ways you never imagined. This isn’t necessarily an easy task. Lana herself still feels the pangs of those past ideas from time to time. “Sometimes I still feel kind of attached to those old ideas of what my life was going to look like. But when I look at what I’ve learned and gained, there is no comparison.”
Find Your Goal by Feeling a Future Moment First
With a successful, thriving business in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood, Lana and Dave are often asked for advice by people pursing a creative business venture. Lana always starts by turning the tables and asking them about their goals, which usually means going deeper than just what the final product will be. She explains, “Sometimes a goal doesn’t even look like a goal. It looks like: ‘I want to feel a certain way’ or ‘I want to change this aspect of my life.’” Depending on what you are trying to achieve in your life, both the final product and your path toward that pursuit will look very different. Lana suggests a momentary visit to a future feeling. “I think that’s where visualization is so critical, because I definitely believe that if you can be in the moment that you want later, just for a second,. . .then you are giving yourself up to that time later. And by doing that you are kind of letting go of how it’s going to look to get there.” Whether you are a spiritual person or not, the takeaway is clear––understand what’s at the heart of what you are trying to achieve. And one way to get there is to try to conceptualize what you hope to feel after accomplishing your work in the future. After all, there’s no use going through the motions of achieving something if it’s not going to bring you fulfillment and satisfaction. So use your imagination to help connect the dots.
Lana did just that when she and Dave were envisioning the space that would eventually become Outerlands. Their unconscious goal was actually a desire to create a community. Once they realized this aim, their ideas led them to starting a restaurant. Lana explains, “I think. . .having this more abstract goal. . .allowed us to just go with what was presented to us and not be attached to ‘oh, I need to do it this way, or this is how you have to do it.’” And ultimately by following their own process, Lana and Dave established a different kind of restaurant, one more in line with their vision, with the feel of community at the heart of all their decisions. So try firing up your future mind and—just for a moment—visit that place, harness that feeling, and work up your goals and plans from there.
Fuel Your Fire with Determination
Open-minded exploring, visualization, and unique ideas for execution will get you going, but they’ll only take you so far. What’s really needed to move from planning to standing up and running a creative business venture like a restaurant is a heaping serving of determination. (A framework that forces deadlines upon you helps too.) Dave says, “Determination is a really important factor in all of this, the ability to persevere through the high and low points [of a creative venture]. We set up a structure by opening the restaurant that forced us into that position. . . .Many points along the way. . .felt too fatiguing or impossible or doomed, [but] we didn’t have an option to renegotiate at that point. We just had to keep pushing forward.” As an artist and musician, Dave had tried his hand at pursing other projects in the past, but follow through was a continual challenge. The restaurant proved to him that commitment and determination sometimes need consequence. “The commitment needs to be there. And sometimes you need to set up a structure that commits for you,” he says. Determination coupled with constraints that force you to perform, even beyond what you thought you were capable off, can reap massive rewards. “So in some ways setting yourself up with this constraint of necessity had everything to do with our ability to follow through with it. With any kind of creative process like that, the determination is the most crucial factor,. . .believing in yourself that you are going to get to the end of it somehow and making that your propelling thrust.”
Dave compares this kind of structure for a business or creative venture to that of parenthood. “You have these children—you wake up and the child is there. I’m trying to pull from my own childhood experiences. But this kid needs to survive, and I’m the one who has to do that, so I’m going to do my best every single day and learn every day as I go.”
It’s a good lesson in business as in life, so if your structure isn’t thrust upon you by nature or operating framework, consider setting yourself up for success (and a ton of hard work) by developing a structure that won’t bend to your schedule and instead locks you in to deliver every day, every year.
The lessons Lana and Dave shared during our interview for Making Ways certainly left an impression on me, and I hope the episode and the takeaways above help you find the right recipe to establish and see your pursuits through to grand completion. You can visit Outerlands at 4001 Judah Street and check out www.OuterlandsSF.com to learn more. Be sure to listen to the new episode at MakingWays.co. Please reach out to me with questions and feedback on Twitter at @therobgoodman and @making_ways. And here’s to your future moment of fulfillment and success.