Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Fake it til you make it" Vol II

In case you missed the original version it might be helpful if you read it first.

An old friend once told me that "you got to fake it til you make it"... I wrote the original blog about the subject in response to a flood of facebook post about being "so busy and having so many cake orders" at the time, while everyone I know was struggling to figure out how to make a living off of doing cakes.  Many truly talented and very well known cake artist are right this minute trying to figure out what it is they're doing wrong.  The concept isn't crazy in terms of building an image of a strong and successful brand.  Often as a budding business or artist, it's priority number one to appear successful.  The idea being that looking like you're doing well and creating an image of prosperity, will eventually lead you to actual success.  I guess to an extent the idea is sound and could justify a client being willing to separate themselves from their cash, and is perhaps even necessary to a degree. Why would a client feel justified in paying you a healthy sum, when they know they are the only job you got that week?  We all fake it, it's the degree to which we do it to our peers that bothers me. (it's an interesting note that many fledgling cake decorators act to the exact opposite, believing that doing cake for free or at extremely low cost is a good choice for starting up!  your work has to have value, and that's not how you add value to your work!)

Even though I seem to say it in every blog, and risking sounding like I'm stuck on the idea, making a living solely on cake is TOUGH!  It never really donned on me before but, I got started because of this difficulty!   My mother spent much of my youth doing cakes...  For bakeries, for food brokers and finally for herself, when the work finally began to take it's toll on her body, she started to need help, and that is when I began to come up on weekends, or Friday nights to help out.  At the time I was blissfully unaware of just how tough a career choice it was.  For me as a mechanically minded guy, used to working on customers hot rods, the fun of doing something short term, creative and seemingly lucrative was a blast.  I never considered it as a career, but eventually after being on several TV shows, and after our clients became used to the style of cakes I could do ( my mother and I had very different styles) we got so busy that the hot rod shop began to suffer and ultimately it was the cause of the demise of it.  It's hard to keep a shop going when you're never there to answer the phone, or work on a customer's car.    At first I really enjoyed the work and when busy, the money was good.  But after making the move outside Kansas City, the business really fell off in spite of the fact that I deliver everything!  The strain of the industry took it's toll on my relationship with my mother too.  My success at times overshadowed hers and eventually added to the issues we already  had with each other until finally it became too much. 

I've been asked so many times how I find time for it all and the truth is I don't!  I've even been approached before and asked for advice about survival and keeping your sanity while owning a cake shop, and all the while I've felt like I was the one loosing my mind!  These days my day begins at 6 am...  I climb from bed exhausted and throw on my work clothes, climb in my van and rush to KC where I work a second job painting houses, doing remodeling and general construction.  In the past 2 years this is the first time I've felt like I could reliably earn a stable living.  During lunch, and I hate to admit it, but sometimes on the drive to and from the city, I check my emails, call clients and try to keep from falling too far behind in my cake shop.   Some days I make it home early enough to spend some time with the kids, but more often then I can stand these days, I'm at the bakery in the evenings and nights trying to keep a handle on my cakes.   KC Cakefest is one of the things I care about most, and it turns out that too often I don't have the time or energy to really do it like it deserves to be done.  Additionally there's what I now refer to as "The TV Thing"...  For some time now I've been working on a project that should have been completed a year ago.  All the while I've received and turned down offers to do several other TV shows, from Halloween wars to next great baker.  Every time I get the call or emails I let myself get excited.  It's been over a year since I did any national TV and like anyone would I worry that without it, my business will fail, or people will not want me to do events or teach classes. I worry so much about it that at times I have seriously considered doing the shows.  My opinion of most of them has been pretty harsh, maybe to harsh, but the reality is that the producers of these shows are experts at faking it!  I've watched a little of some of these shows and honestly I'm really let down by the level of quality shown, yet presented on TV  to the general public as "The BEST OF THE BEST"...  After being courted by so many different production companies about one lame knock off of another already existent show after another, I decided to do what felt right and try to produce a show that has some actual heart!  I've been working  to produce a show that shows the real true hard work your every day average American does day in and day out for nothing much more then the satisfaction of a well done job and a paycheck.  Our world is created and run by these people, yet they never get the acknowledgment so deserved. We cake people are among them.  We create something that seems simple; a cake...  The truth is cakes are far more than that, they are the things that memories are made from, celebrations are held around and people share with one another. Every great celebration can be made greater with cake, and seldom do we ever make enough to be worth our while.  We do it because we feel good about it, we do it because making someone smile is worth the effort and time spent, we do it because we love it.  I'm proud of the concept and proud of whats been put together, even though the consensus with networks seems to be that it's not "unreal" enough!  Essentially I have 4 jobs in addition to trying to spend enough time with the people I love and it's not an easy task.  I'm not trying to get rich, just live a life I can be proud of and make some sort of mark, but it's getting harder every day, I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job.

So for once I actually have advice that may have value.  Be careful about judging yourself and your own success based on what you hear on TV or read on Facebook!  It's one thing to admire someone or follow them on facebook because you like their work, or they inspire you in some way, but it's a bad idea to judge yourself by their standard. (they may be faking it!)   Admit your fears...  For myself, I tried for a while to fake it, all the while afraid of failing, not being able to support my family, not being good enough, being forgotten and longing for something more.  I still fear these things but admitting them and facing them is oddly a great source of strength for me.  It's very easy to get caught up in all that I CAN'T do, all the things I struggle with and places I've failed, but I choose to believe that from pain comes strength!  From failure comes knowledge and overcoming doubt is possible.  I focus on doing what I can, work as hard as I can and believe in what I'm doing even when it seems I don't measure up.  It's human nature to look at others and wonder why they seem to have it all while I struggle.  It's even easier to inflict that self imposed punishment upon ourselves these days while a FB friend is posting "gee I have so many cakes this week and they're all awesome orders for celebrities and TV shows, what am I to do?"  all the while trying to sound like they are complaining about having to do so much work! only to follow up later in the week with only one or 2 photos of the work.  Competition is a fact of life.  Many people will do what ever they can including these post to feel superior or gain respect, but in reality it paints a false picture of what is our normal life.  Try a little humility and we may all be closer.  I've said it before: We're all in this together...  There is only one you and the impact you make on the world is yours and yours alone!  Whether you choose to  to make a grander one, or are happy to sit by and watch the world go on, you will still have made your mark. 

thanks for letting me once again vent.

peace n love

1 comment:

  1. :) So many days, Mike, so many days I wonder what the hell I've gotten myself into. Thanks for venting. It helps me as much as it helps you.