Success Lessons Learned from Failed Pad Thai

Success FailureIt really is an addiction. One of the pubs in my neighborhood serves up an incredible pad Thai dish. It’s one of those things that I occasionally crave and have told myself that only someone else can make it.

Well, in an effort to decrease my waistline and increase the green in my glittery skull-pattern wallet, I have taken to creating some of my favorite pub grub in my own kitchen. From wings to bacon burgers to home fries, my kitchen has become my creative outlet.  It would make sense that I would add Pad Thai to my kitchen offerings.

I will admit that Pad Thai, although mostly noodles, held an intimidation factor for me. For one, it was a personal favorite. What if what I create doesn’t compare on any level to my favorite pub’s masterpiece? Two, the style of dish was new and I had very little expertize in this area.

I did some research and opted for a 30-minute fool proof Pad Thai recipe courtesy of my husband’s subscription to Cook’s Country magazine. The easy-to-follow instructions made it seem easy peasy. What could go wrong?

Ahhhh. Ever hear of the Dunning-Kruger effect? The phenomenon was first tested in a series of experiments published in 1999 by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of the Department of Psychology, Cornell University and was inspired by a man who robbed two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias that is manifested in one of two ways:

  • Unskilled individuals mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. It stems from one’s lack of experience, knowledge in an area prevents them from seeing their ineptitude.
  • Someone whose skills come easy, may falsely assume others have the equivalent understanding. This leads to what many feel as the imposter syndrome, that someone will discover they don’t have any skills when in fact the opposite is true.

I fell under the first definition. In my mind, I mentally processed the experiment as being easy. Under 30 minutes? Noodles? I can do it.  As it turns out, I ended up with overcooked noodles to the point that it was absolute mush that stuck to the pan to create an odd burnt rice noodle cake.

As my husband and I stared at the dark brown glob in the middle of the frying pan, a part of me felt like the failure tinted the experience to the point that I lost the motivation to retry making the dish. That this one setback defined my limitations on making the dish.

I realized it wasn’t just sorched soggy noodles I was smelling — there was a bit of fear in the air. According to an article on Success Magazine, “to achieve your personal best, to reach unparalleled heights, to make the impossible possible, you can’t fear failure, you must think big, and you have to push yourself.”

Cooking may not be up there in regards to risks as say starting your own business, climbing Mount Everest or standing with a kite during a lighting storm to prove electricity, but it involves the same basic ingredient: the willingness to embrace failure as a necessary step towards success. Its the key to pushing your boundaries, trying new things and finding solutions to your kitchen experiments gone bad.

But what happens when we fail to shift us from shelving the efforts to trying again? A bit of self talk.  It would have been easy to view my failed dinner as a reflection of my bad cooking skills or that I am not good with rice noodles. Instead, it is important to look at what you learned and see it as a process.

For me, I choose to view it as Edison did with the light bulbs, I learned one way of how not to make pad Thai. Doesn’t mean the next one won’t end up in the garbage can under the sink. But it doesn’t mean it will either.  I have the power to chart my own path to success. It may have several speed bumps along the way as I blunder or make mistakes. But it just means I get to take the scenic route and explore all my options during the trek.

As to my pad Thai attempts, they are on the back burner as I work on expanding my knowledge about cooking rice noodles. Starting with the basics will help solidify my foundation for creating a masterpiece.

So, back to the stove for me for round two . . . three . . . four . . .

 

 

 

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