Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Popcorn: The Success Metaphor

This blog's namesake - "The Popped Kernel" - presumes that we're all kernels. Some of us have popped. Others of us have not. Why? Why are some people successful and others not (yet or at all)? That's the question driving the very existence of The Popped Kernel. One place we can find some answers is in the culinary treat itself.

Type "The Popped Kernel" into Google and the second link asks us Why do some popcorn kernels not pop? The question might as well be: Why do some people not pop? The answer is equally applicable.

Kernels don't pop if the conditions aren't right. The kernel itself must have the right stuff - it can't be too hard (if it is, it can't pop ... unless moisture is added). Kernels must be put under the right amount of heat. Too little heat, they won't pop. Too much heat, they'll burn. Once popped, it must cool down to avoid burning to the touch. Only then can it be enjoyed. If left idle for too long, the popped kernels become stale. Only do they become enjoyable again when conditions for their well-being are reintroduced - warmth, moisture, perhaps some added flavor.

We can draw a few lessons about success from our understanding of what kernels need in order to pop (and stay enjoyable):
1. Set the right conditions - environment is critical.
2. Don't be too hard - approach success with open arms not clenched fists.
3. Turn on the heat - the right amount of motivation drives success.
4. Don't stand idle - Stay active and keep focused, else risk becoming stale.

What do you think? Can you think of other parallels between popcorn and success? Do you completely disagree? We'd love to hear. Comment below. Or write us at ThePoppedKernel@gmail.com.


  1. I would love to hear about a more diverse group of people...there are a lot of pictures of white men on your blog! I'm sure you can dig up some successful women out there? Colorful faces? Looking forward to it...

  2. Agreed. In fact, we'd love to speak to Indra Nooyi of Pepsi and Ariana Huffington of the Huffington Post (to name a few).

    Who might you suggest we reach out to? (And if you could help us secure 30 minutes on their calendar, even better!)

  3. This could be a place to start:

  4. I'm a white woman ("middle aged," but say it and I'll bop you)! Let agree that even if conditions are lousy, some corn pops anyway. Even when you have to pick it out from the burned pieces--and they can be really burned--it's possible to find some soft, fluffy, well-developed kernals. Approach all human creatures as though they will achieve this state of perfection. Approach all without believing you know whether they have popped, will pop, or will never pop. Focus all your attention on yourself--let us all be in the popper. Let's never feel popped and stale. Let's slather ourselves in olive oil believing the chance to pop again will come. After all, we are human creatures and not corn kernals! It's a big world out there.

  5. Have you read the book "outliers" written by Malcolm Gladwell. The key idea of this book is very similar to the one of this post. (i.e. you need hard work and the right conditions to be an outlier).
    By the way, I really like your blog David.

  6. Thanks Marco. And yes, Malcolm Gladwell - I'm a huge fan.

  7. Shari - Thanks for the comment. I actually agree. While environment is critical, we shouldn't use the lack of a good one as an excuse. You're right... we are humans... tremendously complex and incredibly capable. With enough passion and commitment, most all of us can succeed, regardless of how crummy our lot.