There 9,8765,657 things that go wrong every time I bake something new, and roughly half that amount of things go wrong when I bake something I’ve made before. While I’ve learned a lot about baking from decorating and selling custom cakes (obviously), I’ve also surprisingly learned a lot about myself.
Anyone with a side hustle or business will probably tell you they’ve learned life and personal lessons from their endeavors too, because once you attach money to something, and your reputation, it’s a whole other ball game. The stakes are higher and suddenly something you did because you had a quarter-life-I’m-not-passionate-about-anything-and-I-don’t-have-any-real-hobbies-crisis is now a registered business that you have to be accountable for. The version of you that handles the business may not be the exact same version of you that existed before you set up shop. The good news is: The new version might be better! Here’s what I’ve learned.
Sweet Lesson #1: I’m way too fast
With the exception of running and math, I do everything fast. I drive fast; I eat fast; I walk fast; I write fast. I bake fast, too. Turns out that’s less of a Cupcake Wars advantage and more of a real life disadvantage. I rush through the baking process; I multitask as much as possible; I cut corners, and I make a lot of mistakes. When I bake and decorate on a weeknight, I have so little time to get everything done. After working a full day, I want to get as much done as quickly as possible so I can still get to sleep at a decent time and do all the other things I want to do. So I work fast, and it doesn’t work.
I’ve learned that in baking, and in life (especially at work), I need to slow it all down. The stress I endure when things don’t go according to plan or I make a dumb mistake is not worth the little extra time saved. I’m always rushing and am probably missing out on some really cool stuff in the process. I’m starting to take my time more when I bake, to go on more leisurely strolls, to triple check my work, and to try and enjoy my scenic commute. It’s time to slow down.
Sweet Lesson #2: I’m way too hard on myself
Basically if it’s not perfect, it’s not good enough. And we all know how unattainable perfection is, so imagine how often I feel proud of myself or my work. Did I finish a marathon, twice? Yes, but not fast enough. Have I baked some really cool cakes that everyone loved? Yes, but they weren’t as good as the ones I saw on instagram. Have I totally transformed my health and body for the better? Yes, but I don’t have a flat stomach or toned arms or a firm butt. So none of it feels good enough.
I’ve learned I’m so hard on myself that I can’t ever be proud of myself, and that’s not okay. I’ve started noting my accomplishments more, focusing on what I’ve done right/well, and saying more positive things to myself. This one is hard to overcome, but I’m making good strides.
Sweet Lesson #3: Most people you know aren’t supporting you because you’re the best; they’re supporting you because you’re passionate about what you do and they want to help.
My inability to produce perfect cakes, perfect work, fast race times, or six-pack abs hasn’t left me friendless. My friends support my endeavors because they see how passionate I am about them, and how seriously I take them, and they want to help me succeed.
When you start selling something, you’ll likely face a lot of anxiety about your reputation, letting people down, and losing friends. I felt and sometimes still feel that way because I lose sight of the real reason my friends come to me for cake, writing help, fitness or food advice, or anything at all. They don’t need perfection; they just need something better than what they already have, to know more than they already know, or to support a friend they believe in. If they needed perfection, they’d get a cake from a bakery, or hire someone with more experience, or get a personal trainer.
I’ve learned that while there’s no way I’m going to half-ass a project for a friend, I’m allowed to simply deliver my best, even if that isn’t THE best.
Sweet Lesson #4: Just because you’re good at something and people like it, doesn’t mean you have to do it.
Ultimately, I love food and think I’d be very happy working in a job or environment that let me create content or products in that industry. But despite that, and despite everyone asking when I’m going to quit my job and open a bakery, I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. I don’t want to rule it out completely, but I think my strengths and passions lie some place other than baking. I love delivering cakes and seeing how happy they make people, or getting positive feedback from a happy customer, but I don’t feel so passionate about it that I dream of opening a bakery. I may be good at it, and people may really like it, but I don’t have to pursue it anymore than I already am.
I’ve learned that you don’t have to stay beholden to something because you’re good at it or because once upon a time you said you liked it. You can change your mind. You can self-assess and find out what you’re really supposed to be doing in life. And you can grow in and out of different passions. They aren’t all meant to be your big thing — sometimes they just come around to help you through a quarter-life crisis and teach you some things about yourself.
Sweet Lesson #5: You can step away from something that doesn’t serve you, even if it disappoints people.
I’m not always the best at choosing healthy foods, eating correct portion sizes, or not stress eating — so sometimes baking is really, really hard for me. Especially because I don’t get a ton of vegan cake orders. The past few months, I’ve been secretly grateful for the lack of orders that has let me focus on myself and my health. Going forward, I’m happy to help friends and make them (hopefully) the cake of their dreams, but I won’t be working very hard to grow sales. Eventually, I will cater to a market that wants healthy or vegan baked goods, and I’ll be able to do something I love without sacrificing my own values or wellness.
I’ve learned that as I change and grow, my hobbies, passions and brand have to change and grow as well. Baking unhealthy and non-vegan cakes, inevitably indulging in them, and then beating myself up about it doesn’t serve me and I don’t want to struggle with it long term. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you, even if other people don’t like it.