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Who says business has to be serious all the time? We’re pouring our hearts and souls into our work, and most of us would probably like to receive more than just spreadsheets and purchase orders in return. For deeper meaning, we’ll need to embark on a literary excursion.

The short poem Jabberwocky first appeared in Lewis Carroll’s 1872 novel for children, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. It seems utterly superfluous and altogether puzzling, though careful examination will bear fruit. For those unfamiliar with Carroll’s genius, read on:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

jabberwocky

What lessons for business and life could we possibly glean from these lines?

If you innovate, you risk looking ridiculous

Let’s be clear, ‘ridiculous’ is not an objective classification. No, ‘ridiculous’ is merely a sign of our own prejudice, which simultaneously attempts to 1) devalue the other and 2) relieve us of the responsibility of examining our own perspective. If you believe something is ridiculous, there is a different value system at work. And it’s possible that these values run deeper than your own.

At first glance, Sharkwheel and LightSail Energy might look ridiculous. Yet we owe these innovations (and thousands like them, including your own) more than a glance. Look again.

Keep vital constraints, remove the rest, and invent new rules to fill the gaps.

It would have been easy for Carroll to simply write gibberish, or skip the gibberish entirely and write a poem like everyone else. Though if he had done either, we wouldn’t be talking about him or his books almost 150 years later.  No, Carroll actually did something far more difficult, and invented a completely new vocabulary while retaining the rigor demanded by English grammar.

Quite simply, Lewis Carroll took the right kind of poetic license.

Tesla does not make cars like anyone else, but their cars still look like cars. They kept some constraints (needs to have four wheels, headlights, and seat belts), yet removed everything else that would have prevented them from creating an entirely new category of vehicles. At this point, they literally cannot make cars like anyone else. A different, tighter set of constraints can lead to greater success.

Whatever you do, keep working.

I have to chuckle every time I read through Jabberwocky. I imagine Carroll’s facial expression at the moment he wrote the word “uffish,” thinking to himself, “Is this poem really going to work?” In a word, yes. Just like his poem, your business will only thrive if you ask yourself the hard questions. Take a risk, examine all your constraints, and keep working.

To say that Amazon exists only to sell things online is a gross understatement. It’s possible that neither Lewis Carroll nor Jeff Bezos ever asked themselves, “Will this really work?” Yet I know they asked themselves a different question all the time: “How can I make this work?” The answer creates a legacy, and no amount of name-calling or discomfort from your audience can change that.

Snicker Snacks

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

In a previous post, I had begun by mentioning candy but then concluded with a recipe that was anything but. This time, it’s the reverse. Since Amazon has not yet figured out how to sell Dried Tumtum Fruit or Jubjub jerky, I’m glad to adapt this recipe from Detoxinista for Snicker Snacks.

Ingredients

For the nougat:

  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut flour

For the caramel filling:

  • 10 soft Medjool dates, pitted
  • 6 dried apricots, preferrably organic
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts

For the dark chocolate coating:

Instructions

  1. Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil together in a double-boiler over low heat.
  2. Line each of the 12 cups in a muffin pan with a cupcake liner. Carefully measure 1 tablespoon of the liquid chocolate into each cup. Slide muffin pan into the freezer for 30 minutes to set. Keep remaining chocolate melted over barely simmering water on top of double boiler.
  3. While chocolate is resting in the freezer, create the nougat layer: Combine the peanut butter, coconut flour and maple syrup and mix well to combine. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the caramel filling: Combine the pitted dates, salt, vanilla, and coconut milk in a high-speed blender, and blend until completely smooth and creamy. With the motor running, add the melted butter in a thin stream. Set aside.
  5. After 30 minutes, remove muffin pan from freezer. Into each cup, place a spoonful of the nougat mixture, followed by a spoonful of the caramel mixture, and then a sprinkling of roasted peanuts. Flatten the filling, but not so much that it touches the edges of each cup.
  6. Pour the remaining chocolate evenly into each cupcake liner, covering the filling and bottom layer of chocolate. Return to freezer for 30 minutes. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days, and serve at room temperature (though careful, since these will melt.)

Peanut Butter Cup Partially Wrapped

In Carroll’s poem, the Jabberwocky doesn’t live past the fifth stanza. When you go “snicker snack,” whether in business or in the kitchen, I hope you fare better.