What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Last Word on the Most Over-Rated Candy Ever: Tootsie Rolls

Earlier this week (as I was pillaging my children's Halloween candy) I posted on my Facebook status: "The most over-rated candy ever: Tootsie Rolls."

This, of course, drew the ire of some FB friends and the rabid support of others. My faithful sparring partner Michael Whitman commented thusly:
I thought it was a well known fact that Smarties were tied with Spree for the title of "most over-rated candy". Since when can anything with Chocolate (even bad chocolate) in it be over-rated?
Of course, given the gravity and seriousness of this conversation, and this comment in particular, I have been pondering the subject all week.

I believe that Smarties and Spree win out over Tootsie Rolls because they are one thing and they do not pretend to be very good at it. Smarties and Spree are simply tart artificially-flavored fruity things. And they deliver on that.

Tootsie Rolls, however, attempt to be chocolate-like blended with Now & Laters. And the result of this hideous combination is that it does neither well. It delivers neither the limited promise of a Now & Later nor on the near-infinite promise of good chocolate.

This, my friends, is the problem: to do something excellently requires disciplined focus and singular-ness of thought.

In this case, Tootsie Rolls fail due to the un-holy blending of very bad chocolate and Now & Later chewy-ness (I concur with my FB friend Ed Hoppe: "all that work chewing and no real pay-off"). Whereas Sprees and Smarties are simply Sprees and Smarties--no attempts at blending tarty-fruity-crunchy with, say, black licorice.

Of course, some might object that there are exceptions to this rule: Peanut Butter cups, for example, blend peanut butter and chocolate. Creme-filled donuts also seem to violate the sacredness of the "do one thing in order to do it well" principle.

But the exceptions do not overturn the rule. They are simply that--exceptions. By and large in life to be excellent at anything takes rabid focus.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book "Outliers" where he posits the 10,000 hours of practice rule for freakishly good "outliers" like Bill Gates or The Beatles.

Jim Collins also talks about this in his epic study of various companies in "Good to Great." The companies that made the jump from good to great had what he calls a "hedgehog" concept--a single, unifying vision or principle that guided them in making hard decisions. The "also rans" tried to do everything; ergo, they remained also-rans.

There are few people who are excellent at anything. I'm not sure that I have what it takes to get there, either. But at thirty-six, I'm beginning to get some inklings of what it could possibly look like to find my one thing and to develop it more deliberately. Maybe I could still squeeze in 10,000 hours of practice before my time runs out.

Bottom line: Tootsie Rolls are terrible and terribly over-rated. And that's because it tries too hard to do too many things and ends up doing neither of them well. I'd prefer they just changed the name to "Halloween bucket space-eater-upper" in keeping with truth in advertising.

But all of this has got me thinking that maybe I've got some things in my own life that are just taking up space. And I've got to go to God with this, but maybe it's time to focus and figure out if he's made me to be chocolate or a Now & Later.

Or maybe he'd prefer me to stay multi-focused and do his work through me in my weakness rather than becoming omni-competent at any one thing. That's his call--he made me and prepared good work in advance for me to do. I trust him. But I think it's good to at least be asking the question.

Either way, we've got tons of leftover Tootsie Rolls here at the Kirk house, if anyone wants them.

1 comment:

Alex H said...

I am with Whitman: How can anythoing with chocolate be bad? Except that I do not go for the Hershey bar. What they did to chocolate is almost criminal.
Alex Hegenbart