Debrief from Last Week’s Chat with Neman.
In last week’s podcast, we talked with Nemanja Golubović about how he knew he was “ready” to not just open his own business, but to tell his parents the truth about who he was. These are both monumental pivot points in a person’s life, and I wanted to look back on my own life–to examine whether or not I felt similarly ready to make a big change.
You’ll Know When You Know.
How did you know you were ready to get married?
How did you know you were ready to have kids?
How did you know you were ready to change careers?
How did you know you were ready to start a business?
The following is the answer I hear most frequently to questions like these:
“You’ll know when you know.”
Call me pedantic, but unless you’re of the crystal ball reading ilk, there is NO way to know, with any certainty, that you are, in fact, “ready” for the kind of life-changing decisions that often beg the question,
ARE YOU READY?
Why? Because, again, unless you’re pretty confident in your psychic abilities, you can’t prepare for the unknown. Unlike the 50 yard dash–a short straight line on a smooth track with a weather forecast that literally foretells the future–your marriage, your kids, your career, and your business aren’t designed to be completed in 10 seconds or less. In fact, they’re made to last, if not forever, at least for many, many decades. How can anyone possibly predict the outcome of these decisions with the level of certainty necessary to answer affirmatively to the question,
ARE YOU READY?
The “Impossible” Option.
So, if the honest answer to this question is always “Nope,” how does anyone actually do things like get married, have kids, or start a business?
A good friend suggested that I quit my day job and go full time with The Korean Vegan back in 2017. I knew next to nothing about monetizing my blog and, in all candor, I thought the idea was absurd and, in a word, “impossible.” Later that year, I spent some time getting to know a professional “blogger” in Chicago and concluded that having to answer to brands was not that much different from being answerable to my legal clients. Why trade one stress for another? More specifically, why would I give up an albeit soul-sucking job that paid really good money for a slightly less soul-sucking job that seemed to pay a lot less money?
But over the next several months, I spoke with all kinds of entrepreneurs who encouraged me to do just that, and before I knew it, I replaced the word “impossible” with “highly unlikely.” In late 2017, I was introduced to a literary agent who worked with me over the course of the next year to put together a book proposal. At that time, I harbored zero dreams of publishing a cookbook. I was a full-time partner at a large law firm and my “dreams” (if you can really call them that) consisted of building a predictable book of business, one that would ensure my moderate success at Foley for years to come. To my astonishment, at the end of 2018, a major publishing house accepted my proposal for a book full of Korean plant-based recipes and stories, and the needle went from “highly unlikely” to “improbable.”
I wrote, photographed, and recipe tested the entire book while working as a full-time partner. I treated it as a “hobby,” something into which I could pour my desire to create something beautiful, completely different from a 15 page reply brief in support of a motion for summary judgment. I had many more conversations with the friend who told me back in 2017 that I should quit my job and focus my energy on The Korean Vegan, and as the first draft of my manuscript came to its conclusion, I allowed myself to be carried away on the gusts of dream-chasing. It was exhilarating.
For two whole months.
After I submitted my manuscript in November 2019, my editor came back to me with substantial comments: I would have to scrap most of the stories and come up with an additional 25 to 30 recipes. I took this to mean two things: (a) my writing wasn’t good enough; and (b) I was an idiot for thinking I could do anything other than law. The indicator went back to “highly unlikely.”
One month later, the order came down through Firm Management–we would be entering quarantine like everyone else. I packed up my laptop, my FRCPs, and pocket sized FREs and set up shop on the dining table I’d purchased with the hope of hosting lavish dinner parties. Like everyone else, I was terrified of losing my job; thus, even while developing 30 more recipes, taking photographs in my new studio, and rewriting my manuscript over and over and over again, I was laser beam focused on proving my indispensability to the Firm. In other words, we returned to something very near to the “impossible” zone.
In an attempt to puncture that haze of anxiety with a little levity, I started a TikTok account.
From Impossible to “Almost-Probably-Very-Likely.”
I’ve talked about how TikTok changed my life so often, so I’ll limit this recounting to the highlights. I started my account in July 2020. In three months, I’d amassed 900,000 followers. My editor, who originally advised eliminating the majority of the stories I’d included in my first manuscript, suggested that we add many of them back in. Before anyone even knew I had a book coming out, “The Korean Vegan” was being written about in CNN, Bon Appétit, and NPR. Suffice it to say, we went from “nearly impossible” to “wait, maybe this is a thing?”
In November 2020, I posted a video that would go viral–on TikTok and Twitter. Twitter is where many journalists hang out, and as a result, I was asked to co-author my very first Op-Ed in The Atlantic. You may not realize this, but some of your most favorite op-eds are often written in less than a day, if not a few hours. I can still feel the sweat trickling down my back while I kept up with emails from my co-author and the Atlantic editor, while answering the phone that seemed to be ringing off the hook with people who wanted to hire me as their lawyer. Once the final edit was submitted, I put my head down, luxuriating in the cool mahogany of my desk pressed against my brow and said to myself, “I just can’t do both anymore.” And then, the phone resumed its ceaseless ringing.
It was at that point that I seriously considered making a living out of my very expensive hobby, realizing that I could do either my lawyer job or The Korean Vegan. Not both. For the next several months, I experimented with monetizing The Korean Vegan–I began providing content for brands I’d always loved (like JUST Egg), put together live cooking demonstrations that sold out in a couple days, and even agreed to speaking engagements about my stories and career. Within six months, I felt moderately confident that even if I couldn’t make as much money as I did as a Big Law lawyer, I could make enough to pay my rent, internet bill, and doenjang (the building blocks of any good life).
As the needle inched closer to “Almost-Probably-Very-Likely,” a veritable avalanche of support threatened to smother me. Many of my close friends, my colleagues, my lit agent, my publisher, and even my favorite podcaster on the planet told me that The Korean Vegan was as sure a bet as could possibly exist and that I’d be nuts not to go for it. But even so… If someone asked me, “Are you ready?” In all honesty, I would have answered…
On the Lakefront Path.
But what was once a passing fancy or a fun “oh, wouldn’t it be nice?” thought was now a full-blown obsession. I was thinking about my future all the time and while it was exciting to some degree, mostly, it was very stressful. The constant vacillation was wearing me down to a nub. I just wanted to decide, one way or another, and stick with it.
I was on a long run on Chicago’s lakefront path and, not surprisingly, my thoughts once again turned to the Big Dilemma. I decided to play this game where I answered the question “What’s the worst that can happen?” with the most brutally, mind-numbing worst case scenario I could realistically imagine.
“I would lose all my money, including my 401k, and file for bankruptcy. My parents would disown me, my family would be too embarrassed to be seen with me, I would lose all my friends, and the stress of it all would cause so much fighting between myself and Anthony, we’d get a divorce. So, basically, I would be living in an empty studio apartment with a box for a table, eating out of a can, all by my freaking self, possibly without electricity.”
I’m very good at coming up with worst case scenarios–I suppose that’s one of the reasons I excelled at lawyering. But for whatever reason, my brain didn’t turn and run away from the imaginary future I’d created with such disturbing clarity. It was true that I couldn’t possibly know what lay in front of a decision to pursue a dream career at the ripe age of 42, and therefore, I could never adequately prepare for all the hurdles that would inevitably crop up along the way. It was equally true that I was indecisive to a fault, that opportunity could fritter away in “I don’t know” land for over a decade, while I waited for the kind of guarantee that simply didn’t exist. Despite all the things I didn’t know, I landed squarely upon something I knew beyond any doubt:
Even if taking a risk led me right over a cliff, I’d eventually land on my feet.
You see, it turns out that I’d been thinking about it all wrong. When I asked myself “are you ready,” of course I couldn’t possibly be prepared to handle all manner of adversity that might occur should I do a complete 180 on my career. But readiness isn’t really about whether you’re able to make the right call at every turn, ace every test, succeed, succeed, succeed.
It’s ok if it takes months, years, even decades. But once you know that you’ll be ok, even if the worst happens, there’s only one answer that’ll remain to the question,
ARE YOU READY?
Last week, Nemanja Golubović and I discussed the dreaded question, “are you ready?” In line with that conversation, I wanted to tackle this question by Sky, who’s struggling to find some special “talent” that will get her ready to dive into the extraordinary.
Did you know that despite creating 2,100 pieces of art, it is believed that Vincent Van Gogh sold only one before he died? During his lifetime, his post-impressionist aesthetic ….
For my response, tune in to this week’s podcast!
This Week’s Recipe Inspo.
When I was 10 years old, my doctor told me I was eating too many French Fries. I kind of hated him for that. Luckily, baked fries are nearly as good as the fried variety, but obviate the need for so much oil. Here’s my recipe for one of my all time favorite comfort foods!
Simple and Easy Garlicky Baked Fries
4 medium Yukon golden potatoes (does NOT work as well with russet potatoes)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
- Preheat your oven to 475° F.
- Thoroughly wash the potatoes (with the skin on), taking care to remove any “eyes.”
- Cut the potatoes into 1-inch thick wedges. Place them in a pot of water until they are completely submerged, over high heat. Allow the water to come to a boil and cook for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, until a knife easily pierces one of the wedges.
- While the potatoes are cooking, add the extra virgin olive to a small sauce pot, together with the garlic, over medium heat. Cook until the edges of the garlic clove begin to toast (about 4 to 5 minutes). Remove from heat, fish out the garlic clove, and set aside.
- When the potatoes are done cooking, drain them completely and place them back in the large pot. Add the garlic infused oil to the pot, place the lid back on, and shake the pot like your life depends on it (this is a non-negotiable step!).
- Spread the potato wedges onto a baking sheet (no need for parchment paper or foil!). Make sure not to crowd the sheet (use two sheets if necessary). Place them in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until the wedges easily come off the sheet (if they stick, cook for an additional 2 minutes until they come off). Flip and return them to the oven for an additional 5 minutes, until both sides are evenly browned.
- While the potatoes are in the oven, mince up that clove of garlic you cooked in the oil (if you thought I would let you throw that away, think again).
- Dump all the potatoes into a steel bowl (glass, plastic, or other bowls will cause them to steam, so if you don’t have a steel bowl, just leave them on the baking sheets). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic, and toss.
Want instant access to thousands of plant-based recipes like this one? Check out The Korean Vegan Kollective, a downloadable web-app that unlocks:
- 2,000+ delicious and personalized plant-based recipes
- complete nutritional information for every recipe
- integrated grocery shopping lists and grocery delivery in select areas
- access to one-on-one food coaching
- live cooking demonstrations
- exclusive articles and videos from me and my team
- What I’m Watching. This week, Anthony and I finished off the entire season of The Law According to Lidia Poet. It’s only 6 episodes long and each episode is only 45 minutes, so it was a pretty easy lift. The show is in Italian (Anthony tried to watch without reading the subtitles–I cannot do that for Korean dramas!), beautifully shot, and fairly well-written. Overall, we enjoyed it immensely, and you should definitely give it a shot!
- Lincoln, Nebraska. In case you missed it, I gave a presentation in Lincoln, Nebraska earlier this month and it was terrifically fun. Not only did I get to hang with people half my age (even younger!) to discuss careers, vegan food, and what it’s like being a woman in law, we got to try almost every vegan restaurant in town! We’ll be posting an update from our trip, along with all the vegan places to eat in both Lincoln, as well as other cities we visit on our travels in The Korean Vegan Kollective!
- What I’m Listening To. A couple years ago, I did this FANTASTIC podcast with Ed Levine (founder of Serious Eats). It’s recently re-aired as a “Redux” and it’s still so good. If you missed it, make sure to check it out!
- What I’m Eating. Anthony was invited by the CEO of a new vegan cheese company to a launch party last week and I went as his +1. Climax Bio is poised to take the world by storm with its entirely plant-based cheeses and I am HERE FOR IT! They were the sweetheart of Expo West this past week and it’s no wonder–their cheese is THE REAL DEAL!! Keep an eye on them because everything I tasted of theirs was INCREDIBLE!
That’s a wrap folks!! Until next week, have a lovely day!