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


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 92: One Quarter In


keep-calm-and-check-progress-5So now that I am one-quarter of the way through this year, I took the opportunity to revisit some of my goals to see where I stand…

Physically:  I’ve been able to get a workout in every single day.  Some days, that workout consists of 50 pushups as I get ready to crawl into bed.  Some days it’s a full, heavy weight session at the gym.  But I’ve done some sort of muscle punishing workout every single day.  I’ve seen some results, too.  Nothing too tremendous, but enough that I’m happy with my progress.


Day 4


Day 89

No, I’m probably never going to be huge.  I resigned myself to that my senior year of high school.  Nor do I want to, as my wife claims she doesn’t like overly muscular dudes.  So that’s good.  But I am happy with my results so far.


I’ve completed a number of books so far, but I’m slightly behind pace.  I realize that, but I’m not freaking out too badly by that, because when I get into a fiction book, I usually devour it.


I’m pleased with my progress.  I’ve made a desk, learned to identify a lot of birds (which reminds me, we’ve seen our first robin in the yard), and I’m progressing towards my first belt in karate.


Again, pleased with where I am.  I’m slightly off pace, but that will all change as rugby season comes into full swing this spring.  I run a lot during the spring and fall seasons.  So anywhere that I am behind, I will make it up very soon.  In addition, we’ve got our first adventure race of the season coming up in two weekends.  I’m excited to be running with my wife.  Also, I love my Vibram Five Fingers.

People Who Matter:
I’m a little behind on this, but several upcoming posts include more than one person, so I will be back to pace very shortly.

So that’s it.  A brief look at the first quarter.  I’m sure I could be more in depth, but none of this matters to you.  What really matters here is you.  Is this inspiring you to do something better?  Does it help you continue on a path you’ve wanted to walk?  In the end, that’s what I hope to do…inspire you.


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 86: Peeing on the Side of the Road

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.”
-St. Augustine

I posted two days ago about being stuck on the Interstate in Illinois.  At the time, we had been stuck for 15 minutes.  It was 8:00 pm.

We began moving again around 1:47 AM!

We were stuck on the road for 6 hours.  Two semis had jack-knifed on the road two miles ahead of us, blocking both lanes.  To make matters worse, we were 11 miles from Champaign, IL, and the tow truck had to deal with the terrible roads to get there.  Then he managed to get stuck, a salt truck careened into a guard rail, and several more tow trucks had to be called to the scene.  It was excruciating.

It was also a lesson in patience.


I tend to be an impatient person.  I want to do things now.  I don’t like shopping around Christmas because I don’t like to wait in line.  I prefer to drive on roads where I stand little chance of being in a traffic jam.  And given the chance, I will always drive in crappy weather rather than wait it out.  Last Sunday, I’m pretty sure the Lord sent a guardian angel to watch over us, because I probably could have placed us directly in the path of those trucks.

We stopped for gas around 6:45pm.  Certainly not unusual.  We used the same trip to empty bladders, and here is where decisions mattered.  Rather than both going at the same time, we staggered our trips to the loo, thereby delaying our re-entry onto the road by probably 90-120 seconds.  I also felt like buying a large hot chocolate, which I never drink in the afternoons because of the caffeine, and a pair of 1-liter bottles of water.  We had half a liter already in the car, but I felt the urge to purchase those bottles because I thought the 2-for-$3 deal was good.  All told, the staggered trips to the john and purchases put us back on the road about 4 minutes later than we could have been.

As I said, we were almost exactly 2 miles behind the accident.  We were travelling about 30 mph.  At that speed, one covers 2 miles in 4 minutes.  That 4 minute “delay” at the gas station quite possibly saved our lives.  Even if we had been ahead of the wreck, I counted almost 200 cars in the ditch in the ensuing 50 miles and at least 4 exits with abandoned or snowed-in cars, meaning that in all likelihood we would have wound up in a ditch or snowed-in on some exit.

Blizzard Car Wreck

This could very easily have been us.

Truth be told, our delay gave the Illinois DOT and state police time to move many cars and plow the road (although I use the term “plow” loosely).  Instead of a horrendous night in a ditch, paying for a tow and/or repairs, and a hike through a blizzard, we simply had to sit in a warm car, listen to music and play games.  Did I mention that the hot chocolate came in handy, and the water lasted us all night (although I had to pee on the side of the road a few times)?  

Yes, I believe someone was looking out for us.

I don’t talk much about my faith on this blog.  I’m not ashamed of it, nor would I feel the need to downplay it.  It’s just not something that comes up as I relate these stories.  Over the last year and a half, I’ve come to see the Lord’s hand in my life in many different ways, and as I look back at some hard times, I believe that I have had my own footprints in the sand.  I have also come to believe that Jesus doesn’t always come out and openly work in our lives;  He is sometimes instead rather cunning and playful in His work.  I believe the need to pee at a different time than my wife may have been one of those moments.  If my bladder alarm had signaled in tandem with hers, I wouldn’t have wandered by the water or hot chocolate.  Hence, we wouldn’t have been delayed.

Whether you believe these things are Divine Providence, Pure Coincidence, Karma, Shawarma, Andrew Luck or something else entirely, you have to admit it probably saved our trip.


So while we complained about IL-DOT and the state police, we were safe.  While we complained about not being home, we were warm.  While we complained about pop music on today’s radio, we were fortunate.  And while we complained about being stuck, we were alive.

Sometimes, it’s not the trip that gets you where you need to be.  It’s the lessons you learn along the way.


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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