Day 136: Amy’s Baking Company – A Lesson in Criticism

Ever seen a full-fledged self-inflicted meltdown?  If you’d like, spend 20 minutes to watch the second half of Kitchen Nightmares from last week.  Without a doubt, you’ll get a shock.

If you don’t have 20 minutes (regretfully, because this is almost must-watch TV), I’ll distill it in concise bullet points:

  • Gordon Ramsey, chef and TV personality, was brought in to Amy’s Baking Company to help save a failing restaurant.
  • The owners, Sammy and Amy – but most specifically head chef Amy- appear to be the most stubborn and pig-headed people you will come across between here and Timbuktu.
  • When Ramsey tried to help, she refused it, threw a fit, then another fit followed by another and another…
  • She lied to customers, fired a waitress for asking which table food was supposed to go to, and refused to listen to constructive criticism about her food.
  • Ultimately, Ramsey walked out of a restaurant for the first time in the show’s history (almost 100 episodes), refusing to help.

So why bring up a TV show?

Well, to be perfectly honest, because it’s a beautiful lesson in self-delusion.  Amy deflected every single piece of criticism leveled at her by blaming others, attempting to turn the tables, and acting offended.  According to the show, she and her husband have fired more than 100 employees in the last year alone.  Judging by her actions (and his) on camera, I wouldn’t doubt that the figure is pretty close to accurate.

Furthermore, Amy and Sammy took to the glorious interwebz to begin to attack everyone who commented on the show and their portrayal, via Facebook, Yelp, Reddit and Twitter.  The posts are clearly the work of someone who believes themselves to be infallible, complete with putdowns, threats and name-calling.  Judging by what I saw on the show, it’s not a stretch to believe who is behind the posts (hint: I think there is an A, M and a Y in the name).  And finally, to top the entire thing off, the couple tried to spin everything that occurred in the last 6 days as being the work of a hacker.  Interestingly, their responses after the hack claim bear striking similarities to those that are the work of the supposed hacker.

Once again…why bring this up?  Sometimes we can’t be told how we should handle a situation, we have to be shown how not to handle a situation.  In this case, the situation warranted constructive criticism.  Amy’s dishes were subpar, thus her restaurant was failing.  Overlay your own personal experience with a difficult situation.  Do you react the same way?  Do you deflect blame?  Do you make excuses?  Do you refuse to listen to someone who is trying to help you?

Lord knows I’ve done all three.  I’m the last person to tell you how you need to react.  I’ve had moments in my personal life and moments in my professional life where I lashed out because I felt hurt over a failure.  Part damaged pride, part guilt for failure, but it was all my reaction.  I’ve had to learn the hard way to admit when I am wrong, and I still don’t do it all the time.

That is perhaps our biggest failure as a species.  Our failure to admit when we are wrong.  We come up with all sorts of excuses.  We blame others.  We scapegoat.  We lash back in anger.  And ultimately, we fail.  If we could learn to listen to criticism with an open ear in the first place, and do so without allowing our feelings to get hurt, we could avoid so much prolonged pain and suffering.

It remains to be seen how Amy’s Baking Company fares.  My gut tells me this one will go down in flames.  There will be more people actively seeking to bring the restaurant down than there will be loyal customers.  Call it public schadenfreude, call it mass retribution, call it whatever you want.  The failure to grasp social media will ultimately be Amy and Sammy’s private waterloo, ending a losing campaign that began with a food blogger’s poor review in 2010.

The lesson for you and me:  handle the critics gracefully.  You never know when America will be watching.

Day 104: A Life Event

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I borrow the picture and title for this blog for a specific purpose.  Please, when you have  a chance, head over to Evan Sanders’ blog The Better Man Projects and read this post.

Evan, I discovered* early this year, has been doing something similar to my goal with this blog – blogging about his journey to be a better man.  Except he started last year.  And he is far more eloquent with his words than I am.  And he has bigger plans.

Part of his plan was to publish a book, which he accomplished this past spring.  He is a published author, embarked on a career change, and seemingly was on top of the world. Yet, while we who follow along were thinking he has it all together, Evan was going through a much darker time in his own mind.

I want to share his post from the other day because it speaks so clearly to all of us.  We all battle our own inner-voice that tells us that we are not successful.  Too often we measure ourselves against where it is that we want to be, instead of measuring how far we’ve come.  This voice of doubt can come creeping in and steal away everything we have worked for, leaving us even more lost and hopeless.

Even in those moments of darkest despair, however, there is always hope.  I don’t want to paraphrase Evan’s insights, so I will simply encourage you to read his post.

“No matter how dark things become, there is always light. You can miss it if you aren’t looking for it.”
Evan Sanders, The Better Man Projects

*It is more appropriate to say that Evan discovered my blog.  He liked my blog shortly after I went live, no doubt suggested to him via WordPress based on similar titles.  I saw his “like” and checked his out and was -and still am- in awe of how much he accomplished last year. 

 As always: This is simply my journal as I try to better myself. I hope it inspires you to focus on yourself. Make 2013 YOUR year.
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Day 102: Never Say “You’re Wrong.”

I’m in the midst of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and wanted to share a few quick thoughts from this chapter.  It strikes me particularly on point, as I have a penchant for wanting to argue.  I love being right, but lately I’ve discovered that I talk a lot more than I should, and I am trying to rectify that.

Principle 2: Show respect for the other person’s opinions.  Never say, “you’re wrong”.

Men must be taught as if you taught them not
And things unknown proposed as things forgot.
-Alexander Pope

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself.
Galileo

Be wiser than other people if you can; but do not tell them so.
Lord Chesterfield, to his son

One thing only I know, and that us that I know nothing.
Socrates

Day 71: Quote of the Day

I came across this quote while doing some research on another book to read this year. I love it. It sums up so many problems I see around me today. It is easy to be stationary. It is easy to be still. It is easy to remain unchanging, ever wishing, never doing. Therein lies the danger. Our challenge in life is not to be complacent, lest we die unlived. Our challenge is to do more, do better, be better.

Are you?

“We are an exceptional model of the human race. We no longer know how to produce food. We no longer can heal ourselves. We no longer raise our young. We have forgotten the names of the stars, fail to notice the phases of the moon. We do not know the plants and they no longer protect us. We tell ourselves we are the most powerful specimens of our kind who have ever lived. But when the lights are off we are helpless. We cannot move without traffic signals. We must attend classes in order to learn by rote numbered steps toward love or how to breast-feed our baby. We justify anything, anything at all by the need to maintain our way of life. And then we go to the doctor and tell the professionals we have no life. We have a simple test for making decisions: our way of life, which we cleverly call our standard of living, must not change except to grow yet more grand. We have a simple reality we live with each and every day: our way of life is killing us.”
Blood Orchid by Charles Bowden