How to Fail Sucessfully

Last summer, while volunteering for Aspen Institute’s Ideas Fest, I was fortunate enough to hear Carol Dweck speak. Who is Carol Dweak, you might ask? Prepare for my inner (okay so it’s not inner at all I’m so so not ashamed) geek to emerge…..

Carol Dweck is this awesome-possum professor doing research on how children learn. YAY, are you already excited like I am?! She has categorized people into two groups – closed mindsets and open mindsets. Essentially, a person with a closed mindset believes that abilities are fixed. A person is good at math or bad at math, periodendofstory. This translates into being afraid of failure because it means you ARE a failure at (fill the blank). Closed mindset people don’t seek challenges and don’t progress as someone with an open mindset would – someone who believes you can improve at (fill in the blank) over time because it’s an acquired skill. These people relish a challenge because it doesn’t intimidate them.

Failure, to an open mind, is an opportunity to grow.

After listening to Dweck’s talk, I was convinced I had a closed mindset. I am definitely risk-averse, and I was always completely daunted by (fill in the blank) MATH because I was oh so clearly doomed to be horrible at it forever. Despite my dad’s best efforts to make it super interesting with his homemade math sheets, I stopped trying because my multiplication was never fast enough for the fourth grade timed tests. Which scared the pants off of me. I scratched astronaut, doctor, vet, etc. etc. etc. off the What I Want To Be When I Grow Up list puuurrrrrty quick. Actually, I don’t think those ever made it on the list in the first place. I came out of the womb disliking numbers.

Anyway…. Dweck did leave some hope for redemption. I AM NOT DOOMED! And I think weightlifting has a lot to do with me having a more open mindset these days. I mean, I’m writing a blog. Publishing my thoughts to the world and actively getting people to read it.

I never EVER never thought I’d be the type to look forward to going to the gym or lift weights or actually spend money to purchase fancy weightlifting shoes to help my squat form. That’s serious business, and I had just finished years of shelling out dollars for pointe shoes. Lemme tell ya, those things can run through your bank account real fast.

But, once I knew that it was possible, that I could do this thing I never believed I could do, some doors opened.

I realized just how often my only failure is not daring to try. And that is a crummy excuse. So here I am, trying something new with this program, with this blog, and with this new life with my dog and my boyfriend in the Wild West. Even if I fail, it’s been a fabulous ride.

With that nugget worming itself into your brain, I’ll leave you with a formula – not a recipe – for lots of delicious meals made atop my stove. I like things I can make in a skillet with no real measurements, no recipe, and no huge time commitment. I then pour everything into one of my cozy mug-bowls that actually have a HANDLE so I can eat standing up right next to the skillet walk to the table without making a mess of the entire apartment, and devour said skillet-mug-bowl meal like I’ve never seen food before.

Here’s the formula:

1) Start with coconut oil. It lends the lightest texture and slightly-sweet undertones to food…just food, in general. I cook with it for eggs, steak, veggies, you name it, and it is drenched in coconut oil. Get the oil hot, and make sure there’s enough to just barely coat the bottom of your skillet.

2) ONIONS. Dice ’em, slice ’em, big, small, however you want. Get them all soft and silky in the coconut oil for a few minutes. I usually get impatient with this part, but don’t follow my example. Throw a little S&P on that and stir them around so they don’t get brown. Feeling sassy? Smash or mince a whole garlic clove and toss it in.

3) Thick veg. I use sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash apples, bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini… whatever makes your little heart sing. If it’s something really thick/long-cooking, go ahead and throw it in the pan with the onions. Otherwise, wait till they’re a bit soft. This one is another DDWED (Don’t Do What Estes Does), which is overstir everything. It’s leftover from when I could stir Mom’s brownie batter and get a lick from the spoon just about every turn… Let your veggies get a little browned.

4) SPICE! Up your lives! Today I used paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg and garlic (weird combo, I know) for my sweet potato bowl. Use curry powder and garlic, or cumin and coriander, or chili powder and Mexican oregano – play with it. Endless variety here. Have an *open mind*.

4) Leafy green: Kale is great here. Collards, chard, spinach, beet greens all work well. Stick a big pile of freshly washed greens on top of all the skillety goodness, and put a lid on it. The greens will wilt superfast, and then you can mix it all together.

5) Mix and season to taste. Sometimes, I’ll add Bragg’s Aminos (soy sauce but better) or Apple Cider Vinegar or lemon juice or just more salt and peppaaaaa.

6) Pour into mug-bowl and enjoy.

*Note: if you add chicken/beef/whatever-the-heck-you-want, cook it beforehand, drain the skillet (if it’s beef), and scoop up any browned bits into the onion.

Until next time,


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