Last week I celebrated the benefits of experimentation – both in the kitchen and at work. This week, I have been thinking that trying new things should be done in moderation, because too much experimentation can backfire.

For our family dinner last Sunday, I cooked the entire menu using recipes I had never tried before. As a result, the pork shoulder was dryer and tougher than it was supposed to be, I learned that most of my family does not like braised cabbage, and the russet and sweet potatoes au gratin should have been baked in a different casserole dish for optimal consistency. Nobody complained, of course, but I would have been happier if at least one of the dishes had a “wow” factor.

The next day, I found out I did not get a fundraising job I had wanted. I’d never been asked to do an oral presentation during a job search before. I struggled. I had a hard time getting my head around the assignment – I needed more guidelines, or permission to create my own, and I didn’t ask for them. So, I asked some friends for advice, did some online research, put together a PowerPoint show, and figured I’d just go for it and see what happened.

I didn’t rehearse. I didn’t rehearse in front of people. And in a two-day series of interviews during which I met with two dozen people, my presentation experiment stood out like a sore thumb and ultimately played a big role in my not getting the job.

I can console myself all day long with the many examples of failures leading to success – among them, this five-minute talk by my New Hampshire neighbor, the inventor Dean Kamen. But the truth is, sometimes it’s safer to stick to something you know. I know how to make great chicken parmesan, if I remember to pay attention. But I don’t know how to give a great presentation with minimal preparation. Maybe I never will, but today I am going to my first Toastmasters meeting to see if it’s something I can learn.

At least the bbq pork I made from the leftover roast was delicious.

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