A little girl was watching her mother get a ham ready for baking. Before putting the ham in the roasting pan, her mother sliced an inch off each end of the ham. Then she placed the ham in the pan and slipped it into the oven.
“Mom,” the girl asked, “why do you cut a slice off each end of the ham before you put it in the pan?”
“Gee, honey, I’m not sure,” answered Mom. “When I was little your grandmother always trimmed the end off the ham, so I’ve done it that way ever since. I never stopped to think about it!”
Not satisfied, the girl decided to call her grandmother. “Nana,” she asked, “I was watching Mom get a ham ready for the oven, and before she did she cut a thick slice off each end. She said you always did that. Do you remember why?”
“Sweetheart,” Nana answered, “what a funny question! Actually I do remember doing that whenever I cooked a ham. But — isn’t that odd? — now that you mention it, I’m not sure why. When I was little my mother always trimmed a thick slice off each end of a ham before she baked it, and I did it that way when I started cooking. But I don’t know when your great-grandma started doing it that way. Maybe you could call and ask her — I know she’d love to hear from you.”
Great-grandma was getting old but still had a great memory, so the little girl called her on the phone. After exchanging pleasantries, she asked Great-grandma her question. Did she recall cutting a thick slice off each end of the ham before baking it?
“Oh, honey,” said the old lady with a twinkle in her voice. “Back when I was a young mother and your grandmother was about your age, our family hardly had any money. Our next door neighbor was a butcher, and every few weeks he would bring us a nice ham for the oven. But my roasting pan was too small and I couldn’t afford to buy a new one — so I always trimmed the ham so it would fit my pan!”
A silly habit gets passed down through four generations…because Great-grandma’s roasting pan was too small!
Have you ever stopped to consider why you and I do the things we do? Are there habits and attitudes we’ve picked up from others — former bosses, colleagues, mentors — little things that we do without thinking? How many of these things may have long since outlived their usefulness or validity? I’m sure I can think of several things like that, and I’ll bet you can, too. Now don’t get me wrong: many of our tried-and-true ways of doing things have withstood the test of time, and need to be retained — even fine-tuned. But “the way we’ve always done it” can’t be our default response whenever someone asks why we do what we do.
We’ve all heard variations on the famous Albert Einstein quote that goes like this: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We need fresh insights, not merely the same old familiar habits and thought patterns. So here’s a thought for you and me: next time we pick up the knife to trim the ham, maybe we can decide to stop and consider a better way. Get some new ideas! Get some new insight! Get some new opinions!
Or at least get a bigger pan.