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Freelance After 50 Newsletter

F50 Issue #9: Five Ingredients for a Successful Second-Act Career

Published 5 months ago • 6 min read

F50 Issue #9: November 7, 2023


Lessons from Julia Child: Five Ingredients for a Successful Second-Act Career

It’s that time again! Time to pull up a chair and enjoy another classic TV show! This time we’re watching an episode of The French Chef with Julia Child (Episode 22: The Potato Show).

She’s preparing what looks like a potato pancake, and things are about to get dramatic. Let's listen in:

Julia: There! Well, it’s flippable. [Inhales deeply] Well, I’m going to try it anyway.
When you flip anything, you really —
[Julia nervously fixes her hair]
You just have to have the courage of your convictions, particularly if it’s sort of a loose mass like this.
[Sizzling sounds]
[Julia flips the pan, and clumps of potato fall onto the stovetop]
Well, that didn’t go very well. See, when I flipped it, I didn’t — I didn’t have the courage to do it the way I should have.
But you can always pick it up if you’re alone in the kitchen. Who is going to see? But the only way you learn to flip things is just to flip them.

According to her biography on the PBS website, “Julia Child was never afraid of making mistakes.” You can see that throughout her long career on television.

When she made a mistake in the kitchen, she stayed positive. In fact, we would say she had a “growth mindset” — confidence that her skills could improve and a willingness to persist despite setbacks.

This attitude would be impressive for anyone, but consider the fact that Julia was in her fifties when she started the show. Television was her second-act career, after working overseas for the Office of Strategic Services

Not surprisingly, her love for French cooking began when her husband’s career brought them to France. In addition to exploring the local markets, she studied haute cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, graduating in her late thirties

She further developed her skills while collaborating on a cookbook titled Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It took 10 years to complete as Julia worked hard to write and test recipes

Finally, after moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Julia had an opportunity to appear on television, and the rest is history!

So, if you’re nervous or reluctant to start your own second-act career, take some inspiration from Julia and follow this “recipe.” Add the following five ingredients, and blend them all together to dilute any soupçon (little bit) of fear.

Five Ingredients for a Successful Second-Act Career

1 Cup of Courage

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

The origin of the word starts with the Latin word cor, which means “heart.” And Julia Child certainly had a lot of heart. She also had a lot of courage, which helped her face the challenges of cooking on TV.

The PBS website describes how she “spent as many as 19 hours preparing for each half-hour segment.” But once the cameras were rolling, she had to roll with whatever unpredictable situations occurred.

When you begin a second act as a freelancer, you may wish you could prepare for every eventuality. The key, however (as Julia said about flipping mashed potatoes) is that “you just have to have the courage of your convictions” and take the leap.

2 Dashes of Daring

The French Chef TV show was a new concept. Before that, no one was broadcasting a program that taught Americans how to easily prepare French cuisine. Julia was a trailblazer, and she risked being criticized by those who preferred the more established ways of cooking.

She needed some dashes of daring to forge ahead and share her passion with any reluctant viewers.

Similarly, if you pursue a second act as a freelancer, you may face others who question your ideas. But don’t let that get you down.

In an article titled “What we can learn from Julia Child about career second acts,” Chris Keyser shares these inspiring thoughts about Julia:

“She was willing to sort of take risks, and make mistakes and maybe fall on her face. And even if she fell on her face, there's a way to laugh about it… I just think she was constantly trying to learn and grow. It's incredible that she was always constantly moving forward and discovering and allowing herself to be open to new experiences.”

3 Pinches of Perseverance

An article titled “These 4 masters found success and fame later in life” explains how Julia began learning to cook when she was 36. Sadly, the first meal she cooked didn’t turn out well, and not only that — she failed her first cooking exam at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.

But she didn’t let failures stop her from pursuing her dreams. She kept trying recipes until her skills improved.

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” That’s perseverance, something we can learn from both Winston and Julia.

So, even if you encounter failure while starting a second-act career, don’t lose your enthusiasm. View failure as an opportunity to learn and improve your skills — that will be your success!

4 Saucers of Support

A saucer is the perfect measurement for this ingredient because it corresponds to the four circles of support we recommend for building a healthy community for freelance businesses (or any other business):

  1. Your Business Champion - your greatest support and a constant source of encouragement
  2. Close Family and Friends - people who may not understand what you do, but support and encourage you
  3. A Coach or a Mentor - a person you can learn from as they support you and challenge you to get better
  4. Your Community - peers you can learn from and receive support from in an online or offline group.

Julia Child’s business champion was her husband Paul, who supported her in many ways and helped her shine in her TV career. She also had a TV crew that helped her show become a reality.

Of course, the internet didn’t exist back then, but she could find other ways to build her four saucers of support. And you are the lucky ones who can use both online and offline groups to build your healthy community!

5 Pints of Perpetual Learning

Many articles speak of Julia’s strong work ethic, but it was more than that. In an article titled “Julia Child: a role-model for lifelong learning,” Ana Vargas Santos explains,

“... as our relationship with age(ing) has become more complicated, the idea that a person can keep learning and performing to a high level past her fifties, forties and (truth be told) even her thirties has been repeatedly put into question.
“Which is why role-models, not only for late peaking, but for a general attitude of continuous learning through life’s many seasons, are important.”

Ultimately, those pints of perpetual learning will turn your second-act career into a masterpiece, a pièce de résistance!


Healthy Habits

When you become a freelancer, it’s easy to either gravitate toward the fridge or forget to eat altogether while working.

But it’s important to plan healthy meals at regular times, with healthy snacks in between. For example, in a FlexJobs article titled “7 Tips to Stay Healthy and Active in a Sedentary Job,” Devin Ryder suggests preparing meals ahead of time on the weekend so you can grab them during your workweek.

And if you’re interested in finding some healthy, tasty snacks, check out these recipes from the American Heart Association:


Words to Live By

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun."

— Julia Child

And finally, as Julia would say at the end of her show, “Bon appétit!”

Until next time,

Craig & Kelly

PS. As you might have seen, we are hosting an exciting, new LIVE event tomorrow, "5 Steps to Discover Your Ideal Remote Career After 50".

There are many types of remote careers you can pursue (in addition to freelancing) and we will unpack 15 ideal remote career options in this event tomorrow. Secure your seat here!

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Freelance After 50 Newsletter

Craig & Kelly Cannings, Co-founders of Freelance University

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