Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fail Early, Fail Often

Stay tuned for the 'Doing Work You Love' post Fail Early, Fail Often -- coming soon.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Following A Ripple of Inspiration

I love the way one inspiration leads to another. An inspired idea lands in the proverbial pond and the ripple effect grows exponentially.

Think of the ripple effect Julia Child created when she (along with her french collaborators) was inspired to publish 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' in the early '60's. Just imagine all of the boeuf bourguignons, cassoulets and creme brulees that have been showing up on American dinner tables ever since -- all because Julia and company made cooking with french savoir-faire more accessible.

It's awe-inspiring to think how the 'Julia' ripple has moved through the generations since her first cookbook was published. The number of Julia-inspired creations that have been and will be is probably some crazy number akin to the number of bunnies roaming the planet. And the amount of love and good feelings that have been and will be as a result of those Julia-inspired creations? I can't even begin to do the math.

The inspiration for all of this talk about inspiration, Julia Child, and her ever-continuing ripple effect is the Nora Ephron film 'Julie & Julia' starring Meryl Streep (truly channeling Julia Child) and Amy Adams. For two hours, I was on an inspiration 'high' watching this delightful movie with my friend, Bonnie. As I sat there savoring every delicious second, it hit me how one inspiration begets another and then another...and how the ripple keeps on rolling when inspiration turns into action.

Julie Powell, a frustrated NYC office 'drone', took action when she was touched by the ever-expanding 'Julia ripple' in 2002. In a bold step towards doing the work she was passionate about -- namely cooking and writing -- Powell turned that ripple of inspiration into a wave of creativity. She challenged herself to make all 524 recipes in Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' cookbook within one year and blog about the experience. Then she hauled off and did it - all the while working her 9 to 5 job.

Powell's blog, the 'Julie/Julia Project', attracted followers far and wide. The blog inspired a book which, in turn, inspired writer/director Nora Ephron to intertwine Julie and Julia's stories into a lovely movie, which, in turn, inspired lots of people to run out and get the latest edition of 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking (sales are way up!), which, in turn, got people making coq au vin, having 'Julie & Julia' inspired dinner parties, and writing related blog posts...

...and the ripple keeps rippling.

My gosh the power of one ripple.

Here's to making the most of the next ripple of inspiration that touches you. May you grab hold, take action and start making some new ripples of your own.

Good work until the next...


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Monday, August 24, 2009

When Is A Blog A Blog?

After posting my first official 'Doing Work You Love' profile (on the delectable Belgian Chocolatier Piron), I sit back and wonder if it works in the blog format. Is it okay to do feature-style profiles in a blog? One friend remarked that my first 'DWYL' profile seemed like 'old school' journalism. "Is that the way you want to go?" She asked. "This seems like some serious reportage for a blog."

This got me thinking that profiling people who love their work is not really blogging. I mean, technically, a feature article is not what a blog should be.

Blog stands for web log. Log means a diary of sorts and diary means the author's stream of consciousness about his or her own experiences. If the writing is profiling other people, then does it become something other than a proper blog?

Another friend said, "Your blog can be anything you want it to be. It's your blog!" And she's right. Yet, in the same way that pizza and orange juice just don't go together -- the more I look at it -- a piece of journalistic writing just doesn't feel like it fits with a blog.

All I know is that I love capturing the heart and soul of a subject inspired to do the work he or she loves. This whole cyber-world has opened up the opportunity to put the kinds of feature stories I want to write out there... now the question is how to do it. What form will it take?

I'm thinking the answer is creating a 'Doing Work You Love' website where I can feature 'DWYL' stories and offer a link to my blog on the site. It may be easier said than done, but it's calling out as the next logical step.

Developing a full-fledged website feels like a huge leap. By the same token, making space for 'Doing Work You Love' profiles, via a dedicated website, will hopefully inspire me to want to fill that space.

So now it's a matter of learning how to create the website. I can't say enough about Apple in this regard. As a Mac user, the 'One-To-One' training sessions are invaluable. An incredibly smart and patient teacher spends an hour showing me the ropes on everything from how to manage my e-mails and photos to how to edit video. It looks like I'll be heading back for Website Building 101 (and, from what I can tell, it seems pretty easy!)

The work in progress continues. I'll keep you posted. Steady she goes!

Good work until the next...


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Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Chocolate-Filled Life - Part II

Jumping In With Both Feet

I had the pleasure of learning about Bob and Fred's stock-in-trade while hanging out in The Belgian Chocolatier Piron kitchen at the rear of their shop. The longer I stayed, the more chocolate came my way, so needless to say, I stretched the interview out as long as I possibly could.

Experiencing this kind of chocolate 'immersion' is every chocolate lover's dream. Ever since I was a kid and first saw the movie 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory', I've fantasized about jumping into Willy Wonka's chocolate river - right behind Augustus Gloop. I'm covered in chocolate, sucking up the river to my heart's content, all the while being fanned by my own personal oompa loompa. Well standing in the Piron kitchen, surrounded by big chocolate melting pots and chocolates being popped out of molds right and left, was the next best thing. I was a kid in a candy store.

If It's Belgian It Must Be Chocolate

Of course I am far from being a kid, and I quickly learned that The Belgian Chocolatier Piron is NOT a candy store. Say the words 'candy store' in the Piron's presence and you get the major eyebrow raise (say the words 'Willy Wonka' and you get the full-out eyeball roll). "For us, chocolate and candy are two different things," Bob explained. "We do chocolate." Fred added, "Candy is hard and bounces if you drop it. We think of candy as a different category all together."

The Piron brothers clearly have a deep respect for the chocolate. As Bob noted, "The minute you get too cocky about chocolate it can come back to bite you."

The success of the Pirons' chocolate molds depends on the proper temperature of the chocolate and the temperature of their kitchen as well. If the chocolate is not warm enough or 'tempered' just right during the production process, the cocoa butter and cocoa powder can separate. This creates those white-ish gray splotches known as chocolate 'bloom' which makes for...well...ugly chocolate. The chocolate can also crack if temperatures are off the mark. The day the massive, two-foot chocolate bunny cracked during the Easter rush was a memorable one at The Belgian Chocolatier Piron. Fortunately, with years of experience under their belts, the mishaps are few and far between.

Spreading the Love

Handmade chocolates from The Belgian Chocolatier Piron have made their way to the South Pole, into the hands of the Crowned Princess of Japan, onto the desk of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and even back to Belgium. Chocolates filled with ganache, grand marnier, passion fruit, strawberry and creme caramel as well as chocolate bark are a hit on Main Street in Evanston, Illinois as well as far beyond the bricks and mortar of the Piron brothers' quaint, European-style shop.

The burning question I had for the brothers before I pulled myself away from the chocolate ganache and creme caramel was whether they partake of their own creations. Can you still love chocolate when it's your business? The answer was a resounding 'yes.' "We never get tired of snacking on our own product," Fred said. "I particularly love the dark chocolate with fruit."

Bob and Fred Piron are passionate about their work. They relish finding the right blend of art and production...the right balance between beauty and extraordinary taste. "That's what keeps us challenged and excited about the process," Bob explained. "... and the best part of it is that we have the nicest customers." Fred agreed, "People are in a good mood when they're buying our chocolate. They're either buying someone a gift or doing something nice for themselves."

After nearly 25 years in business, the Pirons have seen a whole generation of chocolate lovers grow up. They've received tremendous satisfaction seeing all of the smiling faces on the other side of their counter over the years. "That's what makes it all worthwhile for us," Bob observes. "We're selling happiness by the pound."

Good work until the next...


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Visit The Belgian Chocolatier Piron online at:
Photo of Fred and Bob Piron courtesy of

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Chocolate-Filled Life - Part I

"There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles."

My first official 'Doing Work You Love' profile features the owners of a heavenly little shop in my community (just north of Chicago) called The Belgian Chocolatier Piron. Anyone who dedicates their life to chocolate is a-okay in my book (I am SO with you), so I wanted to seek out the Brothers Piron to discover what led to their sweet working life. I'm always fascinated to learn about the different paths people take to end up in a particular profession -- especially when those paths lead to chocolate.

As it turns out, Bob and Fred Piron never dreamed they'd be living la vie chocolat. Bob studied architecture early on and Fred worked in the worlds of photography and aviation. Nevertheless the two ultimately teamed up to produce some of the most decadent, mouth watering, beautiful chocolates this side of Belgium.

All Roads Lead To Chocolate

It all began in the early '80's when the building industry was faltering and Bob was rethinking a career in architecture. The Piron brothers' parents, who were originally from Belgium, suggested that Bob bring the art of European chocolate-making back to Chicago, and Bob jumped on the idea. He apprenticed with a master chocolatier in Antwerp, Belgium, and, after a year of intensive study, came home to put his newly-discovered talent and craft to work.

Bob first launched a wholesale operation in 1984, then in 1986, switched gears - opening The Belgian Chocolatier Piron as a retail establishment. Ten years later, in 1996, with Bob firmly established as the local master chocolatier, Fred came on board with extensive retail management experience, and together they saw their business grow.

Coming up...'A Chocolate Filled Life - Part II - 'Chocolate Immersion'

Good work until the next...


To share your comments/chocolate fantasies, click here.

Visit The Belgian Chocolatier Piron online at
Photo of Fred and Bob Piron courtesy of

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Making Space

I've been noticing lately how, whenever I make new space, it fills right up. Whether it's in a closet, a bookshelf, or a file cabinet -- that space is back in use in no time flat.

It happens that way all the time at home, and I've seen it on the job as well. When I first started working part-time in a doctor's office, I noticed the bottom shelf of a large filing cabinet sitting empty. The shelf stood ready and waiting and, in seemingly no time, it was filled with new patient files to the point where you could barely squeeze in another one. It was a great thing for the office. Business was booming.

I can say now, from experience, that creating a physical space to support the work you want to do is incredibly motivating, and can help spur you to action. The very act of making the space has made me want to fill it. Since creating my own blog space, the ideas for posts are queuing up in my head... anxious to express... wanting to fill the space with words.

Whether your goal is to work for yourself or for someone else, try it. Clear a space on a desk or on a shelf, fill a binder with paper and dividers, start a blog or create an Excel spreadsheet to hold the fruits of your labor.

We hear, all the time, that it comes down to intention and action. If we add 'making space' to the 'action' end of things, it's a good bet that the space we create to do the work we love will be filled before we know it.

Good work until the next...


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Photo Via Flickr Creative Commons License: 'Emptied' by NancyAZ

Thursday, May 28, 2009

When The Phone Rings...

I've spent a good number of years waiting for the phone to ring in order to do the work I love. When the phone rings with a writing assignment, I'm jazzed and all is well. When the phone doesn't ring, I feel powerless around the writing work. Much of the work I love has fallen in my lap -- it's come easily. I like that. No risk involved -- no sticking my neck out. Less responsibility -- hey, they came to me! I do other work to keep money coming in, but when it comes to the creative work I truly love, I'm waiting for the next job to fall from the sky -- waiting for that ship to pull into my harbor. I love those 'Aha' moments, when the full story is hot off some heavenly press and flung on your front stoop. This just in... I've been waiting for someone else to give me permission to do the things I love.

Marianne Williamson has this great audio lecture on 'Work and Career' where she says (using acting as an example), "If you want to act -- act! Do it with a community group. Volunteer! Do it wherever you can." The same applies to writing or building or tabulating or cooking or whatever you love to do. We get so particular about the form the work takes and the conditions under which we do it.

The only thing standing between me and the work that I love is a belief --an erroneous thought that I can't do it unless someone else tells me I can. I'm writing this blog, it feels wonderful, and I didn't have to get the 'go-ahead' from anybody but myself. I get it.

When it comes down to it, it's about valuing our gifts and sharing them wherever we can -- without fear. It's about owning our talent and knocking on every door in order to use that talent. We need to make money -- there's no doubt about that. But if we frame the job hunting process as 'sharing our talents' rather than just 'finding a job', I wonder how that might change the outcome in our mission to do the work we love.

The beautiful thing is we're all wired with different strengths. We all have our gifts to share to help make this world go 'round. Marianne Williamson also says in her lecture on 'Career', "If you've got something to say -- there's someone who needs to hear you say it."

Here's to picking up the phone.

Good work until the next...


Photo Credit: DSC01258_g.JPG by chelle

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