A Tale of Fine Pickles

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A piece of guidance that I like to share with all my audiences is if you just change the way you think, you will change your world forever. Here’s an example of what I mean, and it’s from the world of pickles and gherkins.

Last year, when I was on vacation, I was driving down a country road on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, when I detected the overwhelming smell of pickles. Not crab cakes, mind you, but pickles. If you love a good garlic dill pickle on your ham on rye, as do I, you just can’t ignore a pickle smell floating over the trees. So, without too much hesitation or opposition from my family, I tracked down the smell like an old bloodhound and, lo and behold, I found a pickle factory!

I don’t think the manager of the pickle factory, whose name was Bill, had too many visitors, so as I stepped out of my car he came out to wish me a good day.

“What do you have going on?” I asked.

He explained he made pickles for a large company, and that they shipped out pickles across the country. I told him that I had never seen a pickle factory before, and Bill was gracious enough to let me view the proceedings.


Not Exactly High Tech

As I would come to find out, making pickles does not require using cutting-edge technology, but rather is an easy and traditional process. Bill, dressed in a flannel shirt and blue jeans, wore boots and carried a long pole with a net at its end. He walked along a series of wooden catwalks, and on either side of the catwalk were hundreds of bubbling, gurgling wood barrels filled with pickles. He had a helper, I might add, whose name was “Eddie,” and it was Eddie’s job to clean barrels and place fresh herbs and spices in the cleaned barrels to start the process again and again.

“I guess you’re the world’s leading expert on pickles,” I told Bill.

“Well, I’ve been at it for twenty-seven years,” he said.

He explained how fermentation works. Pickles are, well, pickled. What makes the pickling possible are the microbes in the solution. Then Bill shared something with me that caused me to pause for a spell:

“You know, we break even on every pickle we sell, but we sure do sell a lot of them.”

The pickle factory, tucked away on the county road, was run at zero margins at a “break even point” with little or no profit after expenses. Nevertheless, Bill was gracious enough to send me on my way with a few pickles – the best I’ve ever put on a sandwich, but I felt sorry that each pickle eased the pickle factory into more of a financial pickle (pun intended).


Not Enough Cabbage

I hadn’t thought of Bill for quite some time until recently while I was speaking at an event and met up with two ladies from California who owned a fermented food company. Fermented foods are now all the rage in the foodie world. Why? Apparently, chefs and nutritionists have found that fermented foods are healthy in addition to being delicious.

The very nice ladies started their food career, and their successful company, making delicious pickles and sauerkraut (also a fermented food). They realized early on that you can’t make enough money just selling fermented cucumbers and cabbage, so they branched out into sauces and other delicacies, and their business took off. To make more cabbage so that they could show a profit, they changed the way they were thinking!

My pickle pal, Bill, obviously a pickling expert, could have done a bang-up job fermenting sauces and all kinds of gourmet delights for his employer. Instead, his company kept putting themselves in a pickle because they had no desire to change. It is a shame because his company should have seen the gift they had in their expert. If we desire, we truly have the ability to transform ourselves, our families and our situations, and within each one of us is greatness and goodness beyond measure.

The moral of this tale of fermentation is, if you feel as though you are stuck in a bad situation, it may not necessarily take a radical change, but perhaps only a change in perspective, to turn a negative into a positive or, if you prefer, to go from pickles to prosperity.


For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland, please contact: steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019, or visit his website at www.stevegilliland.com.