Building a Life and Career That Matters

I envision a world where we all wake up excited, knowing we get to do the things we love — where we can be grateful for the big and little things in life. Not because we have it all figured out, but rather because we are in touch with the core of ourselves — with who we truly are.

BUT, most of us are unhappy, we feel like we aren’t enough, and maybe worst of all, we feel like we have little power in making real change in our lives.

I’ve got a story that I think you most can relate to. I’m a chef, restaurant owner and writer, but in a previous life, fresh out of grad school, I got a job in consulting — I was eager to jump into the “American Dream”, but soon realized how much I hated my work and my life. I wasn’t doing work that mattered, or was important to me.

I needed a change, so I followed my heart and became a chef. Along the way, I’ve found fulfillment in a variety of ways, but six months ago, I found myself at another point of frustration — I looked at my life, and the things that I had wanted to accomplish, many of which hadn’t happened yet. The life of a chef is hard. I started one business that I poured a bunch of money into that essentially failed. I was working another 60 hours a week at my restaurant that was barely profitable. On paper, it didn’t make sense, but in my heart I knew why I had chosen this path. I just couldn’t articulate that to the people around me.

One night, I sat down and started writing. I had one of those Jerry McGuire moments, where the clouds opened up, and everything made perfect sense — I wrote a letter to chefs, talking about the life we live, the struggle to feel successful, the pain we endure, and all of the things that make us who we are. I posted it HERE on Medium and within a few weeks, it went from 50 or 100 views, to 100k a day in it’s peak. It climbed to #1 on the site.

It was pretty awesome.

In the coming weeks, emails flooded in from all over the world — from chefs, their spouses, artists, entrepreneurs, and students — thanking me for articulating the “life” of a creative and what it means to be passionate about one’s craft. A number of those emails were from folks who thought I was the “Chef-Whisperer” of sorts, asking for career advice. Some were from parents begging me to send an encouraging email to their son or daughter who had chosen the same path as me — I was happy to do so. But, was writing an article that went viral — was that enough to give me the credibility to help people along in their journey? Probably not.

But, this led me to start asking some of the important questions we all need to ask ourselves — the questions we’re often too scared to ask.

“What was it that had made my life so fulfilling NOW, versus where I was before?”

I’ve spent the last six months answering some 1000 emails from all over the world, and through the process, I’ve come up with some answers that I think we can all apply to our lives. I shared them in my TEDx talk, which is right here:

The natural place to start, is that thing we are all looking for, success.

What is it, and how do we get there? By definition it is,

“accomplishing what is attempted or intended”

We all want that — it feels good to accomplish things. BUT, what happens if the road leading to success doesn’t leave the proper trail behind you? You look back at 60 or 70 years old and ask, “what was the point?”

We mistake the goal for the destination. (tweet this)

So, if the goal isn’t the destination — the goal must involve the journey, and maybe HOW we get to the destination is most important.

We have goals that we set over the course of our lives, and they start out fun and exciting — new and uncharted territories, but then once we reach them, we find ourselves having to start over. Plus, along the way, external factors come into play — things beyond our control — the stock market crashes, the A.C. unit breaks — crappy luck, Murphy’s Law. We realize how hard it’s going to be, and we quit. A focus on the end result gets in the way of who we might become in the process.

If you ask any one who has ever achieved success in their life — business, relationship, whatever, they won’t tell you it was easy, or without the obstacles, but rather that the obstacles are part of what has made the journey meaningful.

So what if there were a way to climb that same hill, chase those same goals, and we were able to embrace the difficulty journey we must travel down in order to get there?

I’m convinced there is a way, and it’s based on three principles.


It’s our job to seek out the things that are important to us. No one sees the world the same exact way we do — so we have to align the work we do with our strengths and figure out how we can best connect with them. It takes self-awareness, but most of us don’t take the time to figure ourselves out.

To truly connect also takes listening. Listening to the world around us, as well as ourselves — and noticing how we best fit into the bigger picture, given what we, ourselves, have to work with.

If you don’t love what you do — you’ll never enjoy the journey and it starts with knowing yourself. (tweet this)


Once we connect to the work that matters to us, we then must then COMMIT to Communicate what that connection means to us.

To commit means to go all in — to throw all your chips in the pot and stand behind something — an idea, a principle, a relationship, a way of being. On a very basic level, it feels good to do work that matters to us, and that’s certainly part of the equation, but there’s something else. How many of us have bumper stickers on our cars? Bumper Stickers are somewhat permanent and have no practical value. They serve one purpose,


People are there to connect with us when we vulnerably show them who we are— the challenge is doing this, not just in easy prosaic examples like this, but in everyday, real world situations — in relationships, at work, and in our communities.

This takes communicating authentically, and putting our true selves out there — in doing so, we show the world that we’re human and worth CONNECTING to. This is what separates the elite brands, from the rest of the pack in business — Apple, Zappos, TED — they don’t just sell a product or service — they represent an idea that people can connect with, and it builds trust (internally, as well as with customers). TRUST, leads to and allows for the most important of these three ideas, and gives greater meaning to our lives:


We are biologically wired to be generous, so that we’ll do more of it. It’s supposed to feel good.

To be generous means:

“Showing a readiness to give more of something than is expected”

There are two elements to this definition — “giving more than expected”, but there is the other part — a “readiness to give”, and that part is often missing.

If we can first think about that and us on a large scale, and then bring that back down to how we interact on a daily level — with our coworkers and customers, spouses and friends — if we can provide generosity with no expectation of anything in return, they’ll naturally be more willing to listen to and care about what we have to say. They see it’s not just about us.

In being generous with our time and energy, our brain understands that what we are building isn’t just for ourselves, and we start to do more of it, creating a cyclical pattern, that’s perpetually feeding itself.

But it’s a journey, and along the way we have to be honest with ourselves and how we show up — every single day. None of us are perfect — that’s not the goal — there’s no perfect story. The goal is to create one that’s real, and one that’s worth reading.

Every day we make choices that determine the direction of our lives — if you made some poor ones today, wake up and try again tomorrow by being intentional. I learned this lesson at a younger age than I would have liked.

My mother passed away when I was 14, after a five year bout with cancer . Along the way, though, she taught me a whole hell of a lot about life, and ACTUALLY LIVING. She was positive, and always had something to smile about — Her favorite quote, which she lived by was,


Every day she had choices, and she committed herself to making the most of them. We all have these choices, and it’s up to us to make the most of them. What’s holding us back? My greatest hope is that you will take these three ideas, and in doing so embrace the process — embrace the climb.

Use them to discover the story living inside of you — it’s waiting to be born.


So, I implore you to ask yourself,

“What makes my heart sing?”


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