In 4. Doing Your CEO Job

Custard Tarts & Other Business

One of my favorite treats — something I do for me when I’ve had a full day of work and need to rest my mind a bit, switch gears — is The Great British Bake-Off. Of course I’ve watched all of it already, but it’s so deeply satisfying to re-watch. There’s something about the combination of desserts I’ve never heard of, of the polite competition and mutual cheerleading that does me so much good, and — let’s be honest — it’s a genius mental break from numbers and from the horror of the news.

I crave the simplicity of bakers in a tent trying to make tasty things.

Recently I was re-watching Collection 2, specifically Episode 4, the one with the custard tarts. There’s this moment during the technical challenge to produce these seemingly-simple truly-difficult little tarts, where every single person in the competition is falling the F apart. 

The big guy who’s a teacher is leaning on the fridge, face out of view, clearly about to start crying. 

Another competitor, a young guy in a beanie, tosses his tart tin on the counter in dismay, clearly just giving up. 

Another man, usually so gifted, is placing his poor bits of tart, turned out of the tin in pieces, onto his display with trembling hands.

Oh, you so feel for them. They want so badly to do well, to delight the judges, to make their people proud. It’s so painful. It’s devastating in its quiet not-deep way. [Again, I crave this kind of quiet devastation without bloodshed, just people wanting to do well, not mistaking guns for tasers.]

And then the judges come out and work their way through all of the bakers’ tarts. When they render their verdict, when they say, “Right, this one is in last place, and here’s why,” they are invariably so kind. Those who emerge at the top of the heap don’t gloat. They congratulate each other equally, hug and cry when someone has to leave.

It’s like a dream. A dream in which we’re all trying to do our best, to excel, to dazzle in our way, to encourage each other, no energy wasted, not a jot, on tearing each other down. I want that outside the tent for all of us, shared joy at accomplishment, shared support through the hard bits, shared learning and victory when things go well

That’s honestly my favorite part of the work I get to do, witnessing what’s happening inside each small business’s creative tent, helping where I can, cheering for each success, learning from each business’s experience, going together toward their realized vision. Each of us constructing our own showstopper, trying and failing and trying some more, all in pursuit of creating what only we can see. 

An actual custard tart would be lovely, I’m sure, but for now, perfectly content with the inspiration to keep to this path inside our shared big tent: I have your back, you have mine. We go together. We make it sweet.

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