I am a huge fan of The Great British Baking Show, a TV show that delivers on everything in its title. Amateur British bakers convene each week and try their skills at baking various challenging confections under time constraints. Two professional and renowned bakers, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, judge their efforts. Each week, someone is named Star Baker, and someone else has to “leave the tent” (the giant wedding-type tent in which they hold the competition.)
On one episode, the bakers were charged with creating a Baked Alaska, a combination of ice cream, sponge cake, and meringue. Iain, a creative baker from Northern Ireland, had made his ice cream and put it in the freezer. While it was chilling, Iain worked on another element of his dish. When he went back to get his ice cream to assemble the whole thing, he saw that another baker had inadvertently moved his ice cream out of the freezer to a nearby counter. Angry and out of time, Iain threw his entire Baked Alaska in the garbage, over the “No, no, no, don’t!” of the hosts.
A few minutes later, as Iain walks up to the judges, Mary looks at Iain sympathetically, and Paul says, “Can you tell us about your Baked Alaska, please.” Iain responds, “Um, I had some the issues with the um, ice cream, and I let the stress of that get the better of me—“
Paul interrupts. “Okay. Did you have a problem with your sponge?”
“Did you have a problem with your meringue?”
“Where is your sponge? In there?” Paul points to the bin.
“We could have tested that.”
Mary smiles with the compassion of a thousand angels and says, “I think you know that it got the better of you, and it was just a moment of your life that you want to forget. Because you know, we would have liked to see your sponge.”
There are so many great life lessons here, aren’t there? Iain was sad and angry that his work was ruined, literally melting. And in the moment of that disappointment, he missed what else was going on. For one thing, most of the bakers had ice cream that was runny and not completely set. For another, as Paul pointed out, there were other elements of his creation that could stand on their own. But the momentary emotion ruled the day, and he had none of his hard work to present for judging. Iain was eliminated from the competition, not because he was the worst baker that day, but because he didn’t have the presence of mind to adapt to the circumstances.
It’s one thing to be good when you have all the resources you need. It’s another to be good when things aren’t going your way. How do you adapt when time runs short, your IT support can’t get your slides working, your slot on the agenda is given to someone else, there are too few/too many people…how can you keep the ultimate end in mind, and bring the best you have to offer?
How can you continue to serve your audience?