Throwing Spaghetti (or Turkey) at the Wall: Managing Challenges

Challenges, they really push us to the edge at times. They beckon us to consider thinking in new ways, often stretching our thinking beyond our general approach. Challenges also come in different forms, yet no matter how you look at it, a challenge is a dare. Some challenges prod adventurous behavior and others more reserved. Either way, most people find that they must approach and then re-approach as they utter, “Let’s see what sticks.” (You have said that, haven’t you? Do realize you are talking about spaghetti?)


The spaghetti concept suggests that thoroughly cooked spaghetti will stick to a vertical surface, as it is flexible and “done”. So, in the vein of “Try something to see if it works”, the spaghetti metaphor has stuck (yes, I said that) because the notion is reasonable. 

Think about it: You are throwing spaghetti at the wall.  You throw one piece at a time. You are controlling the process. However, throwing one piece of spaghetti at a time is limited. Yet, throwing a bunch of spaghetti all over the room is excessive. It seems that strategic spaghetti tossing might create better results. After all, you are looking for stick-to-itiveness. Imagine throwing less and more sticks.


How to meet challenges and stick to your goal: When we have an idea, we basically see a picture of what it will look like in our minds. Almost simultaneously, we develop thoughts on how it should go, what should happen and the results. From there you set yourself up to make it happen and then…


The plan goes awry. Something unexpected has occurred. You are not heading towards your goal.  As you relive the situation you may ask yourself, “Why don’t things work out easily?” “Why didn’t that go as I planned?” When you first developed your idea, did you think about how much control you would actually have within your plan? Had you calculated your risks and outcomes? (I know that sounds a bit heady, but just follow me on this.) What are the chances of everything going very smoothly? What possibilities, good and bad, exist? Can any uncalculated situations occur? If any, do other people involved think differently? Although you all agree upon the goal, someone may have a different approach (than you) changing your preconceived course of action. Now, the situation is not as you envisioned. This may lead to rising frustrations based upon concerns that things may not turn out as planned. Things are starting to feel out of control. How do you redirect your plans to get back on course?


Realign your thoughts: Your outcome is heavily dependent upon how you handle circumstances, emotions and the feeling that you exude.


The holiday season was upon us. The turkey was in the refrigerator and everything was in place to create that festive meal. On that crisp and joyful holiday morn, the wrapper that held the turkey was carefully cut and whoaaaa…that was not good. It was a hermetically sealed rancid turkey. In less than five hours that festive dinner was supposed to adorn the table. We called every turkey vendor in town and other towns and towns beyond that. Nothing was open. There was not one purveyor of foul available.


We threw ideas out as fast as they came. We can make pasta or more vegetables or tuna fish or cereal. We had nothing that fit this festive fantasy. This was not a part of the picture in our heads. In hindsight, there were ways to deter this from happening. We could have opened the wrapping the day before, checked to ensure that it was fine, cleaned it, prepared it for the next day and would have saved some time (and upset) for the day of cooking. However, we were not functioning from hindsight. We were in the moment – which was not a good one.

We needed to identify our goal to know where we were going. Was the goal to have a good turkey? Yes and no. The goal was to make the pictures and emotions in our minds a reality; bring our family and friends together, set the table nicely, enjoy a satisfying and beautiful meal while make new memories together. More specifically, the greater goal was, and remains, to share love and to continue our bond. If the surprise of this unanticipated revoltingly stinky circumstance morphed into frustration, related emotions such as increased anxiety and anger could have affected the tenor of the day. The holiday vibe would have been stressed. Instead, to stick to the goal, it was best to focus on the issue, not allowing for the development of ill-fated emotions. A quick assessment of all that was happening: everything else is fine…we need a turkey. Stores, everywhere, are closed. This is a culinary crisis. Who do people call in a crisis? The police, the fire department, Child Protective Services, The Salvation Army? I called the Salvation Army. They extremely nice and ready to help. It was a miraculous holiday and the turkey was great!

What really happened was that our children experienced the kindness and joy of the holiday. Along with the rest of us, they experienced the reason for gracious givers and non-profit soldiers. Our family and friends sat together talking about this event, sharing other stories of giving and receiving. The goal was met; laughing, enjoying each other and building the bond of love that connects us one to another. This is a memory that we will never forget.


It’s all about what you decide should happen. How will you cook and throw your spaghetti? If you do nothing, nothing sticks. If you throw spaghetti frantically, you will experience chaos. If you strategically cook it to create flexibility and substance, your spaghetti will stick to the wall. (Go ahead, try it. See if it works – and don’t email me to repaint your starch strewn room.)


Spaghetti (and turkey) sticks if you choose to spin it the right way.