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New Day, New Ideas

This morning, like many before it, I woke up and thought, “Today is the day I come up with some  magical blog post idea that changes someone’s world!” I showered, threw on my Global Panini attire and a pair of Uggs slippers, cooked up an omelet, and made a pourover (my new obsession).

I plodded downstairs to the office and fired up the computer. I opened a new document, raised my hands to the keyboard and — nothing. Complete brain freeze. 

It’s hard to be amazing week after week. I know you feel this too. You have IT projects that are stacked up. Your boss is on you week after week to make their world more secure without adding friction for the users. Or your MSP is feeling stagnant and you need to come up with some new services to offer — or figure out how to offer your current services in a different way.

The week over week of having to be “on” all the time…it diminishes your ability to be creative after a while. Problem-solving becomes what keeps you from getting out of bed each morning instead of driving you to be 1% better every day. I get that. I hear you loud and clear.

The Block is Real

This creativity block thing is real. Very real. And if you were just doing IT for the fun of it — creating a playspace for yourself — you wouldn’t have to worry. But, folks, this IT thing is what you get paid to do. You can’t just say, “too bad, so sad” and head off to the zoo, y’know? 

Over here in the MacAdmins community, we have a great Slack instance where people are doing amazing things and being really creative. You go there, looking for something – a solution, some inspiration, a new job – but you’re still left uninspired. And you wonder why. Could be burnout. Could be general tiredness. Could be something else – let’s explore.

Brainstorming

At a recent standup (yes I now speak the language Agiletongue) I asked for a lift from my brilliant and creative teammates. Ideas, people, I needed ideas! It didn’t matter how outrageous they were. In fact, the more outrageous, the better. Anything is a springboard. As we’ve talked about previously, brainstorming requires a plethora of input and little to no judgment. 

And as a response to my request I got….nuthin. No ideas. Not a one. I wonder if it’s just the heat of this unbelievably hot summer cooking our brains or if people are just plumb wore out from current events. No clue, but nobody had any ideas for me. 

The next day, though, someone pinged me with an idea. “What about recipes?” they  said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

I work for a tech company. Our product does (amongst other incredible things) device and identity management. IT stack centralization. MDM and security management. Automation. With my IT background, I hear the word “recipe” my brain goes to GitHub and shell scripts and munki and other IT management types of things. But, alas, that is not what they meant.

They meant real recipes. Food recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I like food. It’s an important part of my day to day life. But, hmmm…was this a weird ploy to turn this into a happy homemaker column? I was both confused and a little offended but I stuck with the discussion knowing that I’d find out if I just let them talk. 

How Does That Fit Into Tech?

Little by little the discussion started to make sense. 

Us admins are under a lot of pressure to be perfect all the time. For many (if not all) of us, one mistake can cost our companies their reputation (not to mention financial and productivity loss). In some cases, if a mistake is big enough, it could cost our jobs or our client. So if you weren’t feeling stressed before you started reading this, you probably are now. Sorry!

One way to get past the stress is to get up from your chair, step away from your desk, and get active doing something that is not related to tech (if stepping away won’t get you in trouble, that is).

Thinking about other things is a great way to open channels that allow you to come up with solutions. We’ve all experienced this — our best ideas come in the middle of the night; or the middle of a shower

Points to anyone who, by now, has accurately predicted where this is going.

A Story and a Treat

picture of baked food on a table
Mom baked every item on this table.

Growing up in my house meant that there was a plethora of home-baked goods. I don’t mean, a few store-bought cookies. I mean my mother baked. Daily. And there were always people over who didn’t live in this house.

The counter always had a few different kinds of cookies, a cake, maybe brownies, and on special occasions there were eclairs in the fridge. There were always bowls and beaters waiting to be licked clean and getting to the frosting bowl first meant you had to hide behind a locked door, lest someone steal it right out of your hands.

But one particular tradition we had was that on our birthday we got to choose our favorite dinner and our favorite cake. Mom wasn’t the best cook (I won’t say food was overcooked and dry and we’re probably lucky we didn’t all get food poisoning regularly, but…oh, I guess I will say it), but she could definitely bake.

So my choice was always spaghetti with meatballs (safe and really hard to mess up) and mom’s chocolate banana layer cake. I used to call it my migraine cake because every time I’d eat it I would end up with a migraine. Also, it was worth it every single time. I don’t do that anymore because now I know that my post-cake morbidity was due to celiac — but I can still taste it in my memory.

Here It Is

And, so, it is with a full heart and a now-hungry tummy that I gift you this recipe. Posting it here serves two purposes: 

  • Getting up and doing something completely different from your work frees up your brain and refreshes your spirit.
  • Eating something delicious can reduce your stress level. Even if it’s not a healthy option, a treat is good for the soul.

The recipe card (mom retyped every one of her recipes onto an index card with our Selectric typewriter that only had an all-caps ball) is well-worn. It has food stains all over it. It may have even gotten a bit too close to the heat. But it’s still here and someday it will be passed down to someone in the family. 

Chocolate Banana Cake 

recipe card from the 1960's

Serves: 16 

Baking time: 30-35 minutes

Notes: This cake is best when frosted between layers and on the outside with a buttercream frosting.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour milk
  • ⅔ cup shortening (may substitute butter or margarine)
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounce Bakers chocolate
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Cream shortening together with the sugar until fluffy. 
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition to shortening mixture.
  5. Mix chocolate in with egg and shortening. Stir in vanilla extract.
  6. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the banana and milk in small amounts.
  7. Turn into two 9-inch greased pans.
  8. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into cakes comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake cool completely before removing from pans and frosting.

Nutrition Information*: 1 slice (1/16th of the cake) contains 241 Calories, 11.1g Total Fat, 4g Saturated Fat, 21mg Cholesterol, 220mg Sodium, 355.5g Total Carbohydrates, 1.4g Dietary Fiber, 20.3g Total Sugars, 3.2g Protein

*Note that this does not include the nutrition facts of the buttercream frosting

Let us know if this helped reduce your stress by baking it or by eating it. Or both! Join us in the community and tell us your favorite recipe for freeing up your IT brain.

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

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