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The Real Lessons from Julie & Julia

by bevbarnes on December 15, 2009

If you are looking for your ideal career and you need some tips on how to find it and you don’t like reading instructional books, my suggestion is to watch the film Julie & Julia, now available on DVD, starring the amazing Meryl Streep. 

I loved the movie and as I was watching it, realized that it contains pretty much everything I usually teach my clients.    The film profiles two real, now famous women with career problems that are common amongst my clients:  unhappy at work and not knowing what you want. 

Julie Powell is a miserable corporate cubicle employee who spends her day on the phone responding to people who were affected by 9/11.  While her job has an honourable purpose, she is not fulfilled by it.  She feels underemployed, unsuccessful and miserable.  She questions why she has been unable to achieve her dream of being a writer.  She feels that her potential has been wasted and that her life is a failure. 

Julia Childs, before she became known as a famous cook, is a woman who followed her husband to France, due to his job.  Unable to conceive a child, she can’t choose motherhood as a career, like most women of her era.  She is searching for a meaningful career and knows what she doesn’t want, her old office job, but doesn’t know what she does want.

Following both Julie and Julia’s path to fulfillment is fun to watch and instructive for those of you who want to love your work.  Here are some of the lessons of the film according to moi:

1.  Want it. 

You have to really want it, and decide that you are going to find it.  Your dissatisfaction is a big motivator.  Even if you wish you could be motivated by what you want, most of us are motivated by what we don’t want.  Use this as the energy to fuel your search.  You need to feel your angst and misery and confusion and not avoid it or suppress it.  It will lead you to a new path.

2.  Follow what you Love. 

This has been said so often that it has become meaningless but in Julie and Julia what they both loved was to eat!  How simple is that?  You don’t have to look for some complex unique thing that you love just look at what is obvious.  You might need some help here because it is much harder to see yourself than to be seen.  Ask someone close to you what they think your passion is and start noticing what makes your heart sing.

3.  Find some cool way to do more of what you love. 

You have to actually do something.  You can’t just sit around and think about it.  Once you notice what you love, decide to do it.  Your creative energies (that we all have by the way) will have a focus and opportunities that always existed will become easier to see. 

Julia Childs decided to go to cooking school.  Julie Powell decided to start a blog so she could use her writing skills as well as cook Julia Child’s recipes. 

4. Overcome the objections and criticisms of others. 

Following what you love has nothing to do with pleasing other people.  In fact you will probably get derailed if you are constantly trying to prove to others the validity of your project.  Both Julie and Julia had to deal with criticism from their respective parents who couldn’t understand why they were doing what they were doing. They did it anyway and you should too.

5.  Keep learning, practice and be disciplined. 

You will have to learn something new.  That is almost a guarantee.  You will have to become great at something you were probably already good at, or something that you love to do.  Luckily, it is much easier to practice something you love, than something you hate.  It might be hard but it is extremely rewarding. 

Learning to use a chopping knife like a pro was Julia Child’s challenge.  Setting up a blog and making a commitment to prepare one recipe every day was Julie’s challenge.  They both won their challenges because of their love of the overall task.

6.  Focus on the present without worrying about the outcome. 

Keep on keeping on and don’t think about being a superstar or a hero.  If you have picked something that you love, the pleasure is in the doing.  Fame and fortune isn’t the objective.  It might end up being an outcome, like it did with both Julie and Julia, but it was not the main objective.

7.  Little by little, up the ante. 

As you develop your skills, start making new goals and developing new projects where you can use the new skills you have developed doing what you love.  This is equivalent to getting in shape. Once you can run one mile, you have to run more than one mile to get the same fitness benefits.  Little by little, if you keep upping the ante, you really turn into an athlete. 

As their skill developed both Julie and Julia started to value what they were doing, and recognize that they had something that other people valued.  Julie added a PayPal link to her blog and Julia decided to become certified as a Cordon Bleu Chef, in order to offer cooking lessons.

8.  Expect challenges. 

While you are passionately engaged in doing what you love, life continues to happen and some of those things are out of your control.  Marriage problems, partnership problems, sales problems and McCarthyism were just some of the problems faced by either Julia or Julie.  They both experienced failure and disappointment but didn’t quit.  Why not?  Their goal was based on love. 

9.  Let go of your desired outcome and be open to magic.

When you are doing what you love, opportunities come your way.  It really feels like magic.  Unbelievable coincidences happen and they just seem to confirm that you are on the right track.  Expect these coincidences.  They will happen.

Julia Child’s book got published by a circuitous route.  Julie Powell was asked to write a book and screenplay based on her blog.  Magic happens!

10.  Tell other people how you did it and celebrate.

Other people need to know how you found your ideal career.  They think that it is much harder than it really is.  It does take hard work, but knowing what you want is actually easy.  It is based on what you love.  If you don’t know what you love, then the quickest way to figure that out is to hire a Coach….not to find what you love, but to learn how to listen to yourself…because if you are a human being, you already know what you love, you probably just didn’t learn how to listen to yourself.

Celebrate!   Feel the wonder of doing what you love and finding fulfillment in your work.

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