How to Be Good Enough OR Why I Suck at Making Cornbread

I really don’t suck at making cornbread, but yesterday, I did.

Dyson should have sponsored this cornbread recipe. Yeah, it was that bad.

Here’s the scenario. A handsome Southern fella invites me over for a Memorial Day BBQ. Being a fellow Southern gal, I ask what I can bring, refusing to show up empty handed. He says a side dish. So naturally, I say “cornbread.” I make a mean cornbread — and not the shit-from-a-box kind of stuff. Mean as in there’s a vast statistical probability that my cornbread would meet other cornbread on the street, engage in an epic rap battle with said cornbread, and proceed to spank that cornbread in the most non-sexual of fashions.

See also: HUMILITY.

But did I make that cornbread? Nooooooooo. I most certainly did not.

Instead, I grabbed a cornbread mix while I was out at Williams Sonoma on Saturday. Hey, it was Williams Sonoma and it was $16 for the teeny tiny bag. By price alone, it should have come with a mid-range call girl and an ounce of Colorado’s best weed. And surely at $16, it was better than my sure-fire recipe for Southern cooking success.

Cut to the chase. Made the cornbread, complete with baking in a pre-heated cast iron skillet lubed-up with bonafide lard (I’m from the South and I had no bacon in the house, hence my failure to grease said skillet with bacon grease).

Good-Enough erika napoletano

It looked fantastic. It tasted…like nothing.

And I mean nothing.

My granite countertops circa 2007 had more flavor (please don’t ask me how I can make this comparison with such confidence). What the shit, Ferris?

*insert questioning hands in the air gesture HERE*

I reluctantly tupperwared-up the edges and some middle pieces, put them in a bag with a jalapeno-lime cocktail mixer and a bottle of Breckenridge vodka, and headed over to said handsome fella’s house.

He popped open the tupperware, grabbed a piece, started chewing and said, “Hey, it’s…completely flavorless.”

Yeah. I know.

It wasn’t even good enough. It sucked. Is Dyson sponsoring this post yet?

But here’s what didn’t suck: that cocktail mixer. Holy pantless pygmy marmosets, I could have used that stuff as perfume and had a line of Southern fellas lined up to be mansnacks in roughly 2.5 seconds flat.

So my cornbread wasn’t even good enough. But the cocktails were supreme. As was the evening as a whole. Dinner was spectacular (good god, the man can cook) and we rounded out the evening with a viewing of Kung Fu Hustle (one of my top 10 favorite flicks of all time) and a residual viewing of 48 Hours, playing judge and jury against some dude whose recently deemed ex-wife ended up no longer in this life. We know how to party.

But here’s the rub. I felt bad enough bringing a shitty batch of cornbread to a Southern fella’s holiday BBQ and I could have beat myself up about it for a good eight hours. Instead, we had a damn fine evening.

Because I’m good enough. The cornbread wasn’t, but fuck that cornbread and the pretentious little package it rode in on. I am. I’m good enough and the only job I have in this life is to become better.

A better advisor. Better business owner. Better colleague. Better friend. Better partner. Improv scene partner, performer, speaker, home improvement enthusiast — the list could go on.

My job is to become better.

So instead of beating yourself up today about not being good enough, darlin’ — lemme tell ya.

You’re good enough.

Your only job…is to become better. And in my case, I can instantly become better by never using that terrible cornbread mix again and going back to who I am and what I know.

Who I am is a gal who makes mistakes. What I know is how to learn from them. And that’s a damn fine lesson to have learned in the first 41 years I’ve spent on this big blue sphere that goes around the sun.

We spend our days surrounded by people who need to tear us down in order to build themselves up by telling us we’re not good enough. We’d do better by filing those people away with that flavorless cornbread mix because they’re flavorless, too. If they had any flavor (class, self worth, confidence) at all, they wouldn’t need to tear us down.

So why are you letting them? More importantly, why are you doing it to yourself?

22 replies
  1. JessicaNorthey
    JessicaNorthey says:

    OH WOW…the website is amazing. I LOVE hearing this from you “We spend our days surrounded by people who need to tear us down in order to build themselves up.”  I’ve always thought you’re so perfect and have your shit together, never thought  or think about that you have crazies around you criticizing you….I love that you know you’re normal and you’re good enough…so bear with me but that makes me think, that I am ok…cause when i doubt and have crappy people around me…I get wicked in my head. But know it happens to the best of us…it’s like a relief.

  2. BraveNewBiz
    BraveNewBiz says:

    Love this one! Just tweeted out a quote from it! My question is…why didn’t you make your tried-and-true cornbread?? What made you decide to use the mix? If you know you rock at making your own, why did you choose not to make it?

  3. DaphneCohn
    DaphneCohn says:

    first of all – I love your writing. You make the idea of being good enough new, fresh and interesting. thank you for that. Second – what I love about this piece is being able to let go of the cornbread and focus on what really mattered… the drinks. Nice job.

  4. mikelking
    mikelking says:

    Totally enjoyed this one! Absolutely fun read… Sorry ’bout the
    suck-ass corn bread though… I promise if I ever bring cornbread to
    your house it will not suck-ass… And that you’ll gain 20lbs form eating just a small piece…

  5. Barbara Goldberg
    Barbara Goldberg says:

    The things we do when we forget to be ourselves. After years of beating myself and listening to the voices of my past telling me what I should and shouldn’t do I’ve now cast them aside. Whether I succeed or fall flat on my face I’ll still be proud that I’m following my truth.

  6. DickCarlson
    DickCarlson says:

    You’ve nailed it.  We’re all a work in progress — and improvement looks a lot like failure.  “GAME OVER” is just an indication that you’ve added one new information point and you can now move forward.  As I design education, this is a critical shift — very difficult for “traditional” educators to understand, very easy for younger learners to embrace.

  7. lizctaylor
    lizctaylor says:

    Great post, Erika. Great. And hey – kudos to the guy for shooting straight with you and admitting the shortbread wasn’t all that, you know? 

    Related: I will now be making cornbread tonight. From a recipe, not a box. 🙂

  8. bobbidust
    bobbidust says:

    Thank you so much, Erika! I totally needed this today. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t feel good enough. You’re totally right that our only job is to get better. I fuck up, make mistakes, but I always learn from them, which is more than I can say for some people.

  9. sherrickmark
    sherrickmark says:

    I think I wanna try making cornbread with that drink mix now……

    Every day, every minute should be an attempt for it to be better than the last one. Its not easy, but it makes sense, and sometimes thats why folks need to be told as such. When it makes sense, people like me never seem to think its the answer. But sometimes it is.

  10. Erika Napoletano
    Erika Napoletano says:

    sherrickmark It’s hard to believe that it’s as simple as getting better. One of my favorite sayings is from a video by ZeFrank: “Perfection is a little bit of an asshole and never gets invited to pool parties.” How true is that? 🙂

  11. Erika Napoletano
    Erika Napoletano says:

    Barbara Goldberg Ah, truth. A much bumpier yet more rewarding road than that expressway to success and happiness some people delude themselves into thinking exists. I’ll take the scenic route…every. Damn. Day.


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