Pancake Day – We’ve Come Full Circle

Life continues to find ways to surprise me.

If there’s one thing I value more than any other, it’s novel experiences. Having the opportunity to do something for the first time brings so much flavor and joy to my world. Most importantly, it changes me as a person. It expands my understanding of what’s possible and lifts my expectations for the years to come.

When Hank told me that Dana and I would be on Good Morning America for pancake day this year it didn’t quite register as that big of a deal. I’ve been on national TV a few times now – I’m privileged to say – and so that crazy burst of nervous excitement that hit the first time I was invited on TV has been tempered by the fact that it’s become an occasional expectation. It’s just a part of my job (I think my performance energy might be the most valuable thing I bring to this company). I’m not saying it’s not cool. It’s very cool! But the news that we’d be on TV registered as one more cool thing in an ocean of them. My whole job is cool, what else is new?

What I didn’t expect, though, was the tidal wave of emotion that would hit me as Dana and I cleaned up after the broadcast. Because, see, *she* hasn’t been on national TV before. I could sense her tension and her nervous excitement in the days and moments before the show, and it reminded me of my own experience. Really, the whole thing was this sort of full-circle hero’s-journey moment for me.

Let me rewind a bit.

When I went on the Today Show in November of 2013, I had no idea what I was doing. I was a fry cook! I played some rock music with my friends and made smiley face pancakes for better tips at a diner. I was an absolute novice, and had no clue what was possible with the medium of pancake art. I was drawing with a drip cut – those big jugs that restaurant back-of-houses keep dressing in – and the producers of the show had me using some random residential griddle that I’d never used before. The only griddle I knew was the stainless-steel behemoth I’d been using at the diner; the only process I knew was plain batter heat-toning. I had drawn approximately 4 portraits in my life when those cameras started rolling, and they were the portraits of the hosts that the producers asked me to draw to see if I could go be on the show. I remember, vividly, that I was *shaking* with nervousness during the broadcast. You can’t quite see it on the footage now, but I sure as hell could feel it.

Daniel Drake on The Today Show in 2013
Daniel Drake on The Today Show in 2013

Fast forward to just a few days ago. On the morning of Dana and I doing pancake portraits live on Good Morning America, it all hit me. A lot has changed. There we were in the hotel at 4am prepping for this live appearance, with these fancy flight cases full of professional equipment that our team has slowly sourced and optimized over the last 6 years. There we were, using a giant color palette and varying aperture sizes on our bottle tips with the ideal mixing technique and prep process. There we were, setting up griddles with our company logo on them – our official product line, getting the chance to shine on live national TV. And there I was, standing next to one of the most talented and passionate people I know, who I roped into this pancake art circus with an Instagram DM.

I felt totally relaxed during the broadcast. I could tell towards the beginning that Dana didn’t, but she got into her flow and we both knocked out a surprising number of top notch pancake art portraits. We made the hosts of GMA, we made all the Sharks from the hit show Shark Tank (and got to talk shop with Lori for a bit, and high five Mark Cuban!), we even had time and energy to serve a few of the production crew some custom works backstage, and everyone loved us. We were a hit, and multiple staff members made a point to tell us we’d exceeded their expectations.

And then as Dana and I tucked away into the production kitchen for cleanup, I looked at her and felt tears well in my eyes.

I’m really, really proud of her.

Of all the amazing things that unfolded during this process, the realizations, the new understanding of how much of this success I’m enjoying has been created by the efforts and energies of the people around me, it was this sense of having made a meaningful impact on this other person’s life that hit me the hardest. I don’t know exactly how to put it into words. She kicked ass. Like I said before, TV appearances are something I kind of expect and flow with, but it wasn’t the same for Dana. She rose to the occasion, kept pace with me, and blew our clients away.

That felt special.

Here I sit in a café in NYC, typing this out on my day off after successfully doing GMA with Dana, headed to Grand Central Station to work for another giant client tomorrow. Back home Ben published a beautiful tribute to the creator of the Konami Code, our newest apprentice Angelique worked her first event over the weekend, Lee’s off in phoenix kicking ass at a weekly brunch, Jenny and Ryan are helping us manage the overflow, and we’re all gearing up to start heavily marketing our Dancakes Pancake Art Kits in a big way.

When I was younger I didn’t really understand why people would say that success humbled them. In my brain it seemed like success would get to your head and make you arrogant. But here, having experienced some of it, and understanding just how little of it was because of my own efforts and how much I owe to the wonderful people on my team, it makes sense. I am humbled and delighted by where life has taken me, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Thanks for reading.

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