Be The Pot Roast

My father is particularly good at what I call "sticky storytelling": telling memorable stories to teach important life-lessons. He does this when we're online just talking, but he probably doesn't realise that I often take notes...and later find a way to use them!

A while ago, when I was preparing to present a speech about uncertainty (long before COVID was a thing), I decided to share one of my Dad's sticky-stories.

We’d been talking about ‘going with the flow’ in life, when he mentioned having a dream about a juicy, perfectly browned, succulent pot roast that was so tender, the meat fell off the bone. Only he was the pot roast. And he happened to be floating down a stream in the dream.  When he struggled against the current, and fought where it was trying to take him, he started to fall apart.

When I was looking for stories to weave through my ‘uncertainty’ speech, that pot roast image kept coming back. Maybe that juicy, tender, delicious floating pot roast story might help my audience remember to relax and go with the flow in uncertain times.

Now, from a messaging standpoint, if you want what you say to stick, look for ways to weave in uniquely memorable stories with memes like these—anything to prime our overloaded, busy, or overwhelmed minds to remember. 

And if you're feeling a little overhwhelmed by life, remember to "be the pot roast", or risk getting pulled apart.
So what’s it like to ‘be the pot roast’, floating down a stream?

You stare up at the blue sky above, focused solely on the present, not knowing what’s around the corner. It could be a gentle current, or rapids, or even a waterfall. No way to prepare. You can feel scared. Or you can relax into it, trusting the path and your ability to survive it. Your choice.

Sometimes the current steers you into a little eddy where you spin around in an aimless circle—waiting—for whatever’s going to happen next. That can be especially challenging, leaving you feeling stuck, helpless and impatient. 

A lot of people have felt that during this pandemic.

So here are the top tips to successfully ‘be the pot roast’ and relax through uncertainty.
  • Stay loose, but keep it together—so you don’t fall apart. When life fast-tracks you onto a path filled with uncertainty, our tendency is to tense up and freak out. It feels uncomfortable and scary and we want to fight back. But that’s how we end up getting pulled apart. So we need to stay loose and go with the flow. To keep it together. For as long as it takes. Until the future reveals itself.
  • Keep your eye on the prize—but focus on what’s in front of you. We’ve already established that when you’re a pot roast floating down a stream, you can’t see what’s around the next corner. So how can you keep your eye on the prize? Look up into that big blue sky and envisage where you want to end up. Open your mind to the possibilities of where life could lead. Avoid trying to design the details of your future—what job you’ll get, how much you’ll be paid—and instead imagine different futures, strategise and dream.
  • Focus on what you can control—how to handle what’s happening right in front of you. Tackle the here and now. Choose to frame events positively. Each little twist and turn offers an opportunity to act and react in ways that will get you, eventually, to the end of uncertainty and the next chapter of your life.
  • Grow stronger—by giving in.
    It may sound counterintuitive, because giving in is usually viewed as a sign of weakness, but you can find tremendous strength in yielding to the power of uncertainty. Letting go of fixed ideas and of control is often what leads us down paths we never would have imagined—as most creatives and innovators will tell you. And it can switch off some of the pressure we put ourselves under!

The challenge is that as humans, we have a constant craving for certainty. Waiting for answers doesn't feel satisfying, or even comfortable. But if we indulge that craving we stray from the 'way of the pot roast'...the path that leads to a fulfilling life.

As a dual US/NZ citizen, far away from my much of family and unsure when I'll see them again, I feel like I'm battling some very challenging currents at the moment.
However, I know if I follow my urge to fight that current, to try to control things, it will pull me apart. Instead I need to let go and allow myself to go with the flow. I won't be able to change where the current goes. Only where I do.

As confronting as uncertainty is and as vulnerable and frustrated as it may make you feel, it does eventually end. Most of us—both individuals and societies—eventually get to enjoy more stability. So patience is the key.

Until we reach that stable shore we may not yet even be able to see in the distance, I hope "my"( thanks, Dad!) offbeat but memorable pot-roast parable helps you through any challenges you might be facing during these uncertain times.

  1. Stay loose but keep it together.
  2. Keep your eye on the prize but focus on what’s in front of you.
  3. Focus on what you can control—how to handle what’s happening right in front of you. 
  4. Grow stronger by giving in.
Paradoxical as the ideas are, they work. I know first-hand.

So ‘be the pot roast’, my friends...
(Photo: courtesy Tim Peterson at Unsplash)

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