Work Hard - Because You Love It

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Turns out that on the biggest night of my professional life,  I was fast asleep – at 8:30pm.  Between work deadlines, soccer practice for both kids, and an orthodontist appointment, I’d completely forgotten that James Beard Foundation Media winners were even being announced. Thank goodness for texts from a younger brother, as well as a hip aunt who was up grading law school briefs so I didn’t look like an idiot when one of my favorite editors called the next morning to congratulate me. And while the news was exciting, at the same time it was very surreal.  

But these feelings were even how I felt the nomination had been. I had no clue the article was submitted to the James Beard Award committee in winter of 2016. It wasn’t even a blip on my radar! In fact, the week that the nominees were announced, I was actually in Mexico on a last-minute Spring Break vacation with another family (the highlights of which were  “forced” relaxation due to lack of cell service and staying out of Mexican jail, kids in tow, because I only had an American Express to pay for our lunch one day). It was a hap-hazard, laugh-cause-you-can’t-do-anything-else vacation, but it was vacation and 3/17/2017 meant back to reality, United States soil, and cell service. 


Reality hit quickly as I turned my phone on after our flight had landed at the local airport.  I was bombarded with text messages and emails, all from friends and family congratulating me on my nomination.  I had no idea what they were talking about, but quickly caught myself up. An article that I had been asked to help write for Cooking Light magazine had been nominated a few days prior for a 2017 James Beard Foundation (JBF) media award in their food and health journalism category (see a portion of the article on my blog). If you’re familiar with JBF, it’s likely because of their national awards recognizing chefs. Their mission covers other food aspects too though and is “to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.”  


Fast-forward (...or rewind) to the start of this blog post -- MY ARTICLE WON!  It was beyond exciting, but also surreal. And it bothered me that I couldn’t fully embrace the honor and revel in it.  This JBF award is my biggest achievement (to date and probably ever!), so why was I not fully able to embrace and enjoy it?  

I realize now that my perplextion was really my award. I have found that contemplating this big award over this past year has taught me more small things about myself and life than any self-help book or Sunday school class ever did. Here are some of the things I've learned ::  


Life’s Best “Wins” Aren’t Planned

Almost every award, honor, or accomplishment that I've received, I already knew I was getting, from honor roll to scholarships, but I never felt that I really appreciated those to the level that I should because I set out to get them. Yet, a James Beard journalism award is something that I never even contemplated or even considered. I got a great opportunity to work on a project with colleagues, and I gave 110% - without thought of any kind of award or praise. Because of that, this “surprise” win meant more than any of those other awards ever did, and it challenges me to continue giving 110% to projects, ideas, and organizations that I’m passionate about.    

Life’s Short - So Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

I’ve always believed in quality vs. quantity – especially with work.  I’d rather produce one super high-quality product, article, or book than work on meaningless snippets and busy work.  But apply this concept to parenting, and it’s hard to not feel guilty. Don’t get me wrong – I am with my kids pretty much 24/7 outside of school, work, and sports activities. But to get this project done, it meant taking a few Saturdays, as well as a few nights, away from what is usually family time. And shockingly, they survived - and maybe even thrived more because when you’re pressed you tend to make sure the time together really counts. I listened a little more intently, observed a little better, and appreciated the small things a little more. And it's something I've tried to continue. 

Work Hard - Because You Love It

Work hard because you love it and not because it’s what you’re expected to do. And if you don’t love it, keep looking.  Too many of my earlier adult years were spent doing activities that were things that I thought were expected of me – not projects, relationships, reading, learning or volunteering that I passionate about or motivated to change or improve. And now that I’ve just entered my 4th decade, I know that if it’s work that you truly love, you’ll want to do it. You’ll be inspired to do it without any thought of reward and to do it right and to the best of your abilities.  You work hard just because you love it. It’s not really about awards, but rather the path you took to get there.  


Congratulations to all of the 2018 James Beard Foundation Award winners.  May we all find what we love and pursue it with all of our heart, mind and strength. 

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