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The Learning Curve

When people ask me lately how things are going, I often say something like, “It’s good – the learning curve is just a little…steep.”

Exhibit A: Up until 2am and still not done with the baking I needed to accomplish that day, and the problem bake? Cupcakes. Stupid cupcakes. Who can’t make a cupcake? Apparently, I can’t.

Exhibit B: On the first try, I made the best darn chocolate cake I’ve truly ever eaten by adjusting a recipe to include a new ingredient, all without using the internet as my teacher. Best feeling ever.

I did some research (thanks, Wikipedia) on what a learning curve really is in preparation to write this little insight into my life as a whirlwind baker and entrepreneur, and I learned that it's actually a technical thing. Like formulas and stuff. Turns out they’re also actually a euphemism we totally misuse.

This is a learning curve that indicates you’re actually being really successful and learning quickly:

That’s one steep curve! I was going to joke that I think my curve is a 90 degree angle, but that would mean that I’m such a prodigy baker that I get everything on the first try. Well, I don’t. Not even close.

Mom taught me to bake by feel. “How much vanilla do you put in that?” She then proceeds to dump without any measure and say, “About this much.” About three scoops of this. A “heavy” measure of that. When the batter looks like that version of fluffy, turn off the mixer. When the cake pulls away from the sides, take it out. She never uses a timer and few things are exact. Her baking intuition is incredible.

I’m happy to say I think I may have digested some of the magic sauce at some point, but when approaching the reality of a bakery where every cost is tracked and consistency is key for the consumer, exact becomes a necessity whether I like it or not. A large amount of my rough learning curve is taking what has for years (and in some recipes, generations) been feel and make it calculation.

I’ve decided my learning curve is not steep – it’s totally unpredictable.

I’m thinking my curve looks something like this:

The up and down is incredible. Literally by the hour I can feel like everything is totally under control and I may actually just pull this thing off, and the next it seems like I’ve made a huge mistake in even imagining I could possibly be a real baker. I suppose if you talk to any entrepreneur you'll find this is probably a natural way to feel, and I suppose if you talk to those entrepreneurs who have made it out of this phase you’d find out that perseverance (or some other version of not giving up) is key.

But how many have actually made it out of this?

It’s not many – some say 10%.

I plan to be one of the few, crappy cupcakes or delicious devil’s food to boot. I have the benefit of starting this thing with a few realities implanted strongly in my heart: I am not capable on my own, I am called to this by Someone much bigger than me, and I am in really really good hands. No matter how crazy the learning curve gets, it’s all happening in the context of that box – that perspective. I am thankful for the life experiences that have led me there, because whether I become a butcher, baker, or candlestick-maker, it’s that perspective that will ground me and ultimately lead me through this while maintaining sanity - small-business success or not. For now, I just need to hang on for the ride.

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