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Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Stack of Pancakes
“Mom, get up! It’s time to get up!” I woke up to a small hand shaking my shoulder. “I’m hungry for pancakes,” said my five-year-old son. “I want a batch of pancakes!” My son has another one growing up. He usually asks for one pancake, but this time it’s a “stack”.
I stumbled into the kitchen, ground some fresh coffee beans, filled the coffee maker’s chamber with water and let out a fragrant drip. I mixed some dry ingredients with water, added a smashed banana and some vanilla. Within minutes I had some pancakes ready and an eager boy was on board. As I waved a pair on his plate, he said, “I can cut them myself, Dad.” He seemed very proud of his new-found independence as he picked up his knife and fork and began to cut himself. He paused, thought for a moment, and then said, “I really can’t do with two pancakes.”
I finished cutting his pancakes for him and sat down to enjoy my coffee while he ate. I was getting ready to write my (almost) daily blog post and since I’m always looking for inspiration, I knew there had to be a story and an analogy in here somewhere in pancake morning. A lot came to mind and so I sat down with my laptop while my son ate and came up with the following principles. Call it the “Pancake Principles” if you will, but be surprised how we can actually learn some important life lessons from a batch of pancakes!
When it comes to pancakes, our eyes are always bigger than our stomachs. My son could only eat half a star. He really wanted all those stars but when it came, he really couldn’t finish what he started. When it comes to life and accomplishing what I want, I usually want to go further than I can. Often I think I have more time than I actually have, when it will cost more, or more money than I can spare for a marathon project. If I keep doing this, I will never reach my goal. The side effect is a sense of failure. I get that “I never accomplish anything” feeling.
I am learning to break my goals down into smaller pieces so that the goals can be accomplished successfully. I used to work on bigger projects and because all the small parts involved blew up in my face. I called them obstacles because they slowed me down. Now, when I break things down and think of parts, I can see those “obstacles” as project elements and can plan for them. When I do this, things go much smoother and without fuss!
Instant is not always the best. The “just add water” type of pancake mixes are usually easy to make, but the “remade” type of pancake mixes don’t taste as good as adding scrambled egg whites, adding real butter, etc. I choose ready several times. -Adjustment occurs in life and relationships instead of taking extra time to design and adapt things to the exact needs of my colleagues, my family and myself in my personal life? I’m learning to slow down and take extra time to pay attention to detail, so I have a sense of satisfaction knowing I’ve gone the extra mile. This sends the message to my family, friends and colleagues that they matter and everyone ends up winning!
If you are busy, the pancakes can burn. How many times have I made my son’s first pancake and then poured mine into the hot oven for the next one, only to get caught in the oil, syrup, curds and splash of his milk? Halfway through the flight I smell something burning and notice that the first side of my pancake is brown. I get busy at work and things can sit on the fire for too long and start to burn. I can stew over a project at home, trying to work it out in my mind until it’s perfect and it never comes into place – or takes too long. If we get sidetracked on the road to goals, focusing on the side items (or striving for a perfectly unattainable standard) can cause the main thing to start “burning in the pan.” Let’s try and stop that cycle.
Pancakes taste better when you add fun things to the cake. I like to add apple to my batter. Sometimes I add a really ripe banana, some vanilla and salt. I personally don’t care for it, but some people like their chocolate chips. My wife has a recipe for waffles that has a portion of pumpkin pie and pumpkin pie flavor. It is very satisfying. Sometimes try living your life the way you would jazz up some pancakes. What can you do in a relationship or at work that would be equivalent to adding chopped nuts to banana pancakes or pecans to buttermilk pancakes? I found a recipe the other day for New Orleans style praline pancakes that would translate into some interesting work ethic or relationship building with a spouse or kids! The sky is the limit and I guarantee that everything will be much better.
When it comes to cutting sticks – kids may think they can, but need guidance to learn how. I was happy to see that my son had the confidence to try to cut his food. Do you know how long we’ve been feeding him in the corner with a stick? This was a sign for me! But when he said he really couldn’t make it with two pancakes, I had to help him. Instead, I took the tool and did it for him. He had the confidence to try but I didn’t follow through. It was just faster to do it for him. If possible, we need to help our kids (and adults for that matter) “cut the pancake batter” instead of doing it for them because it’s faster. I further learned that time is one thing that children usually have a lot of. Why not let them use it to do something for themselves – even if we have to keep watching it the 5 times it takes us to do it.
Ok, I could go on, but I’ll stop. I think you get the point. I hope your next lazy Saturday morning is good. Take some time to think about your relationships with your children, co-workers, significant others and friends. Find out where you stand with these “pancake principles.” And while you’re at it, make an exotic pancake mix and share it with someone special.
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