The Terrifying Magic of Allowing the "What if" March 04 2016, 1 Comment

Chocolate and espresso.  Two of my favorite indulgences.  

Oooh, how I wanted to get them both in the same granola and while it never occurred to me to try this as a flavor combination before the man at the 2014 Southport fourth of July festival made the suggestion, once he said it, I couldn’t get the “what if” out of my mind.  I was on a mission to make it happen. 

That fall, the time of year when we R&D potential new flavors, I toiled away in the Hippie Chick kitchen to come up with the winning concoction that would combine these two amazing flavors.  This wouldn’t be a difficult task, right?

I can’t tell you how many misfires we had while trying to create our chocolate espresso granola, which ultimately went on the shelf in January, 2015 as Theresa’s Blend.   

According to my records, we went through 23 recipe revisions before we launched the final version.   Granola is the marriage of texture and flavor, and at times, especially when experimenting with new ingredients, it’s not unusual for a recipe to come out too dry, or too sweet or too crispy, or too soggy.  A lot of recipe creation in our world is nothing more than trial and error.    

In late November 2014, after weeks of baking in circles, I put the recipe on hold and committed to revisiting the flavor after the holidays.  That January, I made one final tweak and that one tweak was the difference between “not quite” and “this is it.”  

The fall before opening the business, I had conducted extensive beta testing on our four inaugural flavors that ultimately made up our original product line.  With all but the cranberry almond granola, which I had been baking for years, the three other flavors, the ginger, the peanut brittle and the chocolate pretzel were new creations, all  that had begun with a “what if,” before  taking a stab at trying those recipes for the first, tenth, and twentieth times. 

The chocolate pretzel granola had been the biggest “what if”  flavor of all to me.  It was so…..un-granola-like.  But when the idea hit me in an aisle in the grocery store to give this flavor a try, after the “what if?”  came a “why not?”

We all have “what if” moments, and sometimes, it’s easier or more convenient to ignore them.  “What if I saved more money?”  “What if I started an exercise program?”  “What if I started a business?”  “What if I wrote that novel that’s been sitting in the back of my mind for the past five years?”  Following through on the “what if” can be mighty inconvenient.  Sometimes, following up with the “what if” can take up loads of time.  That novel won’t get written in a day.  That new exercise program may require a significant change in your already packed schedule.   That “what if” can also conjure up fears of failure.  In my experience, though, following through on the “what if” takes more than the willingness to let go of failure. 

Following through on the “what if” requires the willingness to suspend the voice of your inner critic.   

I have made dozens, if not hundreds, of terrible batches of granola in the past two and a half years to get to the good ones. 

In order to keep moving forward, with confidence, I might add, I’ve had to learn to silence my inner critic, and just as important, I’ve had to learn to not allow my inner critic to silence me.       

If it weren’t for all of those bad batches of granola, I wouldn’t have the eight flavors on the shelf today that I truly love and believe in.

In early March of 2014, when I finally worked up the nerve to turn on my commercial oven, the chocolate pretzel granola was the first flavor I tried baking.

The initial batch wasn’t perfect.  It was under baked, and perhaps a little thick in texture.  I had to recalibrate the temperature and baking time in my new unit and tweak the ingredient measurements.  However, it didn’t take long to make those conversions.  The longest conversions I had to make when first working in my new commercial kitchen  were the mental conversions,  the emotional leap it took to go from “hobbyist” to “professional baker,”  letting go of the fear of failure, silencing the inner critic, and allowing myself to believe in and see through on all of my “what if’s.”

If I were to post a challenge to you, if would be to take one “what if” you’ve had in the past three months, just one,  and write down a plan to see it through.  Even if you cannot see it through right now for the most practical of reasons, I challenge you to commit your plan to paper.  I believe in the magic of the “what if,” and I believe in the magic of your “what if.”  

Besides, the magic isn’t in the final outcome.  The magic is allowing yourself to let go of the final outcome, and believe in it anyway.