Like Nailing Jell-O® to a Tree
My grandma was a big fan of Jell-O® – bowls, parfaits, dessert cups and even “Jell-O® Salad” which she loaded with all kinds of stuff. One of her favorite concoctions had shredded carrots and cabbage suspended in lime gelatin which carried the none-too-appetizing name of Vitamin Salad.
I was never the biggest fan.
Now I do to admit to whipping up a batch or two of Jell-O® in my life – sans floating morsels of vegetables of course. The recipe directions on the box are fairly idiot-proof and I’ve managed to get it right a few times over the years; not too runny, not too chewy – just right. I have, however, learned one lesson over the years – if attempting to add fruit (think strawberries) it’s crucial to make sure the fruit is well-dried before mixing it in; too much moisture will throw off that delicate balance of 1 cup hot water/1 cup cold water and leave one with a bowl of liquid that refuses to ‘set.’
Nailing Jell-O® to a tree has come to be a metaphor for attempting an impossible task.
- “Trying to get your mother to understand how to use Skype?” “Like nailing Jell-O® to a tree.”
- “Convincing the-powers-that-be that tele-work may be a viable option for the workforce?” “Like nailing Jello-O® to a tree.”
- “Increasing the robust use of social channels and networks among HR practitioners?” “Like nailing Jello-O® to a tree.”
But as with many things in life, sometimes we give up before exploring other options. Does the difficulty in accomplishing a particular task arise due to our own inadequate specifications/details? Do we have an inherent problem when working to move-the-needle forward because we’re using imprecise language? Have we identified, and attempted to nail that slippery Jell-O®, in the right sweet spot?
So how DO we nail that elusive gelatinous mess to the tree? If we take a spoonful right from the bowl and hoist the hammer we’re bound to fail. But perhaps we:
- Put the Jell-O® in a Ziploc® baggie and then nail the baggie to the tree
- Whip up some Jell-O® Jigglers which are a bit sturdier and may adhere better
- Chop down the tree so it’s laying on its side before we commence the hammering
- Cook up a batch of Jell-O® shots, drink them down, and stop worrying about nailing anything to that damn piece of timber
There’s not much that’s impossible. Sometimes we just need to approach it in a new way.
And one interesting side note – in the UK and some other parts of the world, people call this stuff “jelly.” Jelly with carrots and cabbage sounds just as loathsome.