One Pizza the Wiser.

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” -Carl Gustav Jung

homemadebbqchickenI’ve always lived by a simple mantra “work hard, eat pizza hard”.  I go strong all week; work hard, avoid temptations, exercise and abide by a strict diet.  My finish line is Friday, and oh boy do I finish lavishly. I’m a firm believer in having a cheat day and mine happens to be Friday, which of course is also pizza day. As much as I love pizza, you could probably imagine that there is a lot of excitement and anticipation built up into this day.

So, I get home Friday night, the perfect pizza I’ve dreamed of all week in my hands.  I open the box, peer inside and to my horror the pizza sucks!  Imperfections scream back in my face.  A big, charred crater from a collapsed pizza bubble wreaks havoc over a third of the pie.  There’s at least one topping unaccounted for and where’s all the cheese?

Cue mental meltdown.

We’ve all been there; the pizza is burned or underdone, lacking cheese, deformed, delivered an hour late or cold. So, what happens when I wait all week, come home and the pizza is bogus?

Though I feel like crying, I attempt to focus all my energy towards a big deep breath and a smile.  It’s hard and a constant practice, but I try to take a bad outcome and creatively reconfigure it into something positive.  This time with the help of my wonderful wife Tess, the result was a delicious homemade BBQ chicken pizza.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Stumble, laugh, figure it out.

I try to salvage what I can or just move on.  I’ll make a frozen pizza or tear the kitchen apart and make my own pizza (Tess really does not prefer the latter if I’m on my own).  I feel just by taking charge and moving forward I can bring myself more joy than the original outcome could have.

I try to figure out what I can learn from the experience to improve for next time. Maybe, now I know not to order from a certain pizza place, or not to order a particular item, or not to order at such a busy time. I’m going to learn, get back up and continue on; one pizza the wiser.

It’s all about how you come back. 

Resilience makes all the difference, whether life dealt you a bad hand or you burned your frozen pizza, how you react and move forward is everything.   Our ability to turn rejections around can help us excel, pizza misfortunes can show us the way. If the pizza you looked forward to all week sucks; make your own pizza.

Everyday I pride myself not on the outcomes of situations, but on my response to situations. It’s not easy, but when I try to remind myself I have mental control, I feel I come out on top.  This allows me not to get swept up in a heated moment and move on.

What pizza taught me:

With a positive view and reaction to failure, we can grow and find even more happiness in life. If we embrace rejection and learn from it, we gain new insight and have a better ability to adapt to life’s obstacles.

  • What I’m eating: Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza: Sweet Baby Rays, leftover grilled chicken breast, mozzarella, cheddar, red onion and cilantro.
  • What I’m reading: “Good to Great”-Jim Collins

To Find Excellent Pizza, Accept Pizza.

“Good luck is nothing but preparedness and opportunity coming together” -Deepak Chopra

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Navigating through life and finding a new favorite pizza place can share the same anxieties, lessons and triumphs.  I uncovered this several years ago after I relocated to Madison, Wisconsin for work and found myself equal parts excited and overwhelmed. I had the stress of a new job, new living arrangements and the biggest challenge of all; discovering which pizza place would become “my new pizza place”?

Pizza compels me.

I should start out by explaining that I absolutely love pizza, more than most things. Everyone knows I have a serious passion for pizza, my friends tease me about it, my co-workers regularly inquire about it, my wife’s embarrassed by it, and my parents seem confused over it.  I crave it all the time and every week build anticipation for my next pizza adventure. So, this whole idea may seam trivial, but pizza, in my opinion is one of life’s finest pleasures.

Gus’ Pizza in Whitewater, Wisconsin is my all-time favorite pizza.  It’s very thin, cut in squares and really cheesy.  In my opinion close to the perfect pizza composition.

Off to my new home.

As I set off for Madison I had nerves about adapting to a new home, it was my first time moving away from the small town I grew up in.  I had traveled a bit and I knew I would adjust and probably come to love it, but at the end of the day I also wanted a good piece of pizza.

Though I had many things on the table, I would commonly find myself asking “How was anything around here going to compete with Gus’ pizza?”  “Who’s going to have a little hand pinched crust like them?” “What place would deliver that borderline excessive amount of cheese?”

Gus’ and their cracker thin crust had transformed into the security of back home, it was a warm a quilt of high quality mozzarella snuggling me in, delicate hints of basil assuring me I’d be ok.  Worse than that, Gus’ had become the metric by which I was judging all other pizza.

I had put Gus’ pizza on a pedestal.

What I was really asking is “How can a new pizza restaurant compete with the idea of Gus’ pizza” I’ve created in my mind?”

In my first few weeks in Madison, what do you know?  I tried too hard to replicate that cheesy cracker thin-crust I missed from Gus’ back home.  Often, I would force a solution: I would order thin-crust pizza from a notorious deep-dish pizza place, then walk away in disappointment because it didn’t live up to expectations.  I would order chain pizza with extra cheese to mimic the “hole in the wall” pizza I craved so much.  I was forcing outcomes into square “tavern style party cuts”.

Then I learned to let go.

I’m an avid reader, especially into mindfulness, behavioral psychology, personal development, leadership etc.  Through my extra curricular learning, I found how to enjoy myself and enjoy pizza even more.

I discovered how to take delight in an experience and let it soak in, the new pizza along the way was a perk. I started reaching out of my comfort zone and trying new varieties of pizza and savoring every bit of the uniqueness they brought.   Along the way I found new favorites and created fond memories.  And of course I found new favorite spots.

What pizza taught me:

When I attached to a specific result in my pizza quests I set myself up for disappointment.  The pictures I created in my mind of how I wanted situations to play out, created unrealistic expectations and often left me feeling like things didn’t go my way.  By opening up my mind to alternative options and to the infinite ways life can go, I felt the real joy of living.  I was free to ebb and flow with the world and let opportunities present themselves.

We should all invite change and different experiences and enjoy them for what they are. I have to force myself to do this everyday, but the results are worth it.  You will be able to seize unforeseen opportunities because you won’t be set on one specific outcome. Know what you want, detach from the result, enjoy the moment and just be; you will find what you’re looking for.

  • What I’m eating: Rosati’s, Madison West, super thin crust (yes, that’s an option) extra cheese, pepperoni.
  • What I’m reading: “The Happiness Hypothesis”-Jonathan Haidt