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Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Stack of Pancakes
“Daddy, get up! It’s time to get up!” I was awakened by a small hand shaking my shoulder. “I’m hungry for pancakes,” said my five-year-old son. “I want a stack of pancakes!” My son has had another growth spurt. Normally she asks for one pancake, but this time it’s a “pile”.
I stumbled into the kitchen, ground some fresh coffee beans, filled the coffee maker’s chamber with water and started the aroma dripper. I mixed the dry ingredients with water, added a mashed ripe banana and a little vanilla. Within a few minutes, I had several pancakes ready and an eager son on the table. When I threw a few on his plate, he said, “I can cut them myself, Dad.” He seemed very proud of how he had reached out for some new found independence as he picked up a knife and fork and began to cut. He paused, thought for a moment, and then said, “I really can’t handle two pancakes.”
I finished cutting his pancakes for him and sat down to enjoy my coffee while he ate. I was about 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 somewhere in my morning pancake. A few things started to cross my mind, so I sat at my laptop while my son ate and came up with the following principles. Call them “Pancake Principles” if you want, but be surprised how we can actually learn some important life lessons from a stack of pancakes!
When it comes to pancake stacks, our eyes are always bigger than our stomachs. My son could only eat half of the pile. He really wanted the whole stack, but when it came down to it, he really wasn’t able to finish what he started. When it comes to life and what I want to accomplish, I usually want to spend more than I can handle. I often think I have more time than I actually have, enough money when it will cost more, or more energy than I can sustain for a marathon project. If I keep doing this, I will never reach the goal. A side effect is a sense of failure. I feel like I can never do anything.
I am learning to break my goals down into smaller parts so that the goal can be achieved successfully. I was working on larger tasks and was amazed when all the smaller parts blew up in my face. I called them obstacles because they slowed me down. Now, when I break things down and think about the individual parts, I see these “obstacles” as elements of the project and can plan for them. When I do this, things go much more smoothly and with no indigestion!
Instant is not always the best. It’s usually easy to make in “just add water” pancake mixes, but it never tastes as good as “made from scratch” where you mix in fluffy egg whites, add real buttermilk, etc. How often I choose ready-made repairs in life and relationships instead to spend extra time designing and customizing things to precisely fit the needs of my coworkers, my family, and myself in my personal life? I’m learning to slow down and spend more time paying attention to detail, so there’s a sense of satisfaction in knowing I’ve gone the extra mile. This sends a message to my family, friends and colleagues that they matter and everyone ends up a winner!
If you get busy, the pancakes may burn. How many times have I made my son’s first pancake and then poured the batter onto the next one on a hot pan, only to get into his butter, syrup, cutting and pouring milk? In the middle of the distraction, I feel something start to burn and the first side of my pancake is chocolate brown. I’m busy with work and things can sit on the burner 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 never get started – or it won’t take very long. If we get sidetracked on the way to our goals, focusing on secondary things (or striving for an unattainable standard of perfection) can cause the main thing to start “burning in the pan.” Let’s try to stop getting involved in this cycle.
Pancakes taste better when you add fun things to the batter. I like to add applesauce to my dough. Sometimes I add a really ripe banana, a little vanilla and salt. I personally don’t care, but some people like chocolate chips. My wife has a waffle recipe that includes part of a can of pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. It is very satisfying. Try living life the way you would eat pancakes sometime. What could you do in a relationship or at work that equates to adding chopped walnuts to banana pancakes or peach and pecan chunks to buttermilk. I recently saw a recipe for New Orleans Praline Pancakes that could translate to interesting work ethic or relationship building with a partner or kids! The sky’s the limit and I guarantee it will make everything a lot more fun.
When it comes to cutting stacks – kids may think they can, but they need guidance to learn how. I was pleased that my son had the confidence to try cutting his own food. Do you know how long we spent cutting his food into bites? This was a milestone for me! But when he said he really couldn’t handle two pancakes, I should have helped him. Instead, I took the dishes and did it for him. He had the confidence to try, but I didn’t. It was just faster to do it for him. If at all possible, we need to help our kids (and for that matter) “cut a bunch of pancakes” instead of doing it for them because it’s faster. I became more aware that time is one commodity that children usually have a lot of. Why not let them take advantage of it and do something for themselves – even if we have to endure watching it take 5 times longer than it would have taken us.
Okay, I could go on, but I’ll stop. I think you get the point. I hope your next lazy Saturday morning is a good one. Take time to think about your relationships with your children, co-workers, partners and friends. Find out where you stand with these “pancake principles.” And while you’re at it, come up with an exotic pancake combination to share with that special someone.
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