My older brother is a damn fine chef...
I still remember the first job he got in a little Italian eatery over 25 years ago. It's amazing to think back on his trajectory in his career. I decided to do that here, and there are some valuable lessons to take away, no matter your profession.
My brother got his first job when he was 16, if I remember correctly, and he took it seriously. He was on time and he stayed until the job was done. I've never known my brother to not have a job since that time. He earned his own money, and made his own way. We came from humble means, but he found a way through hard work.
Always be learning.
My brother studied food. He saved money and ate at good restaurants in his free time. He bought food related magazine subscriptions. He studied those he worked under, and instead of chasing money in choosing where to work next, he always sought to work with the best people he could find.
Be present, not just there.
I always remember him being on time for work, which meant he was always early. He rarely called in sick. I can't even remember specific times that he did. But more importantly, he was there, where he was at. He wasn't dreaming of the next job, or the next horizon. He was always present, giving 100% of himself in the environment in which he presently could be found. He wasn't someone you could describe as a day dreamer. There is nothing wrong with daydreaming, unless it keeps you from taking advantage of the opportunities right in front of you. My brother wasn't perfect, but he was there.
it's not about your pedigree but your passion.
My brother had no formal training that you might expect of someone at his level of skill. He didn't go to culinary school. He life was his culinary school. He was incredibly focused, like I never was, on one thing: cooking. He breathed, slept and ate (pun intended) cooking. It was his world, his life. Sure, he had other hobbies, but he never lost focus. He didn't try to do everything in life, he chose one thing and gave it all he had. Because of that, his ability was comparable to anyone coming out of the finest culinary school. He didn't let his background or pedigree define him, he carved a way out of passion, hard work and dedication.
Show up. So much in life is just showing up. My brother was always more responsible than me and more organized, and it paid off. Day in and day out for as long as I've known him he's "showed up" to do the job. Sure, he complained sometimes, but he was there grinding it out with the rest of the crew. He had crap days (who doesn't?) but he didn't let his feelings muddy his dedication. He was there no matter how he felt. Passion is fickle, and that's when commitment sustains us and keeps us moving forward. He has always been a great embodiment of that concept.
be fiercely loyal to those around you
Like most of us, my brother doesn't get along with everyone. But if you work with him, he's always got your back, in the kitchen and outside of it. He was always quick to tell others that they did a good job after a challenging or rough night of service. He learned to be a team, and the kitchen he worked in was his community. We all need a community. Especially us creatives who are prone to isolate.
The moral of the story...
I could have achieved a lot of my goals in life quicker and with less heartache if I had paid more attention to my big brother when I was growing up. Sadly, most of these lessons I've only learned now, in hindsight. But such is life when you're the youngest, and you think you know everything. I learned a lot of things the hard way, but I didn't have to do that.
So, it would be wise to take a step back every once in a while, and recognize the others who've been in your life, and reflect on the influence they have made. We all are standing on the shoulders of giants, big brothers among them. But whether you have an older brother or not, learn to pay attention to those who've gone before. They have a lot to teach us.
Don't try to get to where you're going on your own. Seek out mentors who you respect. And listen.