All-or-Nothing

What is this madness??  That’s right, kids: another post just a week after the last one.  And while I am thinking about last week’s post I want to say, “You’re awesome”, and “Thank you”, and “I am here because of you”, to everyone who commented and emailed and otherwise connected with me after reading it.  And truly, I am very grateful that you love me warts and all because the transition to a new format may well be a little clunky. Which brings me to the reason for this post: I’m all-or-nothing. Go big or go home. I’m gonna do something and knock it out the ball park or I’m not even gonna look at the ball.  I’m just not a half-assed kinda girl.

Having an all-or-nothing mindset can be a really awesome thing in life.  When it comes to getting s*** done, remodeling your kitchen single-handedly, writing a cookbook in 5 weeks, becoming an expert at something, sticking to a plan, seeing things through to the end, producing really high quality stuff, being trustworthy, developing recipes that taste great and actually work, being known for excellence, living with integrity, making things easier for those around you, and all manner of other stuff, not being half-assed can reap huge rewards.  It can also be a real handicap to ALL OF THE ABOVE.  It is both a blessing and a curse.  It is the thing I love the most and hate the most about myself.  Huh?

And therein lies the problem: it can be both a help and a hindrance to just about every situation.  Why?  Because as much as it has enabled me to do extraordinary things, there are other things I won’t even start if I don’t think I can or will finish them perfectly.  So I miss out on the experience, the learning, the growth, (not to mention the possibility that I might – in fact – do a great job), and those around me miss out (although they don’t know it) on the results, which even though not perfect might still be useful.  And useful is good.  Useful can be *really* good. And while I fully appreciate that useful can be really good, I struggle with allowing myself to sit somewhere between all and nothing because it feels like an excuse to enable sub-par to be acceptable.  So let me be clear that I am not advocating for crappy, sloppy work.  I am not suggesting we all lower our standards and be content with mediocre – heaven knows the entire interwebs are crammed with mediocre.  I’m saying that doing your best from where you are with what you have is the best way to get started – and more often than not is better than not getting started at all.  The trick is to get started, do the best you can, and then once you’ve gained some traction, got into a rhythm, and aren’t feeling overwhelmed, up your game a notch.  You don’t always need to wait until everything is perfect before you start.

I remember years ago when I was still living in England how I would fly into a blind panic ahead of a visit from my mother because my house was not in (her definition of) perfect order.  In most everyone else’s definition my house looked like a showroom, but that’s beside the point.  I would run myself ragged making sure that not one fleck of dust remained and nothing was even one measly millimeter out of place.  And still she would stride in and start moving the cushions.  Years later a friend from Canada was visiting me in Seattle for the first time and when I expressed my mental pandemonium at his imminent arrival because my house wasn’t in (my definition of) perfect he drawled, “I’m coming to see you, not your house”, which pretty much put things into perspective for me, and in this instance the all of all-or-nothing did nothing except give me unnecessary anxiety. And seriously, when was the subjective ‘perfectness’ of a home more important than a relationship? Time to rethink any relationship where you can envisage the state of your home truly being more important than you to the other person.

For anyone curious enough – and everyone who needs a quick mental break from all the text – here is a snap of my house when I am not expecting anyone.  That’s Zebedee snuggling on the couch with me.

www.carriebrown.comAs a more relevant example to the subject at hand: there are so many little tips and tricks I’ve learned over the last 10 months while I’ve been unraveling my health issues, and yet I haven’t shared any of them with you.  Why?  Because every time I got all excited about sharing something with you, I’ve run to the computer and ground to a screeching halt.  “I don’t know everything there is to know about this Thing”, “I can’t make a complete post out of that”, “It would be a really short post”, “I don’t have a good picture to go with it”, “It’s not about food so people won’t want to read it”, blah, blah, blah.  And so the post doesn’t get written and you don’t get to know the really cool Thing that I have discovered that is helping me be healthier, smarter, saner, whatever.

There’s a whole bunch of other things that I have procrastinated on because I feel overwhelmed about getting started thanks to this all-or-nothing way my brain works. Invariably once I get off the starting blocks I find things are never as difficult as I imagined they would be and I always end up wondering why I didn’t start sooner.  Changing the format of the blog is part of getting started, because heaven knows I’ve been procrastinating on it for far too long.  I am going to assume that if it’s a little clunky to begin with you’ll just bear with me, take what’s of value and leave what isn’t.  Likewise if it’s not helpful, useful, inspiring, has no value, or just plain old sucks you’ll tell me.

I am one of those people who 99% of the time does not open her mouth unless I am 99.9% sure that what I am saying is true.  You might find this a stretch if you’ve listened to me natter away on the podcasts, but in person I rarely open my mouth.  This makes writing a blog hard, because I won’t put pen to paper unless I know exactly what I am talking about.  This approach definitely has it merits, but it also has a lot of downsides.

There are some things I will very happily never compromise on – where all-or-nothing will forever be my mantra. For one I’m looking at you, recipes.  I simply will not post a recipe that does not work and does not taste great. I will never scrape recipes from someone else’s site (and I’d stab myself before I used someone else’s recipe without giving proper attribution), post a recipe without a picture of the dish (that I took), or fail to make sure that the recipe has no errors in it.  I want you to be confident before you buy ingredients and put forth the effort that you are going to get an edible and enjoyable result (notwithstanding personal taste, of course).  I remember being steadfast with our beloved Jonathan when he would suggest things like, “Can we just swap out this ingredient for that one”, or “Why not make it a whole egg instead of just the white” and I’d be all, “NO. NO. NO. It might not work, I haven’t tested it, and it might taste awful. NO.”  Because non-chefs often don’t understand (and why would they?) that cooking – especially baking – is a science and you can’t just swap things out willy-nilly and expect them still to work and taste great. It matters. It matters a lot.

There are an alarming number of cookbooks and blogs out there that consist of recipes stolen from someone else without any attribution. Stolen recipes that have been tweaked to make them seem original but then not tested (so who knows if they even work or what they taste like), and recipes scraped from someone else’s work with just the name changed to make it not seem so obviously stolen.  Then there are recipes with images that are of  different dishes entirely and not taken by the “author” but also stolen from elsewhere.  I’d rather hang up my hat altogether than churn out rubbish and / or dish up plain old plagiarism. Nope. Not doing it. You deserve better. Much better.  Of course, the people who do this kind of stuff simply don’t care about integrity or honesty. They want $$ and they’ll try and get them anyway they can.

But there are times when all-or-nothing just isn’t the best approach.  Thankfully I have learned not to apply all-or-nothing to my photography, because if I did that then I would not have shared ONE. SINGLE. IMAGE that I’ve ever shot because none of them are perfect.  But I learned that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.  It never ceases to amaze me which of my images people just fall over themselves to buy so they can hang them on their walls or pop them in a frame, and which images have others going “Meh” about.  I will never create a perfect image, but I have come to realize that my definition of perfection is different from everyone else’s and despite my thoughts about my images there are still plenty of people who are inspired or moved or simply just entertained by the images I create.  So who am I to keep them from the world?

So I am going to try writing shorter blog posts – short little ditties with a quick update or a little life hack that doesn’t need a novel to explain it.  And I am going to be a lot more active on more social media platforms because they allow me to post little snippets of goodness quickly instead of saving everything up for one enormous blog post that it takes me an eternity to write.  We can stay connected without me feeling terrible for not having posted some mother of a blog post or a full-blown recipe, given that the time I get to spend here is {regrettably} less than it was.

All-or-nothing: What’s this got to do with you?

It occurred to me while I was thinking about all this earlier that it applies equally to diets.  An all-or-nothing approach could take you from overweight and sick to slim and vibrant.  Equally it could prevent you from getting started on any dietary change at all.  On the surface that last statement is entirely unhelpful to you.  What’s the right and the wrong approach here?  Should we be all-or-nothing when it comes to diets?  That depends.  My purpose for bringing this up is to make you aware, and then to make you think.  Does all-or-nothing light your fire and make you determined to do whatever you need to do to reach your health goals, or does all-or-nothing paralyze you because it feels overwhelming and you are not sure that you can keep it up?  Either way – the important thing to bear in mind when it comes to diets is this: PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION.  It is better to take baby steps consistently towards better health than go all-out for perfection and then quit when you slip.  Go all-out if that’s your brain’s way and you can be hardcore in your execution.  But if that’s not you, just get started.  Take a step in the right direction and then another one.  It you fall backwards a step, just take another step forward.  And another.  Dieting isn’t about all-or-nothing, it’s about getting a little bit healthier every day.

So while I am working on being a little less all-or-nothing with my blog, find something in your life that would benefit from you being a little less all-or-nothing with.  If you’ve been procrastinating on some big scary thing, get started.  If you need to move the needle on your health, take the first step.

We got this.

 

(Yes, this was supposed to be a short post. Hey, it’s a post :-) )

 

 

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  • Kerry - Carrie this post is brilliant you are one of the most nicest honest and caring people I know. And to be British is the icing on the cake. Your sense of humour is hilirous, I can so relate to you I’m British and I’ll soon be moving to San Jose CA which is so exciting. I feel like I actually know you on a personal level. I just want to say thank you, you’ve helped me such a lot with advice. Keep doing what your doing if it makes you happy because you are making such a difference to people’s lives. XxReplyCancel

    • carrie - I hope you love it here, Kerry!! (Welcome to no one ever understanding what your name is or how to spell it :-) ) If you’re ever in Seattle – look me up!ReplyCancel

  • Debra - Lots of wisdom here?Check out Carole Tuttles energy profiling system. I’m a T4 and you sound very much like that same energy. She has huge insight into Living Your Truth. I’ve learned a lot from her. I’m excited to hear what you have to share.ReplyCancel

  • Debra Ulrich - Years ago my sis showed up unannounced at my door with an elderly friend of hers. I had been SEVERELY depressed and the house looked like pure s–t. I explained this and begged them to understand that I could not invite them in. They INSISTED they were there to see me, not my house. I finally caved and let them in. The women sat very rigidly and refused my offer of cake and coffee.

    The next day my sis called to say the woman had refused refreshments because “She said it was the dirtiest house she had ever seen and she did not want to touch anything”

    Two lessons learned . .. first. . they say they could care less about how your house looks. . . they are lying.

    Lesson two . . my sis is a b==ch.ReplyCancel

    • carrie - Hence my suggestion to rethink any relationship where it turns out the house is more important than seeing you!ReplyCancel

  • Popcorn - “So I am going to try writing shorter blog posts – short little ditties with a quick update or a little life hack that doesn’t need a novel to explain it.”

    Wheeeeeeee!!!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Beth Gildersleeve - Short or long, I’ll take whatever wisdom you share.ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa - I did a little happy dance when I got the notification that there was a new post here.

    I giggled a little when I realized you’d written a novel explaining that there would be shorter posts ahead, because it reminds me of the time I decided to try new vegetables…and promptly made a list of 18 new vegetables to buy that very day. You’re in good company, Carrie!ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne - I, too, and an “all-or nothing” kind of person. AND, struggle with perfectionism. I believe we have our parents (or other mentor) to point at for that lovely trait. : ( (and I am sure our parents got it from their parents, and so forth.)

    Once I realized both of these personality traits were not helpful to me, I worked – and continue to work – at changing them. But they do still seem to hover in the background of my mind.

    Carrie: I will enjoy and appreciate your posts – and you – whether long or short.

    Best,ReplyCancel

  • Nancy - I love reading your posts Carrie! Short works for me. Then I get time to chew on a nugget instead of digesting a banquet.ReplyCancel

    • carrie - Oh I like that, Nancy! That helps me feel better about writing short posts – thanks :-)ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Agreed! Long or short, we will love them. :)ReplyCancel

  • Ellen - Another breath of fresh air – thanks, Carrie!ReplyCancel

  • Raina - “There are an alarming number of cookbooks and blogs out there that consist of recipes stolen from someone else without any attribution. Stolen recipes that have been tweaked to make them seem original but then not tested” <– So much this, and this is why I have always loved and appreciated your work. Whenever I see something with your name to it, I know you have have put yourself on the line and gone through the iterations of testing and tweaking it to make it amazing, undoubtedly at great expense! I even hear 'your voice' when I read the recipe method since it's truly yours. Being a consumer of all of your delicious recipes, I'm glad it was this that you didn't copromise on.

    You have got me thinking, there are so many things that I've wanted to do that haven't done – I've even bought equipment for it, but have been waiting for the time when I can go all-in to dedicate to it. I bought a proper camera a year ago, and I haven't even charged it. Wah! Definitely something to think about for me.

    So THANK YOU for this post, whether they be long or short or just a picture of an onion, I love them :DReplyCancel

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