In a small Austrian town Riegersburg, outside of Graz, there is a chocolate factory that produces hand-made organic and fair trade chocolate straight from beans to the final product. In this truly whimsical place, you will not be greeted by Willie Wonka. Instead, you have a good chance of running into the equally whimsical Josef Zotter, the owner of this family-run business, who can be recognized by his chocolate-smeared face on the portrait at the factory entrance, his big smile, and inevitably mismatched shoes.
Mr. Zotter will surprise you with his well thought-through and somewhat extravagant tour of the facility featuring the unlimited tasting of unimaginable flavors, colors, and textures of chocolate as well as with his environmentally friendly Edible Farm where you can eat organic, “look food in the eye” and enjoy the beautiful scenery of lush green meadows and surrounding gardens. While everything around you catches your eyes there, one thing that kept my attention and stayed with me was the cemetery located on the farm grounds. It was a Cemetery of Ideas.
Here you learn that not all of the ideas generated by the progressive minds of Zotter’s team for the past nearly 3 decades of their existence proved themselves to be worthy. Some didn’t last long, some others failed to take off altogether. The chocolatiers are fully aware of and are completely at peace with this fact. They know very well that not all creative concepts work out right away, there is a lot of trial and error involved in the process of innovation. So, bad chocolate flavor ideas, such as Sausage-Mustard-Praline, Cornelian Cherry with Pig Blood or Strawberry with Lobster, for example, all ended up in this symbolic graveyard each given a headstone to commemorate its essence and its short life. Having buried their mistakes and moving on from them, allowed the team to focus their attention on creating over 300 winning choices, thus continually furthering the variety and the quality of the products they manufacture at their exciting plant.
The concept of the Cemetery of Ideas is definitely working well for these passionate chocolate makers who treat humor as one of the necessary ingredients of success. Seeing it made me think that all of us can benefit largely from adopting the idea of taking ourselves and our mistakes a bit more lightly. I know enough people who for years have carried around their old disappointments, brought the memories of their past failures into all areas of their life and allowed those to heavily influence their mindset and chances for success. While some people take dwelling on the past to the extreme, many others still tend to beat themselves for it, while reliving the negative events as well as the emotions and feelings associated with them. Meanwhile, mistakes are unavoidable steps on our journey called life and have to be treated as learning opportunities. I believe when they say that things happen for a reason. And even though we may not see it right away, whatever happened in the past was meant to put things in perspective for us and to shape us into who we are today.
Every one of us has made our own share of mistakes, and the goal is to disallow their mustard-praline or pig blood aftertaste to linger around for too long and to hold us back in life. Are you willing to put to rest the bad ideas from your past so that you can focus on the present and more confidently step into your future? Do you have any tips for moving forward that have worked for you? Please share as we are always happy to hear from you.