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 132: Quote of the Day

Tomorrow I’m helping host the 6th Annual Jachin Jordan Golf Outing to Benefit the Sturge-Weber Foundation and Make-A-Wish.  I have been very busy preparing these last few days, so I apologize for my lack of posts.  I’m up and at the course very early tomorrow, so here’s one quick quote to dwell on tonight.

“The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
-Gary Player

 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 121: White Belt No Longer

WhiteBlackStripeBeltSee that?  That’s a white belt with a black stripe!   Yeah, boy, that means I passed my first promotion test tonight!

Do you know what else it means?  It means I am still the least skilled participant in my dojo, by several belts.  We had two new classmates join this session, a pair of 13-year olds.  Once again, however, they could kick my butt if it came down to a sparring match.  I’ve learned that the hard way.

I’ve also learned something else: a black belt is a white belt who never gave up.

Yes, it’s cheesy, but it applies to so much more than just karate.  To master any skill or trade, one has to be willing to put in the time and effort.  One must have dedication.  Most importantly, one must have the desire to get back up after every failure.  As the old adage goes:

Success is simply getting back up one more time than you’ve fallen.

I’ve taken quite a few shots the last few weeks when it comes to sparring.  I’m fine with my “katas” – a group of pre-determined moves you have to memorize – but when it comes to sparring, I’m heavy on my toes and awkward with my counter-attacks.  As such, I’ve been bested by two guys with brown belts (expected), got smoked by a woman with a green belt who weighs maybe half as much as I do, made to look silly by a 15-year old boy, and taken far too many kicks and punches from a 12-year old and 13-year old girl.  I’m 32.  I’m a tall, very athletic man in pretty good shape, and I’m the lowest on the totem pole.

One word: Humbling.

But I’ve stuck with it.  And now I am no longer a beginner.  I no longer get the funny looks from the kids in the “Little Dragons” class before mine.  I’m someone who belongs.  I may not be good, yet, but I’m trying.  And I’m not giving up.

That’s the secret.  Jimmy Valvano said it eloquently.


We all get there.  Whether it’s a bad day, bad hour, bad year or bad minute, rest assured that everyone has the moment of despair where we feel like throwing in the towel.  But we can’t.  The only way you lose is to give up.  If you always give it another shot, you’ve never lost…you’ve only taken a step towards succeeding.  Take enough steps, and soon you’ll find everything getting out of your way.  Success will be yours.  You’ll feel alive.  You will have fulfilled your promises to yourself.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to beat me up.  🙂

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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