It's a Marshmallow World

A lesson from the campfire


Have you ever enjoyed roasting marshmallows (not marshmellows, thank you very much) over a fire?

It’s one of the rites of camping and of summer that children and adults alike partake in, whether you eat it directly from the stick or smoosh it into a s’more.

 

I was roasting marshmallows with my kids the other night, watching their techniques and showing them mine.

The secret to a perfectly roasted marshmallow (that’s why you subscribe to this newsletter, isn’t it?) is twofold: 1) keep it moving and 2) use the coals.

That’s right. Don’t shove the marshmallow into a flame. The heat will be uneven. Look for the coals at the bottom of the fire—the red-hot or white-hot embers. This is where you’ll get the best approach.

And keep rotating your marshmallow. To keep it in one place is to invite the inevitable “marshmallow torch,” whereby your marshmallow will help you explore the depths of a nearby cave.

You’ve seen it happen before. The entire thing engulfed in flame, and the holder panicking and blowing furiously at it. The marshmallow ends up either dripping off of the stick in a molten goo, or being left as black, smoky crepe paper that tastes like the ashtray you smelled in your aunt’s house as a child.

If you follow the above methods, you’ll get a perfectly toasted, golden package of melty white sugary goodness.

 

As I was watching my children, I noticed their impatience. Their desire to get immediate results. They did exactly as I warned against: setting fire to their marshmallows in an effort to get to the treat.

With the ones they were able to extinguish, I acted as the dermatologist-surgeon, removing the burned layer of marshmallow skin and exposing a fresh sticky layer below. What we discovered was a new, smaller marshmallow.

In that case, we had one layer that was overcooked, and an internal element that was undercooked. I guess you could say that on average, it was perfect.

But each individual layer suffered as a result.

 

And isn’t this the very thing that plagues us today? Whether we’re leaders, marketers, or even parents, we’re impatient with the marshmallows of our lives.

Quarterly results are prioritized over long-term plans. We flit from campaign to campaign without building long-term relationships with customers. We expect too much too soon out of little humans that are dealing with evolving brains.

Maybe we should apply an analogous marshmallow roasting recipe to the rest of our lives.

Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.

Oh, and if you’re interested, here’s a history of s’mores, from the Ancient Greeks to Victorian funeral cakes, a Puritanical minister, and the Girl Scouts. It’s quite the journey.