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Reframing failure as success…

Something that didn’t really go to plan over the past month, was my attempt to carve a wooden spoon from a block of wood cut from a friend’s eucalyptus tree. I’d been enjoying the process but had put it to one side for a couple of weeks as I was beginning to get irritated with the fact it wasn’t turning out as I had expected.

It turned out, that I had made some fundamental errors. In the book I had read, called “Spon”, the author talked about using soft, wet wood (ie, freshly cut), as it’s easier to shape with a sharp knife. As it turns out, eucalyptus is a hard wood and over the 2 weeks I was handling it, it had become very dry, hard and quickly blunted my knives.

Feeling quite disappointed, I was going to abandon this piece of wood until I inadvertently broke one of my old wooden spoons (shop bought) whilst mixing sourdough. One of the advantages of making sourdough is that it doesn’t require kneading, you just mix it and time and chemistry do the rest. It looks like this and is very stiff, sticky and requires robust mixing.

It then dawned on me that what I, actually, needed was a dough ‘paddle’, hence resurrecting my abandoned spoon. If I couldn’t finish it off with my knives, I could use a sander to finish the job. Rather than seeing this as a catastrophic failure of my hand carved, meditative ethos, I accepted and embraced it - half an hour later I had this.

Ok, it doesn’t have the same rustic look, but I like the asymmetry. I decided to leave the handle part rough as I think it’s pleasingly tactile and it’s really very functional. The smoothness stops dough sticking into it, the sharper edge helps with mixing and the rounded edge helps scrape the bowl. It’s really strong and doesn’t have a concave bowl (which is what makes a spoon a spoon) as it doesn’t need one.

In a way, what I’ve done is fail at my original intention and inadvertently ended up with something that I really needed without knowing it. I think this only happened because I didn’t beat myself up over my lack of progress, or just throw it away and start again.

This is only a tiny thing, but it fits in with what I’m trying to do overall. One of the reasons I started this process of reflection and change, was out of frustration with myself after I kept moaning aloud to my family about being overweight. Then one day my son asked me if he was overweight and at that point, I decided to shut up about it or take positive action as it was giving out a negative message to my son’s idea of body image.  It’s about taking action and doing something about it, whilst not beating oneself up when things aren’t going to plan. We’re often quick to focus on our shortcomings but find it difficult to celebrate successes. Doing that and being open to the possibility of changing direction, in this case, brought me to something new.

The next thing I need to address is exercise. My weight loss, 11lb or 5% of my body weight, has gone well but seems to have plateaued. As the original changes now feel like I’ve adapted to them, it’s time to build on this and add something new that will improve my fitness and help burn calories.

Posted 05-02-19


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