The first season of ‘The Bear’ was a delicious masterclass on the fundamentals of creativity which I unpacked last year. But like a great first course, it left us wanting more. And with views up 70%, season 2 delivered all that and a bag of chips sprinkled over the best looking omelet you’ve ever seen.
Beyond elder emos rejoicing over the unexpected soundtrack (hello R.E.M.) and guest appearances that felt like a carefully curated dessert menu, the plot revealed another batch of lessons demonstrating how our inspiration and creative products are expressions of what we are craving. And hey, that’s something. So in honor of the seven fishes, let’s look at 7 lessons in creativity from an enigmatic season that reminds us that there is beauty inside of the grind. Please note this contains spoilers.
Inspiration, then chaos, then curation. While Richie, Sugar and company were hard at work transforming The Bear, the chefs were deployed into the world to get inspired by dishes near and far. From Sydney’s divine day of eating across Chicago to Marcus’s dreamy journey to Copenhagen, these scenes remind us how critical it is to bring the outside into the creative process. It’s these varied pieces of inspiration that get stored and then remixed into our work. Sydney calls this step the chaos menu stage. Later, we are able to curate and take forward the best of these new ideas.
Be a student. And be a teacher. This season reinforces the importance of learning and teaching. From executive chefs mentoring beginners to front of house staff sharing trade secrets with one another. There is no gate keeping, they recognize that great work is a team sport, but it’s not an entirely selfless endeavor. Whether it’s adding almonds evenly to encircle a dessert or creating a piece of content, when we teach, we also learn. It codifies the know-how in our own brains, and enables our teams to do more so leaders have the chance to level up, too. Let this be a reminder that tides, kitchens and creative spirits rise together.
Peel the mushrooms. In one of the best scenes of the season, Richie learns the art of peeling mushrooms. The lesson is simple: small details are not minutia, they differentiate the good from the great. It may take time and repetition but audiences ultimately appreciate the care that is brought to every element of their dish. It’s those that have the creative stamina to execute with greatness that will elevate the craft and everything they make.
Stay humble. There is no doubt teamwork can be intense. Personalities don’t always gel. Egos are in effect. Opinions are subjective. Often this friction can ignite great work, but it can also create collateral damage and unhealthy power dynamics. In this season, Carmy brings a new tool into the kitchen, a soft fist that he rubs around his heart to say I’m sorry without stopping the flow of work. This quiet gesture, in contrast to the frenetic energy of the kitchen, highlights the power in being humble and taking responsibility for ourselves in the creative process.
Every second counts. One of the most iconic messages in this season was a sign that reminded everyone: Every second counts. In a kitchen, with tight timelines and little room for error, the staff, Carmy, and Sugar, as their new project manager, dissect their process, even blocking out their steps with painters tape to ensure that a meal can be plated in 5 seconds. As a trusted colleague reminds me often, there is nothing like a deadline to force teams to architect a plan and move from swirl to action.
An earned compliment can change the game. Earlier in my career, my sister attended a work event with me. Her impression was, “wow — everyone in your industry is SO nice.” I let her know that people in the marketing world are a bit hyperbolic. When we are told things are amazing every day we become desensitized. But when a compliment is earned, it can change the game. When executive chef Olivia Coleman tells Richie, “Carmy said you were good with people, he wasn’t wrong,” he finally felt seen for his talent, motivating him to bring that best self forward. A reminder that accolades are most meaningful when they are earned versus given at a volume rate.
Bring your pain. Bring your joy. This season we saw more intimate moments and memories. Devastating flashbacks of Carmy and Sugar’s Christmas Eve where their mom fights through depression to cook the seven fishes for her family. Glimpses of an encouraging Sarah Paulson telling Carmy to ‘keep going’ despite painful family dynamics. Present day bliss where Carmy and Claire deliver a chef’s kiss as their relationship unfolds. These highs and lows remind us all that pain and joy are creative forces that are inseparable, necessary, and ultimately the catalysts for our vision.
Like a bear, Season 2 of “The Bear” vibrates between a gentle peace and voracious energy that lives inside of every creative. And somehow each episode gives us what great creativity should always deliver: something we never knew we needed. Kind of like a savory cannoli. As for Season 3, let it rip.
This column originally appeared on LinkedIn.