Inspiration Via One Straight Line and Two Rabbit Trails

Inspiration Via One Straight Line and Two Rabbit Trails

Are you trying to find your passion? Or do you already know what it is? Was your passion obvious or did it take you a while to figure out?

Sometimes that journey looks like a straight line, but often it’s more like a rabbit trail. I hope this quick look at 3 people who found their dream jobs will give you an inspiration boost!

Fashion blogger Jessica Quirk of What I Wore fame traces the roots of her fashion career back to the annual ritual of planning her back-to-school wardrobe with her mom:

My first task was to go to the mall and pre-shop–I’d create a long list of items that I liked along with prices. From there I’d decide what made the most sense from both practical and cost perspectives and edit down my list.

Next, my mom and I would set a date and get shopping! We’d go through the list, checking things off, finding new bargains, and making substitutions. And when I had a vision of an item that I couldn’t find or that wasn’t in my price range, I’d head over to the fabric store with my mom to find material to make skirts and dresses. So much of my love for fashion and clothing comes from those mother-daughter collaborations over bolts of fabric and pattern books.

Michael Ruhlman wanted to be a writer, yes–but he never dreamed his true passion would end up being food writing! But one thing led to another…

I went into a cooking school to write about what it means to be a chef, and instead I became a cook, got a job line cooking, lucked into one of the great restaurants of the world to work with the chef on his book, and I kept on writing about food.

A committed cook since fourth grade, I proposed to the Culinary Institute of America, the oldest and most influential professional cooking school in the country, that I be allowed into its kitchen classrooms in order to write a narrative of how the school trains professional chefs. The school agreed, and I wrote The Making of a Chef.

That would be the first of many, many food books Ruhlman would write. “The best things in life happen when you get carried away,” he says. “I got carried away, and it’s made all the difference.”

Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind credits her success to being in the right place at the right time, and for seizing an unlikely opportunity:

I found my way into the design world as an under-qualified, impromptu, very young art director. I had been working as a copywriter at an ad agency in Los Angeles when the existing art director had a [mighty dramatic!] nervous breakdown and left the office the day before an important client meeting. I raised my hand to take his place (not knowing at all what an art director’s duties are!) and went home that night to furiously Google “how to be an art director.”

What those search results opened for me was this: a world of imaginative, creative, well-planned design. I remember staying up until 3am that night, jumping through a rabbit hole of endless links, cataloging hundreds of ideas onto what now exists as

And although I wasn’t an art director for long (the company folded six months later), I owe that experience so much. It’s amazing how life’s little detours can send you on an entirely different path – or in this case, rabbit hole. 🙂

Do you have a story to share about how you found something you love to do? Is your journey looking like a straight line or a rabbit trail?

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  1. Tim says:

    Great conversation-starter here, Anne!

    My path to the career I love was not quite straight-forward, but not too meandering either. I went to law school thinking I wanted to do transactional work. While there, I soon saw what litigation was about and decided I wanted to do courtroom lawyering instead. That’s the kind of job I took out of law school, and I think I did OK. After a few years appearing in front of judges I thought maybe I could be one, so I applied and after a lengthy and fairly grueling process got appointed to the bench.

    The part that amazes me about being here (and it’s been 17 years now and counting) is that this job suits me even better than lawyering did. I love the decision-making process involved in the courtroom and chambers work, I love being treated to good lawyering in the courtroom and in the written briefs, and I love meeting people I’d never even cross paths with if it weren’t for the fact that they were in my courtroom (ask any judge and you’ll likely hear that jury selection is one of the highlights of a trial, since we talk to and get to know people who are in court for some reason other than being in trouble).

    Still, judges hear a lot of horrible horrible things all the time. No one in their right mind would eagerly look forward to listening to a couple reveal why their marriage is falling apart, or study photos of a fatal traffic accident, or watch a child on the witness stand recount the abuse she or he suffered at the hands of someone they were supposed to be able to trust to nurture and care for them. In fact, there are few people in this world who can do this day after day.* But those of us who do it know that we are doing something good, and almost every judge I know is good at it too. And even with all that, I can say that I have a job I love.

    In fact, Rachel Stone just posted a guest piece I did for her that comes straight out of my job. I hope you get a chance to take a look at it:


    *There are a lot of people who do other jobs that I know I can’t handle either. It’s a good thing God made us so that what needs doing can get done by the person who has the skills and abilities to do it!

  2. I knew I had a passion for writing, but I thought it was for writing novels. I attended a conference for writers of children’s books after I’d already written two novels. The talk on magazine writing inspired me to explore other forms of writing I enjoy much more–like blogging!

  3. I feel like every time I “know” where my career (or life) is going, I get pushed/pulled/coaxed off on a detour…

    Thought I was going to be a math/engineering major. With some guidance from good professors, I wound up doing statistics for public policy.

    Followed a boy across the country, convinced it would be forever… When that didn’t work out, I swore I’d NEVER move for a boy again. (Never say never?)

    I met my Husband. Moved across the country with him to a town I had never seen before.

    Thought I’d be in that public policy job forever. Got a job teaching at community college and LOVE it more than I thought possible.

    I have no idea what the next detour will be, but it’s always a nice reminder that the best paths are not always linear.

    Thanks for this post!!!

  4. 'Becca says:

    Ah, I have a long story about this: The Path at the End of the Road. I wanted to be an architect and persisted in trying to do it well beyond the point when the architecture department of my university had made it clear I wasn’t welcome in that profession. Meanwhile, I had a vague idea that psychology was the practice of making people lie on a couch and tell you their problems. It was not until I was kicked out of architecture and went into the general humanities program that I took a basic psych course and learned that psychology is so much more interesting and diverse than I’d ever imagined! All my life I had been interested in other people, why they do stuff and what they’re thinking, but I didn’t know there were jobs studying that! Furthermore, it had never occurred to me that my talent for proofreading could be applied to anything other than manuscripts; I didn’t know I would be a whiz at data cleaning, because I didn’t know there WAS such a thing as data cleaning. Five years after hitting the wall as an aspiring architect, I got a job cleaning data for a prestigious research study. Five years after that, I had become senior data manager of the study, in charge of keeping millions of data points in meticulous condition. I have a very enjoyable career in a field that, when I was trying to be an architect, I didn’t even know existed!

    • Anne says:

      ‘Becca, I love the story of your winding road. Who knew such great things could come from getting kicked out of the architecture program?

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