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Don't Give Up So Easily

Yesterday morning I learned a great lesson in not giving up, and also in not beating myself up along the way.

In my continued quest to try cooking and baking things I’ve never made before, I decided to try making Swedish pancakes. I mixed up the batter, heated up the griddle and proceeded to kör på! (go for it!)

First one: Into the garbage.

Second one: Into the garbage.

Third one: Was almost right, but ended up in the garbage.

Fourth one: Half into the garbage, the other half into my mouth, just to see what I was dealing with here.

Fifth one: Was just about right, and I ate it triumphantly with butter and syrup.

The rest of them turned out beautifully, and I saved them all for my family for when they eventually got up and made their way downstairs for breakfast. They were a big hit and everyone asked if I would please make them again and soon.

Optimistically I said, “Of course!” but inside I was thinking to myself, “Maybe for a special occasion…”

Swedish pancakes are super light and thin, akin to crepe, but even more delicate. When you put the batter into the pan you have to swirl it around so that it reaches the edges and can cook evenly. My first four failures had many issues including too much butter in the pan, too much batter, too high of a heat, the wrong sized spatula, the list goes on. But I kept trying and eventually I figured out all of the elements for success in this endeavor. Like crepes, you have to make them one at a time, so it was quite an undertaking, but it was fun and I felt great at being able to master something new.

About the time that I was pouring out batter number 12 or so, I realized something. At no point during this process did I put myself down or feel badly about myself for not getting it right on the first try. I knew that with cooking, and especially with experimenting with a new recipe, there are many variables to consider when it comes to doing it correctly. I wasn’t upset at all when I was tossing away those first few attempts, I used them to try to figure out how I could do it more effectively the next time.

Which totally worked! I know that these are only pancakes, but they can serve as a great metaphor for accomplishing things that we want to do in our lives. How many times have we given up because we couldn’t get something on the first try? How many times have we tried something once or twice, didn’t get the results we wanted, and abandoned the task, along with all hope of ever achieving success?

It would have been really easy to just toss the batter and mix up my tried-and-true regular pancake recipe. But I had a whole bowlful of it, I had some time alone in the kitchen, and honestly it never occurred to me to give up. Not only would it have been wasteful, but I really thought that if I tried enough times and made adjustments along the way that I’d be able to do this successfully.

Patience, perseverance, and hard work are what make things happen in our lives. There are no shortcuts. As much as we might not want to have to try something hundreds of times before we get it right, that’s often how it goes, and the final mastery of something is so much more rewarding after we’ve put in so much time and effort, isn’t it?

While making Swedish pancakes is in no way on par with Edison creating the incandescent light bulb or the Wright brothers figuring out manned flight, the concept of trying new things, and then encouraging ourselves to keep going instead of putting ourselves down until we ultimately give up is the same.

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” -Thomas Edison

Most of the time when we fail at something it’s due to mindset, not ability. Most of the time it’s because we don’t have the patience or the persistence to keep at something until we can finally get it right. Most of the time we spend so much time doubting ourselves or demeaning our lack of skills that we don’t even notice the incremental progress we might have made. And most of the time we let the “I can’t” take over the “I’ll try” mentality that pervades so much of our daily attitude and psyche.

So if there is something you have always wanted to try doing, I encourage you to DO IT! Give yourself the time, the patience, and the strength to keep going if you don’t get it right on the first few tries. I can guarantee that even if your first hundred proverbial pancakes go into the trash, you will keep learning and keep achieving and your life will be richer and more satisfying as a result of your continued determination and belief in yourself.

There will always be a reason to give up. But there is also always a reason to keep trying. Which will you choose?

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