Recipe for Success

I fearlessly offered to make some gluten free bread for a very kind, but wheat intolerant friend and colleague of mine recently.

I make a lot of my own bread & I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t be so hard to work with a different flour. Surely it couldn’t be a million miles away from what I was used to?
I had heard that gluten free flour was notoriously difficult to work with and that most people didn’t bother with it. It’s easier to buy gluten free bread and let the experts do it apparently.

Undeterred, I ploughed ahead, bought some gluten free flour, researched a nice simple recipe and dusted off my bread maker.

Ahem – let’s just say it didn’t go as well as expected!

Whilst I know how to get really good results with regular wheat flour, my first attempt at gluten free baking was nothing short of disastrous.

The result looked and felt like something picked up on the Mars mission. Like a savoury rock-cake, it was heavy, the dough was too thick and sticky for my bread maker’s dough paddles to deal with and it just didn’t work. It smelled OK to be fair, but it wasn’t right by any stretch of the imagination.

I was left with a large, yeasty rock, ready to go in the bin.

A Mars rock? Nope - failed gluten free bread!

But am I going to give up? Nope. Not a chance.

It’s just a first attempt, and it took me a few tries to get the wheat flour bread just so. So I reckon it’s going to take a few goes to get this how I want it too. Working with a new recipe often takes time, effort and refining to get it perfect, or at least edible.

I’ll go back to basics and make the next one by hand (to hell with my tennis elbow), so I can feel and test the texture of the dough. That way I can make sure it takes on the correct consistency and feel, with my hands. I might try using spelt flour next time and see how that works for me.

I love the feel of bread dough on my hands. It’s very tactile, and the yeast makes it feel almost alive, like a living creature that you’re nurturing.

~

As I was considering my less-than-successful first attempt this morning, it occurred to me that my bread baking  draws an interesting parallel to another area of my life.

My business.

A few years ago, the old me became discouraged when my business didn’t work first time, and failed to produce the results I wanted.

My bread making also suffered a similar false start.

I’d always wanted to bake and eat my own delicious, warm bread, so in my early twenties, I took the plunge.

I had a go, used a pretty rubbish recipe, got it a bit wrong and the result really didn’t taste any good. It failed to rise properly, and I felt like a loser.

I assumed I was a “failure” or maybe just not cut out to bake bread. It was clearly something other people could do, but I just wasn’t clever enough or maybe I didn’t have the bread making x-factor (whatever that’s supposed to mean!)

My mother never made fresh bread either while I was growing up, and always discouraged me from using yeast in recipes.
“Oh no dear, you won’t be able to do that. It’s too difficult!”

Similarly, my business failed to “rise” properly when I tried to launch Angel Wings Holistics the first time around in 2006.

Unfortunately, just like my first go at baking bread, it was a badly researched and poorly executed attempt at running a business. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and muddled through as best I could, only to give up in less than a year.

Greatly discouraged, I found myself back in full time employment.

I was frustrated but felt that perhaps it was just too difficult to work for myself doing what I loved.

In hindsight, I can see that I gave up on my business dream before I’d really started. Just like the bread.

A few years later, after doing some work on myself and my self esteem, I picked both ideas back up again, and decided that this time I would do better.

Although I’d given up before, something kept gnawing away at me, whispering in my ear, and I knew I wanted to try again. Why shouldn’t I be able to bake lovely bread or run a successful business? Other people could do it, so why not me? Surely it wasn’t rocket science?

I committed to myself that I would take the necessary steps to perfect my recipe, accept failure as many times as necessary on the way, and prove to myself and the rest of the world that I could really do this!

I read books, studied people who were already achieving the sort of results I wanted, got help and advice from knowledgeable mentors, and finally got the ingredients for lasting success (and delicious bread) ready to go.

White bread and brown bread

These days, my business is growing and improving every day. I keep putting the work in to perfect my recipe, and one day it’ll be so good that other people will look at my business model in the same way as they look at my famous sun dried tomato ciabatta now, and say

“Wow Helen, how did you do that?! I’ve always wanted to do that. I tried once but I couldn’t do it!”

And just like when I talk about my bread, I’ll say;

“Well, it wasn’t that hard. Practise makes perfect. It took me quite a few attempts to get it right, so keep trying. The key is not to give up!”

Yes people, it’s true.

Failure is acceptable. It’s more than acceptable, in fact, it’s usually a necessary step on your way to success. Your failures will teach you a lot about yourself, and show you where you need to improve.

If you’re afraid to fail, then chances are you’ll never succeed either.

Just because it doesn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean that it won’t work at all. With a few tweaks, a little fine tuning, some extra flour and lots of love and effort you can get there.

The recipe for success really can be yours, but only if you keep on looking for it!

Red Carnations in the Kitchen

20 Comments


  1. Well I do like home baked bread. Should PM you my address…

    I’m in a similar position to how you were initially, just starting out on the road of self employment. As a photographer it’s hard to make initial headway in an industry that is now driven by citizen-generated content, but I know I’ve got to stick at it. Reading posts like this just stiffens my resolve, keep it up! 🙂

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  2. I love how you took time out for yourself to regroup and then dusted off your wings and got right back out there again. I think a great question to ask yourself sometimes if you are getting bored or things aren’t working out, “If not this, then what?” I’m always delightfully surprised at what shows up when I open up to new possibilities. Congratulations on your success!!

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    1. Thank you Julie – yes I dusted off the gluten-free flour and I’m ready to have another go, but this time I’ll do it differently. Universe – show me the way!

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  3. Yes, all of life is a practice, isn’t it? This comes to me most vividly in parenting, but it’s really true in every part. And the idea of getting back to the basics too…..

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  4. I love how you compare baking bread to life and business. So true! Practice and not giving up creates success. I’ve had the same issue with a novel I’ve written. I am going back again to make some revisions—I am not giving up. And the novel involves a woman who learns how to bake. Lots of success lessons all around! And btw, last night I made homemade pizza dough with my 5-year old daughter. She enjoyed mixing warm water with the yeast and then seeing how the dough rose. I want her to know that making things from scratch isn’t hard at all, but takes practice.

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    1. Beautiful, and such a great lesson to teach your little girl! Looking forward to that novel – I love the synchronicity here!

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  5. In this instant gratification society we often forget that it takes time to learn a new skill. Time, patience and persistence. I love how you have reminded us with the bread making story, especially as I’m gluten-free. Teehee. And I love how you’ve captured the enthusiasm of tackling a new task and making it fun while in the learning process. I’m inspired!

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    1. I thought you’d enjoy the gluten free part! I wanted to make you proud by mastering that (for anybody who doesn’t know, Jacqueline is MY life coach hee hee!!) and I had to accept that it’s going to take a few tries to get it just so.
      A few years ago I would be been disheartened at not getting it “right first time” which as you say, we seem to see as the norm today. In reality, it’s actually very abnormal to be able to do something perfectly on the first go, but the old me would have given up after the first attempt.
      Anything that’s worth doing takes time and effort and a few wrong turns.

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      1. You are fabulous! And I’m so proud of the huge changes you have made in being kinder and more accepting of you. Sharing this with the world now…how cool is that! And when you get the recipe and routine ‘perfect’…do share it with us!

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  6. Hi Helen-Celebrating you for getting back out there are making your dream work a reality! Love this-“Failure is acceptable.” Failure can guide us to our success if we let it! I’d love to know how that bread taste:-)

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    1. Thank you Dana. I grew up in a very challenging environment as a child where failure was not acceptable. In fact, anything less than top of the class and perfect first time was punishable. It’s been a tough lesson for me. I’ll mail you a slice of the bread when it’s done 😀

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  7. I love this parallel and the great reminder of how important failure is to success. Let’s hear it for trying again!!
    And how did the next batch(es) of gluten free bread turn out? Will you do a follow up post when you’ve perfected that recipe?
    Hugs and butterflies, ~Teresa~

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    1. Absolutely Teresa – as soon as I crack this recipe it will be posted for all to see! Gluten free will not beat me! Hee hee!

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  8. SUCH a cool post, Helen!! That pesky-ass fear of failure is what keeps us from trying in the first place–aren’t you ecstatic to have gotten that memo?! Three cheers for what sounds like some amazing bread, and high fives on a doing what you love and making a living at it! I’m working toward it, too and there is no turning back. Fear, schmear! And you will master that gluten-free bread, too! YAY! Thanks for this inspiration!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

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    1. Why thank you Eyenie – the gluten free bread isn’t quite there yet, but I’m not about to quit! It actually helped me to look at my own life and draw the parallel for my own benefit, so the baking disaster was a blessing in disguise. Next time something goes wrong, I’ll think of baking!

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  9. What an awesome post Helen!

    I can totally relate on so many levels. I find business (and life) to be one giant experiment. Your results are super, helpful information about what works and doesn’t work for you. You can’t take it personally.

    Plus, as a cook i totally get the process of perfecting a recipe. Sometimes the mistakes make things yucky….but sometimes they create something better or more delightful.

    I hate to see people giving up on their dreams. My experience as a coach has taught me is that it all comes down to believing that you can have what you desire. Doubting it makes you give up at the first sign of failure…..knowing it makes you try until you get YOUR recipe it right.

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    1. Abso-blooming-lutely Leah! This is hard to learn stuff and a nice real life example like this one helps to put things into perspective doesn’t it? I’d love for you fabulous coaches to use my story for your clients if it will help them too 😀

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  10. Well Helen, as i understand it the only way to fail is not to try at all! 🙂 I am with you on this one. I’ve had the failed attempts at business and it left me thinking I was the failure. NOT! It only means we get up, brush ourselves off and try again! By the way, your bread really looks yummy!

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    1. You are so right Belinda! Not trying is definitely the biggest failure of all and the saddest to see. My bread is normally great. After my disaster I made a loaf of my famous sun dried tomato ciabatta which is awesome, and which also took a few tries to get right. It was an exercise to remind myself how great I am and give me a boost (plus I was hungry…). We are too hard on ourselves!

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