Baking Vlog Ep. 8: Stop trying to be perfect

It’s been a while since my last Baking Journalist episode. I had been mulling over the topic of not being perfect, or needing to fail, to make progress in journalism and in bread baking. 

And then I was hit by a car.

I couldn’t bake, or type, or do many of the things we don’t often think about every day. All of the sudden I had a lot of time to think about those things, and so much more. 

My injuries coincided with an amazing time for my baking project–thanks to the kindness of Edible Cleveland magazine I feel a little better about my attempts at improving my baking and video skills one loaf at a time. 

And then I appeared as a radio guest (not the host!) to talk about why I thought people were baking more in the age of pandemic.

One of the ideas I’ve tried to champion for myself in this project is being willing to let go of a video or a loaf of bread without it being perfect. I have a pretty high bar for myself in my writing, and work as a journalist, and just about everything I do. 

But for this project I’ve made it a point to take every little step, every little lesson, and use it as proof of growth.

And I’ve tried to encourage others to give it a try, too.

The breads I’ve stuck to are basic, but still worth trying. I’m not using the most complex techniques, or going all in on the chemistry of breads, but for now, this is where I’m trying to improve.

Sometimes it feels like society isn’t as forgiving for a project that isn’t seeking to be the best, or prettiest, or smartest, or whatever.

It’s easy to get sucked into Instagram envy, especially with food, thinking that everyone else’s bread is just so much better than yours. 

So much talent out there…

You see news stories and studies telling us that social media pressure has real world effects, either making people feel inadequate, or having the potential to help us, if it’s used in moderation.

Despite there being a lot of business consultants and self-help resources telling us that failure is okay, even necessary for growth, oftentimes we still fear the failure. We fear being mocked, or going viral for the wrong reason–assuming there’s a right and wrong to going viral.

I interviewed adventurer Bertrand Piccard many years ago as his Solar Impulse airplane was trying to fly through the night on stored solar power alone. 

“Limitations are wrong limits that you inflict to yourself because you believe that you cannot do better. But it’s wrong! Most of the time you can go much further than your limitations, and you can reach the limit. I believe that to accomplish something big, you need the ability to cope with disappointment, with frustration, and with failure. And if you accept to cope with that then you can go beyond and you can reach success. Success comes if you try one more time than failure.”

Piccard and his partner Andre Borschberg ultimately did circle the globe with this plane, I reported on it again when they stopped in Dayton, Ohio.

Success is one more time than failure.

It’s so simple, except it feels like it’s not.

If there’s a chance, especially a really good chance, that you’ll fall on your face, why do it? 

In journalism this failure can be asking a question a wrong way; or not doing your research before interviewing someone, and totally stepping in it; maybe you assume something about the story you’re working on, and being absolutely wrong; or being faced with an interview subject who probably doesn’t like you at all, but you still need a quote, and you don’t know what to do.

The best way to know how to get through these situations is to go through these situations.

If you’re lucky, you make some of the big mistakes as a student, but no matter when it happens, use the experience to get better.

In failing in bread baking the idea is the same. You can follow a recipe, but so many things influence how your bread turns out: temperature in the house and in the oven, temperature of your water or milk, type of yeast or starter, time you let your dough rise, etc, etc.

You learn so much by taking a chance.

Having lost use of my wrists and one shoulder for almost two months I had to come to terms with appreciating every little step. I thankfully have a wife and family that support me as I try to figure out how to use a mixer, and try to explain how to shape dough, and ultimately just accept that our sandwich bread is going to be different for a while. 

Just like me not being able to button a shirt, or type, or drive, or eat by myself have to be different for a while.

I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. We need to be not perfect to progress in who we are and what we do.

Sometimes we choose what new thing to try, and sometimes life puts us in a situation that forces us to act and think differently.

Either way, we should go with it, and try our best to improve who we are, and where we are, for as long as we’re given the opportunity to do so.

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