The Big Green Egg Failure: The humbling side of cooking can lead us all to be better at everything we do

Grilling is one of my favorite parts of late summer and early fall. A couple years ago, I upped my grill game by investing in a Big Green Egg. It’s touted as “The Ultimate Cooking Experience,” and the reputation that has grown up around this smoker/grill combo is nothing but stellar. Grillers (masters or not) are quick to tell stories about the time they delivered juicy brisket, perfectly smoked pork or fall-off-the-bone ribs, and all they had to do was fire up the Egg, pop a cold one and wait.

Recently, I decided to host a modest gathering of friends and serve up mouth-watering burgers straight from the Egg. Burgers are, after all, fail-proof, so this seemed an easy crowd pleaser for a semi-veteran “Egg-er” like me. What could go wrong?

A lot, as it turns out. The party was in full swing, the burgers were loaded into the Egg, and the smell was incredible. But once it came time to serve the patties, something had gone awry. The beef was undercooked, and I mean like steak tartare undercooked.

My hungry guests got a good laugh, and later, pan-fried burgers. I was embarrassed, to say the least. What happened? What did I do wrong? Why couldn’t I deliver on delicious like the rest of the Egg owners I knew? I beat myself up for my failure long after my guests had gone home. But then, something dawned on me.

If we are to be successful at anything in life, we have to be two things: teachable and resilient. That means accepting setbacks, unexpected events, and even failures along the way, all while getting back up off the mat and dusting ourselves off. It’s that simple. Each and every time we don’t achieve our aim, it’s our job to reset and refocus. To try again. And to trust that each time, we will get better.

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I thought about my working life. Throughout my career, for example, I’ve had myriad meetings with coworkers, clients, and other professionals. I’ve done presentations to groups large and small. Sometimes things go off without a hitch, and other times, there are what could be called failures. But I don’t call them that. I call them learning opportunities. I know that after each event or interaction, when I consider what I could have done better, I am moving closer to success.

Inside all of us is the capacity to learn, to change, to evolve. Our success is determined by how well we tap into these qualities and use them to our advantage.

Take master chef and television cooking show trailblazer Julia Child, for instance. In her cooking career, she made gallons and gallons of homemade mayonnaise before she got it right. She didn’t give up. She just kept whipping until she found success in her endeavor. Reflecting on success, she said, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure.”

These days, I don’t stress about what comes out of the Egg. I trust in the process. Not that it will deliver perfect results, but that no matter the result, I will have learned something. I know I’m not a master yet, and may never be. But as I work towards success with my Egg, if I encounter setbacks, I learn from them. And then I order takeout.

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