Lower the Heat

I love hot chocolate. Especially in winter, I’ll make a small cup every day at work. One of the first times I did so, however, I ruined the microwave. I cranked it up to full blast, set the timer to two minutes, and walked away. Needless to say, I returned to a boiled over cup and ended up cleaning the entire microwave.

Yesterday, I made Maultaschen. It’s a German sort-of dumpling. They’re really nice when you slice them and fry them in the pan for a bit. Often, I’m impatient. I’ll turn the stove to the maximum setting, and some of them will come out burned.

This morning, after I came out of the shower, I set the hair dryer to high heat, but after a second, I had an epiphany: “No. Lower the heat. Take 20 seconds extra.” Naturally, my scalp didn’t burn, and my hair was much more tidy after I was done.

What all these things have in common is that intensity leads to a quicker result, but it’s not the result you truly want and, in some cases, outright disaster.

If you fire up the microwave all the way and stop watching it for a second, your milk will boil over. If you throw dumplings into a searing hot pan, they’ll burn on the outside but stay cold on the inside. And if you dry your hair in a 100-degree wind tunnel, your head will hurt and your hair will look fuzzy.

So lower the heat. Take 20 seconds extra. Or two minutes. However long it takes.

Some things in life can only be done slowly — building a career, attaining mastery, forming a relationship — but that’s not a good reason to take out our frustration on the little things by cutting corners wherever we can. In the end, even those shortcuts often come back around to bite us.

Lower the heat. Give yourself time. Do things once but right, and try not to spill the milk.