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March 02, 2011

Life, on the Line


This, my friends, is an incredible book.

It's a book you'll want to read in a day, but there are times you'll want (or should, or maybe even need) to put the book down for a bit because some of the moments in it are so big.  And, I think some of the turning points deserve a pause before moving on.

I could spend paragraph upon paragraph on the stories in and nuances of this book, but to sum it up neatly: it should be required reading upon one's 18th birthday, or any point thereafter.  Why?  Because, ultimately, this is a book about knowing what you're good at, and then making the decisions that enable you to pursue the opportunities you know in your gut are right.

There's a natural, almost-seamless back-and-forth in the narrative between Grant's story and Nick's story and the writing is strong.  Both their stories share the commonality of being confident in who you are as an individual and building a life around your sense of self.

In life, each of us can be described with a variety of labels.  Husband.  Wife.  Boyfriend.  Girlfriend.  Parent.  Son.  Daughter. Workaholic.  Free spirit.  Democrat.  Republican.  Sick.  Healthy.  And with every one of those labels comes a set of rules or expectations that you or other people measure against, or in some cases, we use as excuses to not pursue the things we're supposed to.  Because, if we're being honest with ourselves, sometimes we're afraid to really be who we are.

Reading Life, on the Line felt like I was reading about two men who eschew living a life constrained by the expectations that come with labels.  Instead, they set only their own own expectations and goals, and as a result continue to build pretty fantastic lives without compromising who they are or what they believe.

So, here's my challenge to you:

If you stripped away all the labels you place on yourself or that others place on you... if you laid the groundwork to be able to blow past every roadblock and obstacle (because you can, you know)... if you lived your life in the pursuit of "chasing greatness" (as the book's subtitle suggests)...

In the comments below, tell me:

Here is who I am, and what I want to do.

And, I'm not talking about a "bucket list," or that "life list" nonsense...

You know deep down inside what you're good at.  So, with nothing stopping you, what is your big, hairy, audacious goal?  Are you "chasing greatness"?

If you're not, why?  And when will you?

I've got two copies of Life, on the Line to give away.  I'll choose two winners next week.

Comments close Monday night at 11 p.m. ET.

p.s. Check out the Life, on the Line website with excerpts from the book, a slideshow, and some really great video interviews with Grant and Nick.  My favorite video clip is where Grant confesses to having called out "Duuude!" when he unexpectedly ran into Thomas Keller at an awards ceremony.


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I am a teacher. I get to be the person who introduces middle school kids to their first Dickens, their first Shakespeare, their first Frost.

Everything else I do is set decoration - writing about teaching so I can teach others outside my classroom, continuing to learn so I can be a better teacher, listening to my kids and my students so I can understand them more fully. I've been a lot of things on the road to teaching: lawyer, scientist, computer geek, but no matter how far afield I strayed, it all led back to teaching.

Even when I committed myself to a second career as a writer, I tried to write about other stuff, but the writing that's working best? About teaching.

I guess I'm lucky; I figured it out early. I'm excited to go to work each and every day. No joke.


This is amazing, because I had nearly this same conversation with some work friends over lunch last week. So I can say with some thought behind it that my goal is to take a sabbatical at some point to get my certificate in cheesemaking from the university of Vermont. Why am I not doing it now? Well, I'm really lucky because I love my job! Running away to make cheese would not be as fun as my day job, which is saying something. So I'm saving my sabbatical for my mid-life crisis, for when I eventually get burned out at my wonderful day job and need to recharge with some cheese cultures and fresh Vermont air.

I am a teacher of first grade special ed students. Even though a lot of days are a full on tap dance, I really enjoy teaching the ABC's, 123's to the little ones!

My passion is really tea, more specifically to open a tea house with healthy food. I put it out there to have it open in 10 years, but really why so far off? Fear? I'm getting a chance this month to visit my favorite tea house in CA and WILL send an email to the owner to see how he got started and ask for any words of wisdom.

I am a writer. Especially a songwriter. I want to be able to give it more attention, because that's who I most am -- everything else I'm good at or want to accomplish (including teaching and political action) can be fit within the world of writing songs.

Hey, yes, I am a chef. Not a once, because I been not allowed to become a chef. I had to follow the direction showed by the orphan house. (spend 12 years there!) So I became a iron worker, later social worker, much later I graduated on the university as agogic (Leiser and tourism). Meanwhile, the passion for cooking started. So,after 9 years working at the university,I started a education programm at Leiths in London. I borrowed 20.000 euro,where I still paying for. My ultimated goal is to start a restaurant where orphan adults can learn the profession of chef.

I'm a nurse. I knew at age 6. Nothing else would feel comfortable to me. It isn't glamorous or easy but it is oh so rewarding. It has been my calling for 37 years now.

Technically, I'm a pastry chef and teacher. But first I was an ad exec, a seller of useless crap one doesn't need. I've given up a fat salary and things like medical insurance and something called a 401K for a fat butt and the freedom to travel somewhere for weeks on end to cook. Now I teach people how to create wonderful things with a few simple ingredients and a flame. I'm a tad larger, a lot happier but most importantly I laugh every single day. And I try to make everyone else around me laugh every single day too. It's a little goal but damn is it fun. And sometimes harder than you'd think.

I'm a writer and an interior designer. I tried working just in the interior design field, but I missed writing. I tried to be just a writer, but I missed interior design. So I'm working on finding the perfect balance right now.

I am a teacher. I will be a PhD next fall when I defend my dissertation. I love teaching. It is my calling.

i am a girl experiencing life as it comes. i pursue happiness and believe, deep in my heart that if that is my ultimate goal, everything else will follow. i put both love and thought into my food- from the humblest of homemade crackers to the flashiest of foie gras dishes. i chase greatness by seeking inspiration even in the darkest corners of every day life and by taking that and turning it into something that smacks of me, my outlook and the culmination of my being thus far. (it is ever changing!) my goal, that i hope and believe will come to fruition- is to portray my love of life, personal gastronomy and experiences with the world through both my food the written word. that is me, that is my goal.

I'm currently a graduate student working toward my MS in Forest Resources. You know how when you're in grad school, your whole life is supposed to be consumed by what you're studying? I spend the least amount of time possible at work so I can come home to cook and then write about it. I think I want to be a food writer. Everything about food is fascinating to me, and my studies feel so much like work that I rarely enjoy them anymore. Reading and writing about food is much more rewarding for me. Who knows what I'll end up doing with my life?!?

Ah, I've been trying to figure that out for decades. Problem is, it changes. I seem to be best at getting interested in things, learning about how they work, and moving on.

So far I've wanted to be a mathematician (got a math degree), computer programmer (worked as a day job for awhile), cake decorator, baker, soapmaker, knitwear designer, blogger, and writer of urban fantasy. Became competent at each before moving on, but excelled at nothing and nothing has stuck for the long term.

Needless to say my resume is a disaster.

I'm over 50 now, so my guess is my remaining decades will be spent trying on even more hats... always wished I had a singular passion for something. Someone said I was a "scanner". I need to look that up. Also some ADD -- does it show? :)

I am an artist. fresh out of school, taking some time to reflect before I jump facefirst into graduate school, trying to find the answer to some of the most impossible questions. Why do I make this, where does this come from and can anyone else understand what I'm trying to say?

and the age old Qs. how can I make this work for me, fiscally? how can I be that person, with those opportunities? I want my work in museums. For now, I'd be happy to get my work in a few shows around town. and to be able to afford to make my work, and live.

If I were to right now be able to do what I feel I can and want to in my heart more than anything I could just have a lot of land, half of it for farming produce and raising chickens, and the other half as land to foster dogs with. I would either use the produce for local restaurants or possibly my own restaurant and the dogs would have a comfortable loving home with lots of space and companionship while waiting for their perfect home.

I'm a therapist working with first time offender drunk drivers one day a week. I'm also a mother of 3 teens, yoga enthusiast, and lover of cooking.

If nothing was stopping me, I'd get my social work license and have my own practice. What's stopping me? Getting my last 2 kids through high school. Wanting to have time for yoga, running, hiking with the dogs, having lunch with friends. Fear that if I really went for it, I'd suck at it and have no clients. Feeling like I should have started all this when i was in my 20s instead of my 40s and now there's not enough time for doing that work AND everything else. Laziness too is in there. Hard to say but true.

I am currently an accountant and do really like my job. Even moved 900 miles to D.C. for my job! But all week long, I lose a couple hours of the day reading food sites. See my first job in 8th grade through the end of high school was a short order cook at a bar. All by myself, I loved it and would work with the owner to create specials and expand the menu. And even now I married a butchers daughter. When I return home every holiday I spend much of the time at my father-in-law's shop making him buy strange meats and helping me make various cured products.

If I didn't need the money to pay for school and get my life in order, I'd be back there right now making burgers for the bar and breaking down pork to make sausage. More importantly I would want to work in my local community to empower people and show them that local, great, and different food is affordable and possible. Who knows, may end up there someday, but for now its a daydream...

I'm a musician, and knew from at least age 13 onwards. Paid my way through music school, then parents realized I was serious and helped pay for grad school conservatory, and now I'm actually making a living at it. It's not grand, and I'm working on average 70 hours a week to make ends meet, but I haven't had to compromise on the dream of being a working musician and it's worth it. I get to play around in all different facets---as an organist in church (my actual training), as a choir and orchestra teacher in school, as a private teacher of piano and organ, as an accompanist for an opera program, a music director of a youth theater, a voice coach, an arranger and composer. The big dream? Keep doing what I'm doing, but on a bigger scale (probably a different city, too---Chicago or San Francisco are looking pretty good.) Continue to grow in both technique and artistry. And later, after a satisfying performing career, to really sit down and tackle education curriculum reform.
Artistry is a frame of mind----it's about finding wonder in the world around you, instead of indulging in yourself. It's about having the imagination to dream up something moving and/or "beautiful" and developing the technique to execute it. It's in every field---chemistry, architecture, engineering, cooking, whatever---and the potential exists in every person. I want everyone around me to feel/discover/embrace that, and pursue life that way. That's the big dream.

Being keen on electronics, particularly computer hardware parts, always wanted to help a wounded animal (thus becoming a veterinarian), and always helping around the kitchen were things that I liked doing as a kid.

However, when my grandfather passed away on the 64th anniversary of D-Day (June 6th) back in 2008, my path in my life took a dramatic change in direction with what I do in my spare time. I started reading everything I could get my hands on that had to do with World War II, whether it be the Pacific or Atlantic theater (he served in Italy in 1944-1945 as a navigator on a B24). Now, I feel that it is my duty to preserve this memory of these war vets that fought in the worst war in human history. Not only do I feel it needs to be done, it is my honor to do it for them.

My name is Kelley and I turned 36 last Friday. The last night of my 35th year, I completed a 3000 mile journey, arriving at my new home in Woodside, California. In my car I brought only my most cherished and needed possessions from my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I left behind my parents, my sister, my nephew, friendships developed through love and fire, and most of all my heart of hearts, my pugs Isabella and Prudence. I also left behind a failed marriage, a broken career, and a job that I had grown to love and hate in equal measure, and a self-concept that I have started to outgrow. Somehow I'm finding the ability to start anew, with courage I didn't know I had and courage I am frequently having to fake.

From the age of 5 onwards, I had wanted to be a psychotherapist. This was a compensation of sorts from a sometimes chaotic and emotionally draining family life. I went to college, then grand school, got married, settled down and realized through a series of tragedies that this life carved out of a 5 year old's perspective wasn't for me.

Old habits die hard though.

Its taken 10 years of dedicated self work and 5 years of trauma to begin to awaken to who I am. It also took working for someone so crazy and maddening that it developed skills and awakened capabilities I didn't know I had.

I did not wake up to my passion. I'm still not sure what that is. I will let you know when I figure that out. I'm beginning to be okay with the idea that I may never find out. This is peace.

I did wake up to what I'm good at. I can run a performing arts non profit like a mofo. I have business skills I didn't know I had. I can support artists to live their work and find voice to their passion. I didn't know I had this either. I also had no idea that I'd find finance fun. This is satisfying. This is so satisfying that is worth pursuing for the rest of my life. To put on the show, any show I can believe in, and make it known to the public.

I am doing all of this now in a brand new city 7 times the size of the hometown I've spent the previous 35 years in.

I'm also finding the courage to love again, I have a new partner. Its in its infancy, and so far so good.

So that's my story. I'm still in development, but I've had to slog through a hell of a lot of pain to get to this starting point.

So far so good.

I am becoming an online teacher and novelist. I will always do what I love and the money will always follow. Hard work feels good when you love it.

People constantly tell me that I need to pick one of my passions and go with it. But I like to cook, teach, and write -- and I don't feel like I should have to pick just one. So I combined them all into an educational experience that is unique to each kid I teach. I listen to what each kid likes to eat, then we write a plan to open a "restaurant" that features their favorite foods -- all the while incorporating math (proportions in recipes, profit margins, etc.) into the creative process. By the end, the student and I cook a multi course dinner for their parents, all the while secretly incorporating and developing the learning tools that make them more intellectually curious and creative. it is the best job ever.

I'm failing out of school. My parents love to tell the story of my first day of school. I was excited to ride the bus to school, to be on my own and to learn. Half of a school day later I swore to both my mom and dad that I would never ever go to another day of school in my life. Despite this promise I'm in university again and hate everything. Your two blogs, linked to me by a friend, have been the catalyst for failing exams because I was making stock not studying. Thanks Carol. I'm going to say fuck it and do what interests me, family and everyone else be damned.

I'm a lawyer. I've wanted to be a lawyer since I was 16. Got a BA in English/Political Science and went straight to law school. Government practice, then private practice, then after 15 years of lawyering, I did a nonprofit gig for 2 years. I was miserable. Went back to lawyering and have been happy ever since. Nice to learn that the law is my true vocation.

I'm Jodie, and that's pretty much all I know at this point. I'm 23, and don't know who I really am and where I'm going in life, and that's simultaneously pretty freakin' scary and OK. I'm working as a pastry cook but I hate it. I studied psychology in college and I hated it. I'm scared that I won't ever know what I'm meant to do, but I also know that I'm young and my life will change so much in the coming years. Exciting, but also makes me want to crap my pants.

I'm a Chef trying use my skills for the greater good.

I want to help people re-learn the basic art of cooking, teach people about the pleasures of in season food, and get people back to the table. I also fight for the right of all people to have healthy, delicious, and nutritious food.

So far I've only been somewhat successful in that I can find volunteer gigs but nothing that will pay me and I'm not rich so, I need to be paid.

I'm finishing my PhD in cancer research and I had always dreamed of doing research that actually directly helped cancer patients. Science for the sake of science is wonderful but not for me. I wanted to have an impact, no matter how small. Yesterday, the clinicians at our cancer hospital listened to my research and have decided to move forward with a clinical trial with the drug I'm testing, in hopes of curing leukemia patients. If you can dream, you can make it happen and it is my dream fulfilled.
Cancer has always followed my family like a deep, ugly shadow so I have always wanted to figure out better ways to treat cancer. Grad school has been amazing but tougher than I could have imagined but I'm lucky to do what I love.
I'm at a crossroads though. I'm graduating in June and need to figure out my real job in the real world. While I love science, I can't see myself chained to the bench. I'm thinking science policy would be a great match for me, in that it fulfills my passion for working towards a cure for cancer, as well as working with people in an advocacy position. I've been lucky to have many opportunities to teach and do public speaking about why I believe in cancer research. The next step is finding how I can translate that into a career I love. Exciting, terrifying, and humbling but I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

I am a senior in high school, and I will be the next Grant Achatz/Ferran Adria/Thomas Keller. I recently was accepted into Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, where I plan on doing a joint program with the Culinary Institute of America.

My love of cooking started at a young age, from a cheesy piece of my life I won't go into (it would sound made up). I had the chance to be toured around Alinea by Chef Achatz in its second year, before I had any idea what Alinea was or would be. That day changed my life. I love everything about food, and while I might not have the skills yet, I know that with the dedication I have (passion isn't the right word... passion can fade, dedication does not) I will make my way to the top.

I'm only 18, so it might sound ridiculous that I'm so set in what I want to do, and so sure of how good I'll be, but I don't have time to doubt myself. My parents like to say that I have a chemistry lab in our basement, where I work on Alinea recipies. They rarely come out right, but that doesn't get me down, it inspires me to get it right next time.

I'm lucky to say that I'm actually living my dream. After spending four years working hard to earn my B.A. from the University of Virginia, it was time to figure out what to do next. After lots of consideration and a couple of jobs in the legal field, I sat down and finally admitted to myself that what I really wanted was to go to culinary school.

So that's what I did. I graduated from the French Culinary Institute in January and have am now faced with two potentially amazing opportunities. Now that I'm a professional chef, I get to work toward my ultimate life goal: owning and operating my own business. My goal is to be up and running by the time I'm 30. Six years to go...

I am a librarian and an occasional trapeze artist, and a passionate amauteur chef

I love to cook but I don't think I could ever want to be anything but a home cook. One of the best parts of cooking is seeing people I love enjoy my cooking. The look of joy and bliss when people eat my food or hear my husband say "this is really good sweetie" with his mouth full is what makes me happy. I've worked as a caterer but you don't get that kind of connection to the people you cook for.

Wow, came across your blog because of the name! Kudos to you, this is some great stuff you are doing in your kitchen!

I'm a professional cook. Despite knowing from the time I was in high school that I should be cooking, I had a first career in brand development.

5 yrs ago, at the age of 36, I started culinary school. Another student and I launched a prepared food business before graduation. We've struggled with the economy and also with personality differences. This afternoon, I walked away from that business. I have barely a penny to my name and feel like I'm starting all over again.

And tonight, as I wallow in a few hours of self pity I can't help but wonder where I would be now if I had pursued my dreams from the start.

Tomorrow morning, I'll snap out of it and continue my job search because I love to cook and dammit, I can cook rings around most 18 yr olds.

After one episode of Sex and The City too many, a 16- year-old me decided to work in magazines. The goal was fashion editor for a glossy supporting Western Australian local businesses and the arts. I went to uni (and when I say "went", that's the extent of it - I've always been lazy), but it wasn't difficult. There were only two single semester units in my 3 years of studying that were even vaguely relevant to journalism.

Thanks to the "who you know, not what you know" adage, working for that mag was my first job out of university. I worked my way up into the business, becoming fashion editor after about 2 years (although it was never my title).

With each mind-bending edition laden with 20 hour days (without overtime) and an unappreciative, tightfisted boss with no managerial skills and a penchant for sexist remarks, I learned I had a natural talent as a writer.

At age 25, I needed a change. I broke up with my boyfriend of 7 years, and after four and a half years of the steepest learning curve imaginable that left me, in the words of my psych, "staring a mental breakdown in face", I quit my job. I figured they didn't deserve me. I quit with no job to go to, in a dying industry, in a tiny town where that magazine was literally the pinnacle of what I could do with anything glossy.

Thankfully, it's still who I know; and once the other ex-magazine girls found out I had quit, word spread and I was quickly snapped up. In the 5 months since, I have accrued my own column, style and direct fashion shoots twice a week, write blogs professionally, have been contacted by The Guardian in the UK to write about my town - and every piece I submit opens new doors. For the first few months out, I couldn't stop telling everyone how happy I was. I had actually forgotten life without constant stress.

I am a writer (even if this long winded dithering doesn't make me seem like much of one). One day, I'll have a nationally syndicated column. But until then, it's enough to tell everyone to take that leap. You'll be happier.

I'm a lover, healer, and filled with empathy. It drove me crazy for 35 years, and I allowed my desires to love to take me to some pretty ridiculous places in live. Finally I learned to cook amazing food to show people my love for them. But I was still unfulfilled. At 42 I crashed, my mortality looked me in the eye, I was so sick, and I was terrified at what I saw as the sum total of my life. At 43 I was diagnosed gluten intolerant, and the light that shown on my future gave me momentum for change. I leapt off my safe job, went back to school, and now I do mammography and xray at a hospital I love. Patients who are afraid trust me, and I give them courage, even though our encounters are short. I get to interact with many people during my day, and love hearing them say thank you, say they can tell I love my job, say I am good at it. I love hearing a woman tell me she wants me to do her next mammogram! I love having a child become unafraid and interested during a simple chest xray. I know that when they leave me, they are less afraid, more hopeful, and feel loved.

My niece is a lot like me. She's in her 20s and unsure of who she is, and of what to do with the intensity inside of her. I would love to give her a copy of this book, and hopefully help her find her way and her identity in the world sooner than I did.

Someone here said it well before me: "I've been trying to figure that out for decades. Problem is, it changes." I do something, and it is fun while I am at it, and then just as I am settling into it, I see something else and I move on. So at the age of 35 now I ended up with 2 MAs, an MSc, and will be completing a PhD this autumn in a subject I am pretty sure never to return to again. That's a lot of education for someone who will probably, next year, be making money on doing something different still. I'm not complaining, I love being at school, and particularly the combination I have now: being a student a little and being the teacher a lot too. Anyway, next on the horizon is portrait photography. I've made forays into it, and I have a feeling this will be my full-time occupation and obsession soon. But 5 years from now? No idea.

I think that Liz Tee, above, must be a relative! I wanted to be a journalist so I got a degree. Then I wanted to be a lawyer so I got a degree. Then I wanted to be a mom and ditched everything to be that. Along the way, I discovered that I loved gardening and was pretty good at it. So, I got an associate degree in landscape design which, it turns out, isn't really gardening at its most enjoyable. My love of cooking (and eating) has grown and evolved with me. I have rediscovered my love of writing and am learning (slowly) about digital photography. And I have always been a voracious reader. If I had known back in my 20s what I know about myself now, in my 50s, my path would have been different. Maybe. I know it's a cliche, but the journey really is the best part!

I'm not really sure what I am yet. I've just started going back to school (to actually get an undergrad degree), but have been working in an expanding field that I don't necessarily care about for the past 10 years. It pays the bills and pays quite a bit for the schooling, so I'm just taking it one day at a time. There are so many things I'm interested in, I don't know how to nail 1 thing down. At least I know I'm damned good at learning... ^.^ ... maybe I'm just a student.

Awesome post, thank you. You've told us the heart of the book, a most excellent review.

So, after stripping away the labels, who am I? I'm a person trying stop the chasing you mention, so I can recognize and appreciate the simple things, those things which make life truly worthwhile. A loving glance from my cat, a smile from the store clerk, a specially-placed garnish on a plate. I want to see these things and be thankful for them. And I hope, pass the same kindness on to others.

I am in a period of transition. I worked for 20 years in an industry I loved, but circumstance and a bad economy made me change professional gears. I have weathered the deaths of my brother and mother in the last six months. I am facing a breast biopsy tomorrow. The turmoil of the last year has made me sharpen my resolve to find the path to greatness. Had I stayed in my comfortable job, I may never have aspired higher. Now I do. I still don't know how greatness will manifest, but I will recognize it when it does.

I am many "persons" in one - daughter, sister, friend... my "me" changes with each situation and depending on the people I'm with.

In normal speak, I'm a law student, soon to be J.D. and hopefully licensed lawyer when the California bar results are released in November. To most people, the idea of studying the law is boring and stale. You have to be knee deep in it to realize that it's nothing but - it's very dynamic and constantly moving -- and the very awareness of it has broadened my worldview in an entirely unexpected way.

I hope to practice law internationally -- the world gets smaller and smaller each day and with each technological advancement. I want to be there in the forging of new partnerships and enterprises.

But aside from that, I want to not get so caught up in my professional pursuits that I forget the simple pleasures and pains of making dinner for my family or staying up late to talk through heartaches with my sister.

I'm a second year medical student. I'm on my way to becoming a doctor. I grew up watching my father take care of patients and was inspired by both the science and art of medicine. Many people tried to talk me out of it, telling me that it's a hard life for a girl, but I find that working hard at what I love everyday beats any old 9-5 job. I'm working harder than ever, but I'm having the time of my life.

I want to take care of people, but I also want to change the way medicine is practiced. We waste too many opportunities to truly connect with our patients. We're so busy that we forget that it's a privilege to be able to care for another human being.

I'm a culinary student in flux. I have a bit of a knack for science and writing, although I really love cooking. A couple years ago, I noticed that the Denver culinary scene had really started blooming. I hoped to get through the CIA and get enough high-end restaurant experience soon enough that I might make a valuable contribution to the dining scene. But checking out the restaurants now... an Alinea or Fat Duck would still stand out, but a French Laundry? These days, it would blend into the landscape. I've been beaten to the punch. Around a year ago, I was kicking around the idea of putting together some sort of compendium of modern culinary knowledge. Actually, I'd already started assembling information for it. And then I discovered that billionaire renaissance man Nathan Myhrvold is already on the job, with chefs from the experimental kitchen of the Fat Duck, and dozens of other people. They sought the highest quality photography, paper, format, testing and re-testing for their parametric recipes, and...I'm gettin' schooled here.

So where to now? Clearly, there will be no out-Myhrvolding Myhrvold. Can I shift the theme of the book? Eh, first I'll have to see his tome, and see what niche I could possibly still fill. But, back to the Colorado dining scene...

The Wall Street Journal calls Boulder "the best small city for great meals that we know of in this country". Yet compare it to New York, and notice how far back from the latest trends it is. Compare it to New Orleans, and notice the lack of year-round food culture, from king cakes to sno-balls to sazeracs to gumbo to muffulettas to... the list goes on. Compare it to Chicago, and consider which is better known: Blackbird or Black Cat? Charlie Trotter's or the Flagstaff House? Moto or Hapa Sushi? And we have no equivalent, at any level of notoriety, to Alinea. Compare it to California, and realize that all but one of our finest restaurants are virtually indistinguishable from their own (the one is Italian), except that they would have come from the 90's. And our street-food culture? Don't make me laugh. The bar can still be raised - and how. We could have a food festival! Maybe a Feast of Rare Vegetables? Or an Ethiopian weekend? Host a Cooking and Music class? We could start having gourmet food trucks, and they could stop by CU, offering something a little more interesting than the standard fare. We could have a brewery that allows you to brew your own beer! We could have a fine dining restaurant that allowed people to join the cooks for family meal (for a nominal fee, of course)! We could start a funky little fermentation shop! And just one hard-core modernist restaurant to call our own...

I want to be a Boulder restaurateur, and build the city up to its true foodie potential. To accomplish this, I aim to 1) finish school 2) travel and work around the US, and maybe UK 3) write a book I can be proud of to build income for my first restaurant, which will 4) open to become Boulder's top modernist restaurant, and then 5) to use my newfound resources to expand throughout Boulder, and lift it up.

My, I sound egotistical here...

I have a handspun yarn business. And I love it, I really do BUT...it doesn't bring home the bacon and it doesn't fulfill my desire, my NEED to be homesteading. We (my husband and I) want to run a farm-based tea house and inn. We've been talking about it since we were married 8 years ago. It's time, dontcha think?

I currently work as a scientist, helping to develop vaccines for various diseases, but my heart is not in my work.

To tell you the truth, I am a food crafter and a teacher. I want to feed and nourish people, both their bodies and their souls. I want to teach them how to nourish themselves. I want to have a place where I can build community, where people can come and feel connected to each other in an intimate way.

I'm a computer component tester with a Bachelor's of Arts in classics. I blog and take pictures, which I love doing. I want to find that sense of belonging that I don't have yet.

My name is Roberto Navarro, I am a cook, currently working in Culinary School.

I believe, as it has been said a lot, that I live in a country with such an amazing biodiversity, a rich culinary heritage, and great people. We have, however led ourselves astray for "progress' sake". My dream would be to help us return to the days when food was food, and people weren't scared to cook; back to the days when we didn't consider time spent cooking a waste. Put into names, it'd be like rolling Ruhlman, Barber, Klein, Brock and a hint of Achatz into one. Huge package, no? I'd kill for a farm-restaurant.

Am I chasing greatness, I guess not. There's a minor satisfaction from teaching. A bit of thinking that through this job, one can help make a change. However I believe that restaurants get more and better press. There's hardly any opinion leaders in Culinary Schools unless they already were such a thing before entering schools. Even with the fact that this project is spearheaded by one of the best chefs in the country, I need to have something of my own. I'm just waiting for the opportunity to present itself.

I'm a library associate. Not a librarian but the patrons who come in, looking for books or answers, don't know that. I'm considered one of the better librarians at my branch.

I wouldn't mind having a librarian degree, but I need the money to do that. And that isn't going to happen.

I like looking up stuff. I like solving puzzles. I'm happy where I am.

I read. After fifty+ years, it's still what I do best and love most. It's pleasure, obsession, escape and home to me.

I write. I'd didn't always but I do now. I am wrestling my first book, a biography, to the ground at the moment, trying to find a way to tell the story of a genuinely admirable and complex woman in a compelling way. It would be easier to write if I could tear myself away from reading what someone else has written. On the other hand, reading good writing is my best teacher and most effective motivator. I struggle with having the confidence to believe I can finish and find a publisher, but I have to believe that if Snooki can produce a book, I should be able to manage it.

I work at writing. I love working. I love the sense of being immersed in work, fully engaged, applying myself to whatever the task at hand is. I find images of people at work more engaging than any number of baby or puppy pictures.

I love to cook. My whole day is usually spent in my head. Cooking gets me out of my head and re-engages me with the people that matter most to me. And with all my own five senses. It's fun, absorbing, and the payoff is (generally) a pretty good meal,

It's frighteningly timely that I saw this writing challenge when I did, because in the past few weeks I've been undergoing a strange metamorphosis. For the past few years, I thought I was going to become a conservative talking head. As of today, I want to become a writer/comedian.

Herp Derp, those two are the same thing!

Maybe. Maybe in both of these professions I utilize the same skills and powers of observation that make me such a good writer and actor. And for years I was a great writer and performer--acted in plays and commercials as a kid, got an offer for representation by a talent agent when I was 15 (my mother turned it down so I could study), and had an incredible knack for writing. I glowed on stage, and I could spend hours writing my own stories and plays.

More than anything, I loved to make people laugh. Home was an uneasy place, run by icy parents who never hugged each other, and I remember as a kid trying to get them to realize that their fights were pointless. I drew a comic of them as two angry ducks, quacking and quacking in circles. For some reason, I thought this was hilarious--maybe because I considered hatred and competition, which they poured all their energy into, mundane.

Then life went to hell. My father's delusional expectations for me drove me to attempt suicide, my parents divorced because of it, and being friendless and alone and scared, I clung onto the first person who told me I was worthy as a human--a militant conservative journalist, himself riddled with neuroses from his own parents, who convinced me that the extreme wings of conservatism could be my new family. The relationship died (a horrible, prolonged death), but the identity stuck, cheered on by the conservatives who became my friends and furiously looped in repeat through my own mind: if I don't write a certain way, argue for a certain thing, then I'll have spat in the face of a political ideology which had embraced me.

Looking back, I think that I rabidly pursued the goal of becoming a political commentator for two reasons, the first out of loyalty to a party that took me in when I thought no one else wanted me, and the second because of a neurotic drive to reach the top of whatever I so chose. (Thanks, Tiger Parents!) I don't think my ambition is going anywhere, but in the past few weeks, with the protests in Wisconsin and the rise of the Tea Party and the revolutions springing up in the Middle East, I can't be a part of the conservatives--or most politics--anymore. Loyalty too often gets in the way of doing the right thing.

Carol, I know that you work in DC (and when I interned there, I kept trying to work up the courage to try and meet you!), and I really admire how you're able to find success while advocating for something you believe in. Maybe at some point in the future, if the writing route doesn't turn out well, I might return to DC and work as an independent freelancer.

But as I drift back into the arts, I realize that for me, truth--and being true to my own voice--is more important for me. I'm graduating in a few months from college, and I'm looking for ways to pack everything up and move to New York City. I'm enrolling in comedy writing classes at the Upright Citizen's Brigade, I'm looking for internships and fellowships as a writer, and possibly after a year building a portfolio I'm going to apply to creative writing graduate programs. In the meantime I am going to every goddamned open mic night in the city.

And honestly, I won't have the chance to go for broke ever again. I won't be able to attempt this kind of career later in life, but politics can be played by 86-year-old senile men.

I am a 46 year old small business owner and stay at home mom. I have spent a total of 18 years in college getting close to degrees I never really wanted to do. Biology, journalism and animal ecology all the while doing what I secretly loved, working in restaurnts. From front of house to back, from bus girl to line cook. In Iowa in the 80's I never knew about culinary schools and working in restaurants was not considered a "real job". I love to feed people, I dream of my own restaurant, I long for it but I don't know how to achieve it. I am afraid. How sad.

Things I love to do: stare into tide pools full of curious and unusual life, eat unknown stews from cazuelas set up at a roadside stand in a small town in Mexico, cook a good meal for people I love, grow vegetables, draw things, walk along a mountain stream until the sound of it is the only thing in my head, talk to strangers, visit art galleries and museums, find answers to questions, make jokes about serious things, walk my dogs. I am one of many people who do a job during the day that is mostly boring and unfulfilling in order to have money to do other things when I am not at work. Maybe this is a shame, but I look at it as being similar to crouching in a bush with a spear, waiting for the animals to come along so that I will have something to eat. There's alot of time (wasted?) in contemplation, inactivity, waiting. But as I walk back to my cave or my hut, I have what I need to survive and to enjoy all the things that nobody would ever pay me a penny to do.

I've been thinking about your questions ever since you published this post. Who am I? An unemployed journalist in L.A. What do I want to do? I long to produce and/or front long-form pieces about food, travel, and photography.

Now, you know me personally, so you know what I've been through over the past 18 months. (I won't go into detail for other readers, but suffice it to say it has been TRYING.) No, I'm not "chasing greatness," even though I have the time to do so since I am unemployed -- time most people would love to have.

What's holding me back, on a practical level, is money. It takes money to self-produce a demo reel (get a decent camera, hire someone to shoot and/or edit it, etc.) This is something I don't have a lot of right now (see: unemployment). There are other financial factors at play (you know about them, too), which are affecting my ability to move into other fields, and that hurts.

I cannot lie: I stayed at my previous job (the same one which eventually laid me off) too long because I got comfortable. Why didn't I venture out for more, especially when I watched others pursue their dreams and leave me questioning my own (in)actions? Comfort, you see, can be fatal.

Maybe it's time for me to get uncomfortable.

I should be a theologian, but I'm a lawyer instead. I believe I would have made a damn fine theologian except I had a falling out with mainstream Christian theology. Now I do work that utilizes some of the same skill sets and that helps people. I'll never be passionate about it like I was about theology, though.

Hi Carol,

I am a 28 year old psychology graduate with over 11 years of retail experience and I am in a Bizarre Love Triangle with food, music, and travel. That probably sounds like it makes less sense than a M. Night Shyamalan movie.

Growing up with profound identity issues, psychology directly helped me understand myself and people.
Food is literally one of the only common grounds I have with my parents, the only paved road through age and cultural barriers. Food is so integral to my family's culture that they never ask me when they see me "how are you doing?" and instead ask "have you eaten yet?".
In turn, food was not only one of the sole forms of identity we could communicate through, it became a passport to all of the other different cultures I come across as well.

Where food connected me to my cultural roots and extended some type of thread for me to grasp a sense of family belonging, playing guitar is my separation and independence. A way to vent, shed my skin, and release when I am seeking to let something out rather than consume something in.

Traveling is the biggest of the holy trinity of goals because there are some places food or music have yet been able to take me. It's the last place I have to look.

My roadblock for traveling is partly finances and more that I am waiting to visit the motherland with my mother. Her father died at the end of June and now her mother is in and out of the hospital since he died, separation over 65 years of marriage is very challenging.
My mother naturally can't leave her mother's side at this time and I wouldn't leave my grandmother's side for the world either.

In the meantime, I will keep cooking and playing music to breathe in and breathe out until the world is ready for me to move on.

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