Inspiration in failure
Last week I traveled to Chicago to sit for the Master Cicerone exam – a grueling two day assessment of beer knowledge and sensory acumen that has only been successfully passed by 11 people in the world. I will not be the 12th person to achieve the rank of Master Cicerone.
I’m not being modest or pessimistic in this. I know that I did not do well on the test, there isn’t a chance that I’m going to eek by, and even if I scored far better than I feel like I did (as so many of my friends and cheerleaders have suggested) I won’t be close to the 85% that’s required to pass the exam. I’m not on the borderline of pass or no-pass, I’m on the borderline of no-pass or embarrassingly-poor-score.
But I’m okay with that. My performance was spotty, and I would be disappointed with the Cicerone program if I did somehow pass. I don’t need or want condolences or words of encouragement. I want all of my friends, supporters and cheerleaders to know that I bombed it. Shanked was a word I’ve tossed around a lot because many mistakes I made were dumb ones — momentarily lapses in memory, nerves during oral examinations, second guessing myself into wrong answers during tasting flights, getting tripped up on the kinds of tricky questions that I didn’t know to expect.
I felt like a Triple-A slugger who gets an early call to the bigs and is utterly outmatched by ace pitching. I couldn’t hit the curveball. I couldn’t even square up on the fastballs. I was out of my league with this material and the experience.
But here’s the thing: now I have that experience. I’ll never have to sit for the Master exam for the first time again. Now I know what to expect. I know how much more i need to learn, how much better my palate needs to get, and which areas I need to develop more in. Assuming I decide to ever take another run at the Master Cicerone title (I’ll need to achieve the newly minted Advanced Cicerone rank first, and I’m unsure how interested I am in that chase).
And more than being challenging, and grueling, and a brutal wake-up call about how ill prepared I was to take that test, it was actually a lot of fun. More on this in future pieces about the experience.
I’m also now free of that stress and work and at the end of the very long road, and I feel pretty good about it all. I’m looking forward to rebalancing my life a little, reading some books that are not about beer, and I’m excited to begin writing about the experience. I also had a wonderful few days vacation in Chicago with Julie after the exam that helped to dull the blow to my ego and turned out to be very inspiring in its own way (more on this too in future pieces).
I want to sincerely thank all my friends and supporters who helped me prepare, and apologise to all the friends and supports (and editors) who weathered the brunt of stressed-John over the past six months. Especially, of course, Jules who had her hands full putting up with me, the piles of books and notecards scattered everywhere, and my shirking of household responsibilities.
I’m excited for things to get back to “normal” around here!