Success Lessons from Julie and Julia

I saw the movie Julie and Julia over the weekend.  It’s two stories in one.  The first is the story of how Julia Child became JULIA CHILD and the second is about a young woman Julie Powell who decided to prepare every one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blog about her experience.  It’s a great movie with a good cast that says a lot about personal and professional success.

Clarity of purpose is one of the keys to success that I discuss in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success, Your Success GPS and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  To develop your personal clarity or purpose you need to do three things.  First, define what success means to you.  Second, create a vivid mental image of you as a success.  Third, clarify your personal values.

In the late 1940s’s and early 1950’s Julia Child was the wife of a diplomat, at loose ends.  She wanted to be more than a wife, but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.  When she and her husband were living in Paris, she discovered that she had a passion for French food.  She enrolled in the famous French cooking school Le Cordon Bleu and became a chef.  Then, along with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, she began teaching American women living in Paris the art of French cooking.  They also wrote a cookbook.  Alfred A. Knopf published The Art of French Cooking in the USA in 1961. 

Julia and her husband returned to the USA and moved to Cambridge MA.  She began hosting a cooking show on WGBH, the public television station in Boston that was shown nationwide in the USA.  The show ran for over 10 years.  She won the first Emmy given to an educational show.  Julia Child found her passion and purpose in teaching Americans the art of French cooking.

In 2002, Julie Powell was a 29 year old woman, a graduate of Amherst who was working for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in the aftermath of 9/11.  She was a frustrated writer, having had a novel rejected by several publishers.  She liked to cook, and was a fan of Julia Child.  She decided to prepare all 524 recipes in The Art of French Cooking over the span of one year, and to blog about her experience in so doing. 

Her blog, called the Julie/Julia Project went viral and landed her a book contract with Little Brown and Company.  The book, published in 2005 was called Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment.

Nora Ephron, writer of When Harry Met Sally, and writer and director of Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, turned the Julia and Julia blog and Julia Child’s autobiography, My Life In France, and Julie Powell’s book into the movie Julie and Julia Meryl Streep was cast as Julia Child and Amy Adams was cast as Julie Powell.

All of this background is secondary to an important point about clarifying your purpose in life, and defining what success means to you.  Julia Child knew she wanted to be more than the wife of a diplomat.  Julie Powell wanted to be a writer but gave up on it after the rejections of her manuscript started piling up.  Julia Child eventually defined her success as someone who would teach Americans the art of French cooking.  Julie Powell was able to get back to her personal definition of success – being a published writer – through the work she did on her Julie/Julia blog.

Ms. Childs is no longer with us, but she remains an icon.  Julie Powell turned her blog into a book, has had a movie made of it, and has written a second book that will be out in December 2009.  Both women succeeded by following their passion and clarifying their personal definition of success.

Check out Julie and Julia.  It’s an entertaining movie.  Meryl Streep will make you think you’re watching the real Julia Child.  Amy Adams is great as a frustrated young woman searching for personal and professional success.  And – you’ll get a firsthand look at how two women clarified their purpose and life and used it as the foundation of their success.

The common sense point here is simple.  Success begins with getting a clear idea of your purpose in life and what success means to you.  The movie Julie and Julia provides a very entertaining look at how to different women, from two different generations searched for, and found, their purpose in life – and then used it to become a personal and professional success.  Julia Child and Julie Powell provide two very interesting case studies on the importance of using your passion to define your success.

That’s my take on Julie and Julia, clarity of purpose and success.  What’s yours?  Please take a minute to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  If you’ve seen the movie, let us know if you think I’m making sense here, or I’m all wet.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. Well done Bud!

    I too saw the movie over the weekend – and it was excellent! And it too brought to mind all of the “ingredients” for personal success: Persistence…passion…optimism…setting clear goals….

    All the best to you and your readers!

    Skip Reardon
    Director, Digital Marketing and Social Networking
    Six Disciplines
    Ph: 419.581.2827

  2. Dear Bud:

    I saw the movie yesterday and what an inspiration. I laughed and I did shed a few tears. Tears – not because the story was sad, but because I could relate to Amy’s struggle and passion for success.

    I am a French speaking woman from Montreal and I love to cook. Julia Child’s recipes are not today’s ubiquitous recipes done in 15 minutes. How Amy managed to work for a corporation, cook all of the 524 recipes and blog about it daily, while maintaining a relationship with her husband is beyond me.

    I blog twice a week, write a newsletter once a month and it requires discipline to do this. Daily business activities and family obligations are also part of this whole package. But, when you have a clear goal in mind, it is easier to get things done as you know exactly why you are doing it.

    Thank you Bud for your daily blogs. Always interesting and well written.

  3. Diane:
    Thanks for your comment.
    Maybe I’ll be able to sample some of your cooking on my next trip to Montreal.

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