Business Lessons from Baking Cookies

The Hubs and I were baking cookies last week. But not just regular old chocolate chip cookies.

These were made with coconut flour. Gluten free, fewer carbs – seemed like a great idea. Or at least worth a try.

I’d done some research online, found a recipe and everything was good to go. Or so we thought.

We had an inkling that they might not turn out very well when the dough was drier than traditional cookies. A lot drier. Dry enough that the chocolate chips kept popping out of the dough when we were trying to mix it all together.

Looking back, we probably should have added some more butter or oil or something. Somehow I convinced the both of us that we should just stick to the recipe because the cookies could still come out okay.

When they were done and cooled a bit, we tried them.

They tasted lovely – coconut-y and chocolatey – but dry.

Not coughing dust dry, but damn I could really use some milk dry. Thankfully we’d only made a quarter batch.

Then we started talking about what we’d do differently next time. And I started thinking about how different coconut flour is from wheat flour.

And then I started thinking about America’s Test Kitchen, and how they make a recipe many, many different ways to come up with the best results.

(I still remember the Tempura episode, where they determined that the best crunch comes from using seltzer water and vodka in the batter instead of plain water. Who the hell would even think, “Oh I know! I’ll add vodka and seltzer to the batter!”)

(If seltzer and vodka in batter is actually pretty common, please keep that to yourself.)

Where was I?

Oh yes. Trying something multiple ways to get the best results.

I realized that if I wanted to be able to make great cookies using coconut flour, I’d have keep baking with it. Only then would I be able to make educated guesses as to what would improve the recipe.

What this has to do with business

1. On the way to great results, you have to throw out a lot of crappy cookies (and/or Tempura).

Trying something that doesn’t work is not a failure. It’s part of the learning process. It’s how you figure out the best technique, method, or solution.

Looking at it as a waste (of time, money, energy, ingredients, etc.) will stop you from experimenting freely.

I’m constantly catching myself holding back from offering things because I don’t know how it will turn out. The sooner I stop holding back, the sooner I’ll have a better understanding of what works in my business and what doesn’t.

2. The only way to really understand – or grok – how something works is to get in there and use it.

Reading about coconut flour isn’t the same as baking a bunch of stuff with it.

Reading about sales pages and how to write them just isn’t the same as writing them and seeing how they perform.

The down-to-your-bones understanding, the kind that makes it easier to tweak and troubleshoot, only comes from mastery. And mastery comes from practice.

Again, it goes back to being willing to try stuff that might not work out.

3. Sticking to someone else’s recipe isn’t a guarantee of success.

Life is full of variables.

Your Essence Piece is different from my Essence Piece. Or from that one marketing expert’s Essence Piece.

Believe me, I wish there were a formula that listed guaranteed steps for biz success. “Do x, get y! Risk free!”

I don’t believe such a thing exists. And sticking to someone else’s recipe for business – even when it doesn’t feel right – is like handing over your power. I’ve done this. It never turns out well.

That’s why I focus on learning (and teaching) tools, strategies and frameworks that help me (and you) become more self-sufficient. The kind of stuff that allows us to be fluid in our work, rather than taking action we don’t understand.

Yet again, it comes down to being willing to experiment and risk failure by trusting yourself and going “off recipe.”

Bonus (Non-Business) Lesson: Don’t make cookies with 100% coconut flour unless you have steel intestines.

Those cookies were hard to digest. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

How about you?

Do you have a hard time allowing yourself to experiment?
What holds you back?
Are there some things that are easier to experiment with than others?

4 thoughts on “Business Lessons from Baking Cookies

  1. Kylie

    Oh, Victoria, every time you write something, it makes me so happy. How do you do that? You just make so very much sense.

    I love this because, man, I have messed up a lot of recipes. Cookie recipes, especially. And yet I’m never afraid to try again. I just know that it’ll turn out eventually, and one failed batch never convinces me that I’m not a kick-ass baker. I should definitely definitely definitely apply this to my business. Right now. Pronto.

    To the kitchen I go!

  2. Square-Peg Karen

    What Kylie said!! VERY happy!!!

    I’m not afraid to experiment with baking/cooking (one might even say more restraint could be a good thing), but I am often skittish about experimenting with business tools, the foundational stuff. I often find myself wanting to (EXPECTING to) find things that work – immediately – and that I can stick to — sigh.

  3. Victoria Post author

    @Kylie – Yay! Your comment made my day! Well, week, actually! Interesting that baking mishaps aren’t a big deal. Do you have a sense for what the difference is, for you?

    @Karen – Aww thanks, my dear. So that makes two of you who aren’t afraid to experiment with cooking, but are nervous about biz experimentation. But I get nervous with both baking *and* business experimentation. Hmmm…what’s up with that, I wonder?

  4. Reba

    Hey Victoria, I also get nervous with both baking and biz experimentation… My solution to the former has been to step out of the kitchen and leave all the food-creating to the Babylove (and, man, he knows how to cook). The latter… well, I guess I haven’t got many options there for side-stepping the messiness, other than a) learning to accept it as part of the process, or b) reframing mistakes in my head as non-wasteful super-helpful useful informations. Maybe (b) is actually the step that takes me to (a)? Maybe I need to go write some more permission notes…

    Anyways, thank you a bunch for this post, which made me laugh and got me thinking *all at the same time*

    You rock.

    Love Reba

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