How many times have you made a colossal blunder and wished you could turn back time, just ten seconds or so, to erase that mistake or mishap? The following story, is a follow up to last weeks post, A Celebration of Curiosity, and reminds us that those errors are often a necessary part of the creative process.
This past Friday afternoon, I was craving something sweet and sour for dessert. Whenever I have that particular desire, I go to the tried and true lemon curd recipe in my much loved, battle scarred, and stained Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It offers that sugary and tart taste that always satisfies my yens. I had forgotten that we had run out of the good organic lemon juice, but we had key lime juice from the same company, so I decided to use that in the lemon curd recipe. I have done it before and it was just as tasty.
I have made this particular recipe dozens of times; I didn't realize, however, that I had made an error until I added the key lime juice and discovered a mini science experiment going on in my stainless steel saucepan. In that moment of head scratching surprise, I realized that for some reason I had grabbed the container of baking powder instead of the cornstarch to mix into the sugar (all I can figure is they both have blue lids). After tasting it, I figured, “no harm, it'll be fine.” So, I made the key lime curd, and as you probably guessed, it was inedible. As someone who has a propensity for making mistakes and who hates to waste, I decided to keep my disastrous dessert and use it to make something else. It had all the basic ingredients for any kind of baked good---eggs, sugar, butter, baking powder, and … key-lime juice.
This morning, I wanted to make my delicious oat-flour pancakes. When, I opened the fridge, that bowl of lime curd was sitting front and center staring right at me. I thought, “what to heck, how about--- key lime pancakes?!” So I mixed together the oat flour, brown rice flour and a bit more baking powder, added the pudding and milk and stirred it together. Then realized I always add some kind of spice to my pancake batter and threw in a ½ teaspoon of ground ginger. You would think I would be a bit less daring considering the previous disaster, however some of my greatest culinary accomplishments come from throwing caution to the wind.
I would like to say, those were possibly the best pancakes I have ever made! Light and fluffy, tart and sweet, a bit of heat from the ginger, crispy on the outside--- amazing!
While eating my pancakes and considering how I had created something yummy from something completely inedible, this thought popped into my head: When you are open to seeing each of those mistakes you make in your lifetime as just one step in creating something awesome, you are more likely to be daring and open to exploration.
I would hazard to say that most of the world's best inventions were born from a calamitous first or second steps. The difference between those great thinkers and most of us was their willingness to embrace the disasters, learn from their mistakes, and stick with it until the end.
Offering the space and time for kids to explore, experiment, create, fail, and recover is a necessary and absolutely vital part of any educational program. Providing these opportunities allows children to discover the intrinsic joys of learning without the external feedback of punishment or rewards. Not only are they learning directly from the errors, they are using the results to create something to be proud of.
After writing this, I checked my email and discovered this post from Seth Godin. It happens quite often that the things I am thinking and writing about show up in some form in his Blog.
"But how can you be sure?"
100% certainty is not a variation of 96% or even 99%. It's a totally different category.
Certainty is binary, yes or no. The question, "are you sure it will work" is not about the work, it's about the sure. If you need to know that it's going to work, then you've committed to a very clear path. Some people go to work or school and do nothing except the things that they are sure about.
The other path is to do things that might not work. Work, projects designed to land on the spectrum of not sure.
When someone asks, "Do you have any case studies and rules of thumb from my industry about how someone in precisely the same circumstances did x and got y," it's pretty clear that they seek reassurance and a promise of certainty.
But all the good stuff comes from leaping. From doing the things that might not work.