I'm not bad at cooking, I'm not amazing either. Most of my stuff never looks particularly beautiful, but I know how to make things taste good.
And that doesn't really come from recipe books, it doesn't come from being dictated to by Gordon Ramsay, it certainly doesn't come from following crap rules like never adding cheese to shell-fish based pasta dishes. It comes, first and foremost from knowing yourself and what you love, along with an understanding what will delight other people.
It reqires the honest graft of trial and error, developing your own shtick, growing and instinct for food - what works for you and what doesn't.
You have to master the simple stuff and then move to more challenging things, following recipes at first, then developing your own twists and turns. All the time askng yourself what you like, what you don't, how to make this better, what others thought, what things you've done before will go together.
In other words, work hard at the basics genty try new things and gradually find your voice, always with instinct, intuition and your senses, not just 'craft and rules'.
It takes confidence to follow your own tastes, but it's only then when you really start to cook, when you can make things you can truly call your own.
And you can taste the difference, people can tell when you've enjoyed making something, when you've made the effort.
That's the magic ingredient and it's often missing from restaurant food, the sense that someone cares about how much you enjoy eating the food, rather than how impressive it looks or how trendy the location is. I guess that's why I tend to prefer little, more down to earth places when we go out.
So what I've learned from cooking are not bad guidelines for living, come to think of it, they're not bad for being a planner.
At the beginning, know you know nothing. Hoover up every scrap of guidance and information, work hard at the basics, don't run before you can crawl.
Every meal starts with good ingredients, you can augment this with craft, creativity and added variety, but you can't but quality back in if you don't start with it.
But never lose your own individality, never forget you own instincts. Once you get proficient and you know the rules, start bending them, find your own voice, first augment tried and tested recipes more to your liking, eventually you'll have developed the intincts to conjure your own magic. You'll know what flavours go, you'll know what textures work, you'll be able to put all sorts of stuff together in new and interesting ways.
So respect people with more experience, but only so much, once you get your confidence, value input but only treat it as such, it's what works for you that counts.
But never lose sight of the fact that a proper cook loves making others happy. There are times to cook for you and times to cook for others. Make the effort to know what turns them on, and cook for that, rather than what some over important famous idiot thinks, your audience doesn't care and neither should you.
So never go for show and coolness over fundamental joy and enjoyment.
Never pretend you know everything. There is always something else to taste, something else to try, another way of doingt things. The world is too big, with too many ingredients and people for you to ever have covered everything, but if you always try to do just that, it wil make you a better cook, a better person and, I guess a better planner.
And finally, enjoy it. Don't make it a chore or harder than it has to be. Your food will taste better that way, and so will the other things you do.