Recently I learned to bake sourdough bread. If you have ever tried it, it is a time-intensive labor of love, taking days to create two loaves of bread. I felt immense pleasure creating something so tasty with my own hands. I am hooked.
Soon after my triumphant achievement, a friend sent me a story of Silicon Valley’s love with sourdough-bread baking. Unlike me, they are engineering the perfect loaf with sophisticated technology that includes custom-made bread ovens, laser thermometers, and temperature controlled proofing boxes. I am low-tech: starter, flour, water, a ceramic dutch oven I bought at Target, and my regular oven. Although my bread may not have had the perfect cell structure and was slightly over browned on the bottom it still tasted like freshly baked bread does filling my kitchen with an intoxicating aroma. I started to reflect on my experience. While we reach the same outcome, our experiences seem different.
It came to me that baking was a great metaphor to life and that the qualities it took to bake the bread were indeed qualities I want to cultivate more in my everyday life. While technology provides great benefit we have become addicted to it. It can alienate us from connecting on a deeper more personal level to ourselves, to our inner creative, to others and the world around us. It would be good practice to slow down and focus on making things again.
Here are my reflections.
1. Patience is a great quality to cultivate and makes the ride a lot smoother. It takes days from start to finish to make bread. It isn’t so much labor intensive, but it is time intensive. From getting your starter active to the countless times you knead and rest the dough before you get to the oven. You can’t rush the process. It was satisfying to slow down and enjoy the process as it came together step by step. It requires patience, and, as in life, we don’t get what we want and desire overnight. Practicing patience in the kitchen and in life helps us slow down and appreciate the now that we often miss rushing, anxious and uptight that things aren’t happening fast enough. We rob ourselves of the pleasure in the nuances of the journey.
2. Enjoy The Small Wins. Each step was a win and set up the success of the next. I was excited every time I experienced the results of my labor. We often are so busy or focused on getting to our end goal we don’t appreciate and enjoy our small victories. We often forget to prize ourselves and others along the way. Life is much more fulfilling if we make time to enjoy the wins, even the little ones.
3. Simplicity. Flour, water, a dutch oven, heat, and using my hands. The experience using the technology of fancier ovens and thermometers may have made more ‘perfect’ bread but mine was imperfectly perfect, and I was just fine with that. Things don’t need to be complicated to be better.
4. Creativity Fills Our Hearts. Made by hand comes from the heart and having my creative energy flow through my hands tapped into the place inside of joyful self expression. Kneading and stretching dough with my hands satisfied the artisan in me. I wanted to learn to do it well, with integrity, and create something with quality using my hands.
5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable. When we learn something new, it kneads and stretches us, taking us out of our comfort zone. Beyond our comfort zone is where our growth lies. It takes patience and self-compassion to remember – like a child who learns to crawl then walk – that learning and growing is a process. It serves us well to be kind to ourselves through the process. Tell that inner critic that all is well, let go of the judgments that you aren’t doing it right, and move on. Life is like that and if you are a life-long learner, failure and less-than-perfect is guaranteed. The good news is the more you try, the better you get.
6. Enjoy The Journey. I would not have appreciated those two loaves of bread as much as I did had I not labored over them for days. I was present when I was on task and enjoyed each step along the way and my bread tasted that much better for it.
7. A Life Long Learner. I learned something new and I felt great! I was proud of myself. Learning keeps us fresh, pushes our edges, stretches us. Like in life. It fosters our curiosity and creativity. It keeps us engaged in the world and enriches our life and our well being. Our talents grow. Life is more enjoyable. We become more aware inside ourselves of what brings joy and meaning to our lives. If that is not enough, research continues to support cultivating a growth mindset is good for our brain.
Sure my bread could have been more perfectly textured, more tangy and less brown on the bottom. Using technology to help me along the way would have helped those goals but I got immense joy doing it by hand the old-fashioned way. I felt connected to my heart and my creativity, I enjoyed the journey and I am left remembering qualities I can cultivate well beyond just making bread.
Kim Garner brings creativity, imagination and inspired leadership to notable projects and experiences within music, entertainment, media, and technology. As the Head of Marketing and Artist Development for Republic Records, Kim successfully crafted and launched campaigns for such global icons as Prince, The Who, and the Rolling Stones to newcomers Amy Winehouse, Florence & The Machine and Jack Johnson empowering them to celebrate their vibrant authentic nature from which she created powerful image and brand positioning. Through her marketing consultancy, she recently produced LA Times’ NEWSTORY event as part of Festival of Books bringing new ways of storytelling to the festival stages including music, film, TV, and technology. Kim coaches and leads workshops in personal growth and development. Through her own pursuit of greatness she loves to inspire others to recognize their superpowers, to love and trust their authentic nature and boldly share it with the world. An ever-blooming “perennial”, life-long learner and adventurer at heart she is always maximizing her own potential by tackling a myriad of adventures whether cycling up Tour de France mountain routes, white water kayak around the world or trekking to the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
Image courtesy of Nadya Spetnitskaya.