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Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Stack of Pancakes
“Daddy, wake up! It’s time to get up!” I woke to a little hand shaking my shoulder. “I’m hungry for pancakes,” said my five year old son. “I want a stack of pancakes!” My son has been having another one of his growth spurts. He normally asks for one pancake, but this time it is a “stack.”
I stumbled into the kitchen, ground some fresh coffee beans, filled the coffee maker chamber with water and got an aromatic drip going. I mixed up some dry ingredients with water, added a smashed ripe banana and some vanilla. Within a few minutes I had several pancakes ready and an eager son at the table. As I flipped a couple on his plate he said, “I can cut them myself, Daddy.” He seemed very proud of his stretch for some new-found independence as he picked up his knife and fork and began to cut. He paused, thought a moment and then said, “I can’t really do it with two pancakes.”
I finished cutting up his pancakes for him and sat down to enjoy my coffee while he ate. I was preparing to write my (almost) daily blog post and since I am always looking for inspiration, I knew there had to be a story and an analogy here in the morning pancake stack somewhere. Several things began to come to mind and so I sat with my laptop while my son was eating and came up with the following principles. Call them “The Pancake Principles” if you will, but be amazed at how we really can 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 the stack. He really wanted that whole stack but when it came down to it, he really was not able to finish what he started. When it comes to life and what I want to accomplish, I usually want to digest more than I can handle. Oftentimes I think that I have more time than I really have, enough money when it will cost more, or more energy than I can maintain for a marathon project. If I continue to do that, I never will reach the goal. The side effect of that is a sense of failure. I get that “I never accomplish anything” feeling.
I am learning to break down my objectives into smaller chunks so goals can be accomplished with success. I used to work on bigger tasks and get overwhelmed as all the smaller parts involved blew up in my face. I called them obstacles because they were slowing me down. Now, when I break things down and think through the parts, I can see those “obstacles” as elements to the project and I can plan for them. When I do this, things go a lot smoother and without indigestion!
Instant isn’t always best. In pancake mixes the “just add water” type usually are easy to make, but never taste as good as the “made from scratch” kind where you stir in fluffed egg whites, add real buttermilk, etc. How often do I choose the ready-made fixes in life and relationships rather than taking the extra time to design and adapt things to fit the exact needs of my co-workers, my family and myself in my personal life? I am learning to slow down and take the extra time for attention to detail so I have a sense of satisfaction in knowing I have gone the extra mile. This sends the message to my family, friends and colleagues that they are important and everyone ends up a winner!
If you get preoccupied, pancakes can burn. How many times have I made my son the first pancake and then poured batter for the next one into the hot pan, only to get caught up in his butter, syrup, cutting and pouring milk? In the middle of the distraction I smell something starting to burn and find my pancake’s first side chocolate brown. I get preoccupied at 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 over in my mind until it is perfect and it never gets put in place – or takes way too long. If we get side-tracked on the path of goals, focusing on the side stuff (or striving for an unattainable standard of perfection) can make the main stuff start “Burning in the pan.” Let’s try and stop getting caught up in that cycle.
Pancakes taste better when you add fun things to the batter. I like to add applesauce to my batter. Sometimes I add a really ripe banana, some vanilla and salt. I personally don’t care for it, but some people like chocolate chips in theirs. My wife has a recipe for waffles that has part of a can of pumpkin and pumpkin pie seasoning. It is very satisfying. Sometime try living life the way you would jazz up some pancakes. What could you do in a relationship or chore that would be the equivalent to adding chopped walnuts to banana pancakes or chunks of peaches and pecans to buttermilk ones. I saw a recipe for New Orleans style praline pancakes the other day that would transfer into some interesting work ethics or relationship building with a spouse or the kids! The sky is the limit and I guarantee everything will be a lot more fun.
When it comes to cutting stacks – kids may think they can, but need guidance to learn how. I was glad to see my son had the confidence to try and cut his own food. Do you know how long we have been cutting up his food into bite-size chunks? This was a landmark for me! But when he said he really couldn’t do it with two pancakes, I should have helped him. Instead, I took the utensils and did it for him. He had the confidence to try but I didn’t do the follow-through. It was just faster to do it for him. If at all possible, we need to help our children (and adults for that matter) “cut the stack of pancakes” instead of doing it for them because it is faster. I have been more aware that time is one commodity that kids usually have a lot of. Why not allow them to use it doing something for themselves – even if we have to endure watching it take 5 times as long as it would take us to do it.
O.k., 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 some time to reflect on relationships with your children, co-workers, significant other and friends. Find out where you are with these “pancake principles.” And while you’re at it, make up an exotic pancake combination and share it with someone special.
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