I admire women with balls. When I have grandchildren, I hope they remember me as being more than a sweet old lady. I’d rather be remembered a little more like Julia Child.
It is a running joke in our household that if Julie and Julia is playing and I am within 10 feet of the television, I will have it on. That movie is comfort food to me – I am drawn to it every time. So this summer, I finally made it a point to read Julia Child’s autobiography, My Life in France. I hadn’t planned to write about it on the blog, because it isn’t directly related to marketing, productivity, or any of the topics we typically discuss. But I think Julia would have disagreed… over the course of her life, as told in her own words, she learned lessons that apply to any professional undertaking.
“Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you’ll have a marvelous time!”
People noticed Julia Child… and that wasn’t just because of her height (she was over 6ft tall). It was because she had opinions and she felt it was very important to voice them. She held herself to an incredibly high standard – in her book, she speaks about actively seeking out the news each day, reading stacks of newspapers and magazines each week. She worked hard to understand current events and form her own opinions about them, so that she could intelligently contribute to conversation.
“Upon reflection, I decided I had three main weaknesses: I was confused (evidenced by a lack of facts, an inability to coordinate my thoughts, and an inability to verbalize my ideas); I had a lack of confidence, which cause me to back down from forcefully stated positions; and I was overly emotional at the expense of careful, ‘scientific’ thought. I was thirty-seven years old and still discovering who I was.”
― Julia Child, My Life in France
She applied the same high standards to her “cookbookery” – deeply researching each recipe and only publishing formulas that she could stand behind with conviction. This took inordinate amounts of time and yet when her books were finally published, she could stand behind them with confidence. When was the last time you felt that way about a project? How often have you skipped learning about a world issue or avoided having an opinion on a topic, just because you didn’t want to take the time to learn about it? Julia felt a responsibility to be a citizen of the world and a responsibility to do good work. Both of those values required an investment of time, but they served her well.
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure.”
We all know how scary it is to start a new job, begin a new project, or walk into a room of people we’ve never met. Julia felt that way many, many times in her life – each time she and Paul moved to a new city, with each new class she took at the Le Cordon Bleu, and each time she did a live cooking demonstration or hosted a dinner party. Her approach can help us all deal with fear: Prepare, prepare, prepare, and then learn how to fix your mistakes.
“Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.”
― Julia Child, My Life in France
Above all, I love the way Julia was very much her own woman and defined her own life for herself.
What biographies or autobiographies have inspired you? I need more recommendations!
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