José Andrés’ projects have a global reach, ranging from entrepreneurship to humanitarianism. He inspires us through food both in his restaurants and at World Central Kitchen, the not-for-profit organization he started to address poverty and hunger and provide disaster relief.
Before his appearance in PMI’s Virtual Experience Series (VES), Andrés shared some thoughts on success and failure and the project he would most like to make reality.
PMI: You have such a long list of achievements. What is your most important project?
Andrés: My most important project, only in the last few months, has been trying to keep my family safe. This allows you to have a very clear concentration on the objectives.
PMI: How do you measure failure or success?
Andrés: Failure or success is a very simple measure. You'll know what success will look like, and you'll know what failure will look like. Sometimes, when we try to have a mission that is way too big, it's very good to assess success or failure. So I try sometimes, in the bigger scheme of things, to concentrate on the very small. Because success and failure—I don't need anybody to tell me what they are, it’s obvious.
PMI: What’s the most important lesson you learned from this period that we're all experiencing?
Andrés: One of the big lessons I've been learning—I think as humans—we don't give ourselves enough value to who we are. I think the only way to really be successful is when you believe in yourself, no matter what. And for that, you have to look inside yourself and say: “I am so good at this. And we are, together, so good.” When you have that, it seems that no obstacle is too big, and that you will always overcome anything, or find the door or the window or the hole to get to the other side.
I'm from Spain, a country I know and I love. I am also American, and that’s the country I'm proud to go home to. I watched what happened in Spain, where people were almost 120 days in quarantine. More than 45 million people. Not everybody was happy, but everybody understood that success of the many had to be part of the success of the individuals. And everybody stayed home. When I say everybody, it means everybody. It was very beautiful to see the collective effort. The region I'm from got zero cases of COVID-19.
You see, this is a very simple objective. Failure and success are very simple to measure.
PMI: It sounds like you are saying the success of the individual often depends on the success of the team.
Andrés: So I think this is one of the big lessons: when the collective takes the brain of the individual, and vice versa, everything is very powerful. Nothing is about your own ego. And you understand that, “Yes, you have to do well for yourself.” But also when you're in the same world, “for yourself” means the collective to succeed. I believe this is a very powerful thing.
When you put away politics and use your brain—the essence of the human spirit—you’re understanding individuality at the same time as the globalization of the human species and it becomes a really, really powerful way to bring people together with people: always trying to be successful, not as one, but as the many.
PMI: If you had the resources, what is a moonshot idea that you want to make reality?
Andrés: I do believe we have this big problem, which is hunger in the world at a time that humanity on earth is able to produce food in the quantities we want. And at the same time we have a lot of wasted food while millions are going hungry. I have a hard time believing that between all the big organizations in the world, with the hundreds of millions—if not billions—that we are spending, that we're not able to succeed in that simple mission.
In the next five years of my life, I really want to be using not only obviously my brain, it requires a brain of many, but what we need to do is: stop giving the speeches in the big rooms of the world, stop clapping for promises that fail and always disappear into the air. Boots on the ground is what’s going to make it happen. And if we put enough people with boots on the ground with the right brains, we will achieve something so simple as not one child hungry—not one person hungry.
And let's make sure that we don't waste. But more important, let's make sure that we don't waste people. It’s a very simple thing to do in the process of not wasting food. What we're really doing is making sure that no human will ever go to waste. And food is the problem, but in this case, also the solution.