Eye on the Prize

I receive emails and Facebook messages a lot from people who tell me that they want to go to the cake shows like I do, own a successful bakery, teach all over the world AND have a reality show designed for them. And, probably they would like to do books and DVDs also. They want to be famous. And rich. And their own boss. So, what advice can I give them? Should they quit their jobs to pursue their passion?

I had a decorator ask me to dinner to talk over strategy for her career and this was almost everything she said to me that night! I was shocked….she didn’t ask to win the lottery, too? I know that seems harsh, but I think that this decorator was over-reaching. I have actually been lucky enough to do many of the things on her list, but over an 18 year period. There is a great quote from Oprah that sets this out beautifully:

“You CAN have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”

It is more true than most decorators realize. You have to pick one thing at a time and move towards that goal before you can move to the second on your list. I told her she needed to pick just one focal point first. I honestly think she was upset by this advice. After all, she knows people who have two or three things on her list – so why not her? The thing is, the traveling teachers, the ones with successful shops, the ones who have done cake tv did not do it all at the same time from ground zero. In every case, they climbed the ladder of success. That means that there are steps you have to take to reach your dreams. One thing at a time.

I began with a plan for a commercial bakery. I worked for someone else for FIVE YEARS to get the knowledge and contacts and experience I would need. I began buying supplies over time. I started looking at locations long before I actually talked to people about renting space. You must know what you are doing when you open for business! In the end, I needed to push myself to actually start my own shop.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”
(Leonard Bernstein). I think this is another great quote. If you have the luxury of time, you do not push yourself. (Remember my Scheduled Happiness blog?!). Decorators procrastinate. You have to set a short, but realistic time frame for each step of your dream.

For a while, I was juggling entering cake competitions in many states, operating a full scale bakery and trying to teach. It is fair to say that the triple demands meant that I never reached my ultimate goal in any one area during that time. “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” ~ Anonymous.

My good friend Mike Elder has been writing in his blog lately that he realizes he is going to have to make some changes in order to achieve his CURRENT dreams and goals. My first question to him was, what do you want to do? What makes you happy? At first, he and the others I have talked to in this situation cannot tell me which ONE direction they want to go. It is so hard to choose which child you save and which one you don’t. Dreams are like our children and letting go of one to focus on another is life changing. It is the hardest business choice you will have to make.

I don’t say this lightly. As many of you know, the last few years, I was traveling to cake shows with my competition cakes, running a really busy bakery and trying to establish myself as a teacher. A little over a year ago, I stopped competing at the shows. I truly love making the competition cakes, but I could no longer juggle three dreams. I put the competition one aside for a time. Sometime last year, I realized that my travels to teach were wearing on me and on my employees at the bakery. I realized that I looked forward to each teaching expedition, but really was starting to dread the weekends of caking and deliveries. I was going to have to narrow my focus again. So I did. I closed my bakery to concentrate on teaching. I believe my narrowed focus has paid dividends.

If you look at many prolific book writers like Debbie Brown and Alan Dunn, they do not own retail shops. Their job is to write books and to teach those projects. That is their sole focus. When my friend Becky Rink wrote her amazing book, she took a year sabbatical from cake orders. She committed to her dream in order for it to come true. If you focus on just one project or goal, you can achieve it.

If you are reading this and trying to decide whether it is time to let go of one dream in favor of another, know that letting go is not failing. It is moving UP the ladder of success to the next rung. At each stage, you have to put yourself in the best possible position to achieve the next goal. If you try to hold onto all of the goals and try to achieve them all simultaneously, I promise that you will be as bunched up as someone playing Twister and will fail.

I hope each of you will take a moment to ask yourself what you really want for the next stage of your life and career. Figure out what steps you need to take to do that. Allow yourself time, but not too much time to start implementing your plan. Know that it is ok to walk away from one dream in order to achieve the next. Put your eye on the prize and the prize can be yours.


12 thoughts on “Eye on the Prize

  1. You are sooooo right on target here Ruth. And if you try to do it all or take on more than you can reasonably handle it will affect your health in the long run. Choose where you want to go within limited parimiters. Don’t sacrifice family for business goals. Be satisfied with enough and learn that little two letter world “NO” and use it to keep yourself within the bounds you set for you and your goals.

  2. Great article Ruth! This applies to everything in life. We have become such am instant gratification society that if we don’t get it all now we are unhappy. But if we take it one ring at a time that gives us something to focus on and improve on.

  3. So true! I realized that I can do one thing really well, two things pretty well, three things kinda well… and so on until finally I am just trying to keep all the balls in the air and none of them getting my full 100%. Keepin’ it simple- choosing one and lovin’ it is working so much better. Love your insights, Ruth!

  4. Ruth- another great article! You are so down to Earth, and realistic! I like that about you…This is true for many of us reading it, but it is so hard to really figure out what we truly do want. I have a few goals right now but really can not decide exactly which one I want to pursue. The passion for all of the things I want to do is hard to let go! I guess it will work out one day and I will accomplish one thing well (or I at least hope so)! Thanks for the words of wisdom and look forward to seeing you again! Julie 🙂

  5. Thank you for saying it is not a failure but moving up, helps with the everyday decisions. It is even hard to tell a customer that you are full on a given weekend or day. You as a decorator have to give yourself the words “NO” or “FULL.” My employee has to answer the phones when we get their or I am really trying to kill ourselves to make everyone happy. Thank you again for sharing your experiences and knowledge with us Ruth.

  6. Couldn’t have been explained any better! I dreeeeam of having a storefront cake decorating business but I won’t, because I know in my heart that it will take ALL of my spare time to make it happen, and I’m simply not willing to give it up! I’ve been a legal assistant for 31 years and many ask me “why don’t you become a lawyer with all that knowledge you have?” NO! Making “happy cakes” for people in my home is much more relaxing than being screamed at all day by people who have stressful legal issues… Just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we should. Just sayin’.

  7. Its seems that in todays world, people think if they can’t do it all, they are a failure. I want to express my gratitude for your wonderful, perfectly logical answer. I would rather suceed superbly in one area, than be mediocre in many areas of cake art today.

  8. Wow, thanks so much for sharing that. I have not quite reached a level of all these dreams but hope to one day get into cake competitions but know that I am still a work in progress and feel that I still have so much to learn. But with proplr like you expressing the how to’s and the do not’s help make it easier for those that are still a diamond in the ruff. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. Well said, Ruth and as you mentioned Becky Rink I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Ga ICES just when her book came out and had mine autographed.
    I enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work

  10. Thanks for a very well said article. I really want to open my own bakery but in reality having a 2 year old and another one the way, is just not possible. Although, in my mind I still think that I can do it but in reality it’s just not possible without sacrificing the other.

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