April 17, 2014

The Missing Ingredient: 4 Tips From Ruined Cookies

I am known for my chocolate chip cookies. Since I'm a firm believer in getting your kudos where you can, I embrace this small recognition. (Everyone is known for something and there are worse things to be known for.)

I'm often asked what makes my cookies so good and I of course give the cliche answer about the secret ingredient - which is love. Yes it's cliche. It's also true. When I make cookies, I'm thinking about those that I'm making them for.  It's corny - I know - don't judge me!

Yesterday, as I was making a batch of cookies  something went terribly wrong. I put them into the oven and watched them spread into flat, ill shaped blobs, that burned around the edges before the center even started to cook.

WHAT?  How is that even possible? I could make these cookies in my sleep.  They always look the same. They always taste the same. I never so much as vary the brand of ingredients I've come to love and trust to be sure of that outcome.

Frustrated at needing to start from scratch, and not wanting to waste more great ingredients to ruin another batch, I went step by step mentally over the process of this batch to try to find out what went wrong. Then it hit me! I'd left out a few key ingredients! I was upset about something that had happened earlier in the day. My mind was retracing the events to neatly catalog them instead of being present in the moment.

The ingredients I left out, combined, would only have amounted to three teaspoons.  Three teaspoons!  That is a very tiny percent of the volume of the cookie dough. It blew my mind that something so small in the overall picture could have such major consequence.

Could there be a lesson here? There always is! 

Here are 4 things I learned from blowing a batch of cookies.

1. DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME  It's  saves a lot of frustration, time, and energy. Besides, we don't always get a chance to do things a second time.

2. FOCUS  No, we can't concentrate on two things at once and expect anything but ruin. When we spread our focus too thin it's easier for holes to form. When we don't fully concentrate on a person who needs our attention, we get holes in that relationship. When we don't focus on what's necessary in our business, we get holes in growth. When we don't focus on the needs of the individual customer, we get holes in our retention rate.

3. LITTLE THINGS MATTER - A LOT. Like the three small teaspoons of ingredients that ruined a whole batch of cookie dough, there are little things that we can do or not do that will have far reaching consequences. That extra thank you for a job well done. The hand written note to a customer, the on time follow up on something we've promised to do. Remembering our commitments. One small tweak in our presentation that makes it about the customer instead of us.  One more call when we're feeling defeated and ready to give up. That alone could make all the difference. The list can go on forever. It's up to us to decide what ingredients we're missing.

4. THERE'S A LESSON IN EVERYTHING  If I hadn't stopped to think about how the lessons from blowing a batch of cookies could be applied to the rest of my life, you wouldn't be reading this right now. Take time to analyze the things that go wrong (or right) to see what lessons they may have to teach you. Why repeat the same mistakes? Why not learn and reapply the things that work? 

Like it or not we'll all be known for something.  What is it that you want to be known for? What would you like to define you? Your life? Your relationships? Your business? What ingredients could you be missing to make sure that those things become your legacy?  Why not start adding them today?


  1. Great article. I have so enjoyed reading your blog. It give me a lot to think about in my day to day interactions with others. It's pushing me to dig a little deeper, be a little kinder and be more aware of others. Thanks.

  2. Thank YOU. It's nice to finally have a spot to put all the things that run through my head. Kind of like an online journal of things lessons I don't want to forget.