A Project Manager’s Game Plan for Dealing with Incurable Cancer

Segment Fifty-Seven – The Recipe

One of the promises I made myself following the diagnosis was that I would remember the old axiom: Life is too short to drink bad wine.  I’ve turned that over to food, particularly with a cookbook my son gave me for Christmas—Baking Yesteryear (by Dylan Hollis). 

I’ve always been a decent cook, but the recipes I’ve cooked to-date have made me seem like the gifted and talented program.  Today’s was a pound cake that was so rich and perfect that I couldn’t believe it was a simple pound cake. 

I’ve enjoyed Hollis’ YouTube videos and Facebook reels, and in watching him, I’ve noticed that he believes that anyone can cook if they simply follow the recipe.  Read that sentence again: Anyone can cook if they simply follow the recipe.  Now.  Just remove the work “Cook” and replace it with almost anything you can imagine. 

I got an e-mail from a past student the other day, with a somewhat contentious tone about a question in my PMP® Certification Exam practice test database.  (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/updated-pmp-certification-exam-prep-question-database-only-tickets-693286557757?aff=oddtdtcreator) I explained that while his point was well-taken, the exam questions in this vein would need to be answered as I had answered them in the database.  I sense my reply didn’t satisfy, as I never heard any acknowledgement in reply. 

I tell students to follow the prescribed advice, and they’ll pass the PMP®.  Anyone can pass the PMP if they simply follow the recipe. Keep pounding on practice tests until you have six days in a row with scores over 80%, and you’ll pass.  And I get e-mails telling me they’ve failed. 

Did you have six days in a row of better than 80% scores? 


Then you didn’t follow the recipe.  I pulled up one student’s record to find their best score was 80%, surrounded by a bunch of scores in the sub-60% range.  They didn’t pass the real thing.  They didn’t follow the recipe.

My oncologist tells me that some of her patients don’t follow their prescribed course of treatment.  When the cancer becomes unbearable, they change their tune.  It’s too late.  They’ve missed the chance to follow the recipe, and the price is the heaviest anyone can ever pay.

In work, in cooking, in medical treatment, in certification exam preparation; there’s a recipe.  Someone knows the ingredients and the order in which they need to be blended.  In preparing today’s pound cake there were moments when I felt like dumping in the ingredients in ¼-cup increments was ludicrously slow.  But I did it anyhow.  The cake came out with a dense, dream-like crumb, and a sugar-crispy crust that cries out for a second or third helping.  It’s not because I’m a great cook.  It’s because I can follow a recipe. 

I bless the medical professionals who have overseen my cancer treatment.  They have given me direction and guidance.  They have provided the recipes.  For much of it, it seems like overkill.  I mean real overkill.  I haven’t had my evening drink of 15-year-old scotch in months.  Why have I given up on this tiny indulgence?  I don’t want to spoil the recipe. 

In consulting, project management or any other career, there are recipes.   I tell those planning a consulting career that they need to write a book on the topic of their consultancy.  They believe I’m doing my own fair share of overkill.  I’m not.  It’s part of the recipe that works for me.  If they want to engage in or venture out in their own recipe, they are always welcome to be my guest.  But don’t be surprised if that professional soufflé flops.  Don’t blame the recipe.  And don’t blame the cook who wrote the recipe. 

Also, if you’re the one writing the recipes, take a page from Dylan Hollis (the author of my new favorite cookbook).  He described the humble pound cake in such a way that I was willing to invest the effort and energy in creaming the butter, dusting the bundt pan, and dirtying three bowls to get the job done.  My oncologist told me when I was early on in treatment that this was the way she knew how to slow down my status as an incurable cancer patient.  I have now become her poster child for following the regimen and getting myself on a path aligned with wellness.  (Note that I’m not claiming a cure for the incurable.  I’m claiming that she and her team have provided a recipe that’s keeping me on the planet for a while longer).  

Lessons Learned: Follow a four-step protocol to ensure you have the right recipe and are applying it the right way.

  1. Make sure that you’re capable of following the recipe.  If you don’t have an oven, don’t start mixing cake ingredients.
  2. Make sure that you’re willing to follow the recipe as prescribed.  If you start believing you know more than the original author of the recipe, remember that you move forward from that point at your own risk.  When making the pound cake, I really wanted to follow every step.  There was almost a full pound of butter at stake!
  3. Follow the prescriptions, the recipe or the step-by-step to the letter, particularly for the first few cycles of whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. 
  4. If you’re successful, capture that success on paper or virtually to lead others down the same paths toward success.  Nothing is more reassuring than to have someone tell you that your insights mirrored their own.

Today is an amazing day to start reading and following a guidebook, rulebook, or cookbook.  If the author was truly an expert in their field and really wanted you to succeed, you’ll find yourself wed to the notion that it’s a great day to follow the rules.


 Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP is a cook, trainer, and cancer thriver who doesn’t mind taking direction from others…as long as it works.   He welcomes your e-mails with questions or comments at carl@carlpritchard.com. Want to read the first 50+ entries in his cancer survival cookbook? (And thanks for the contribution to the retirement fund [wink]).https://www.amazon.com/Stage-Four-Project-Managers-Dealing/dp/B0CSV5N8D4/