My son requested a homemade birthday cake for his celebration this year. He wanted his special treat to be a yellow cake with chocolate frosting made by me. This request might not be a difficult one to most people— but to me, it was huge. I don’t enjoy baking. Frankly, it’s hard for me to understand why I should spend time baking a cake when I could be doing so many other interesting things.
It really isn’t that hard to follow a recipe on a box of cake mix. In spite of this, I managed to mix all the ingredients without including the needed water. This dawned on me when I went to pour the batter into the pans and the batter wouldn’t budge. Apparently, water is an essential ingredient in this recipe. I put the batter back in the bowl and added the water.
Thirty minutes later, I took a look in the oven and decided that the golden-brown cake layers were ready to take out and cool. I left to do a quick errand and figured I would ice the cake upon my return. With the cake cooled, I turned the pan over to release it. Nothing happened. I ran a knife around the edge and hit the bottom of the pan— still nothing happened. I tried the other pan with the same results. After much work, the cake came out in pieces.
Refusing to feel discouraged, I began to problem solve. Being my optimistic self, I decided to piece it back together with the frosting. My brilliant solution didn’t work. That’s just about the time when my husband walked in and stared at my masterpiece. I could tell it was hard for him to keep a straight face.
Now, if you’re wondering if it was as bad as I’m making it out to be, take a look at the included picture of my cake. It was truly, truly bad and my attempt to bake this birthday cake was an epic fail.
I should be good at this type of thing. I should be able to bake a cake for my son. I should be talented enough to follow an easy box cake recipe. All of the “shoulds” flowed through my mind as I stared at my cake. All the “shoulds” just made me feel worse about the situation.
Like you, I enjoy succeeding in life. I have high expectations and I work daily to develop my talents. This experience didn’t fit in with my view of self. This experience made me feel really bad. I searched for the reason that I failed so miserably.
And then, I began to think about the situation objectively. It’s hard to go through life without failing miserably now and then. Bad things will happen— much bigger things than my disastrous cake. Eventually, it will happen in your career, your relationships and every facet of your life, no matter how hard you work. You will give your best effort and still, things will not turn out as you expected. It will be disappointing and disheartening, but where you go from there is what truly matters.
Letting go of the “shoulds” and allowing your self the freedom to mess up now and then is key. Keeping your eye on the horizon instead of over your shoulder is also important.
Accept that the experience of failure is just another part of your life journey. The ability to be resilient and move on after failure is what truly matters.