Let Your Dream Job Evolve
New York, New York
To this day, the best job I ever had was working the grill at my parents' country club in New Jersey when I was 15 years old. I made $275 a week in cash and got to work in a pair of cutoffs.
But your idea of a dream job changes over time. When I was 22, I wanted to run a top restaurant in New York, and I achieved that with Gramercy Tavern when I was in my early thirties. At that point, you can open more restaurants, or you can just take it easy. If I still just had Gramercy Tavern, I'd probably only show up to work at 5 o'clock three days a week, but I realized I wanted more.
You can't be a chef forever. It takes too much out of you. Thomas Keller, who runs the French Laundry and is probably the best chef in America, spends a tremendous amount of time in the kitchen. At the end of the day, he can barely stand up. It used to be the same for me. I can't and don't want to do that anymore. I don't spend nearly as much time with my 11-year-old boy as I want. I want to play my guitar two hours a day. If I couldn't do those things, I'd be very difficult to work with.
My company is now my dream job. The cooking first attracted me, but now I love the business end of it, too. It's not only about creativity in the kitchen but also how to deal creatively with some of the business issues. The guy running our new lunch spot 'wichcraft has worked with me for nine years. He had a passion for sandwiches. I helped him design the shop, create the menu, and now we're rolling it out across the country. That's every bit as fun as seeing these young guys come up and do some great work in the kitchen.
Tom Colicchio, 41, owns six restaurants, including his flagship Craft, in New York and Las Vegas, and is the author of two cookbooks.
Connect to Your Passion
Executive vice president, business
Major League Baseball
New York, New York
I was the captain of my college baseball team, but I knew I didn't have what it takes to play in the majors. At some point, I decided I wasn't going to be embarrassed about telling people what I wanted to do, which was to work in baseball. I got a lot of snide remarks, but I eventually met a guy whose brother-in-law was the Yankees' general counsel. That led to a meeting with the deputy commissioner. He asked, "What do you think you could do for us?" And I said, "I'll scrub toilets if you'll give me a job. I think I can prove myself once I get in." I was hired in 1991 to head international business affairs and have been in baseball ever since.
The business of baseball is all about connecting to people's passion for the game. I have to be acutely aware of my own baseball passion, because we have to figure out what is lovable about our product and constantly manipulate it to keep it that way. Understanding everything that needs to be dealt with to put the game on the field — to create that pristine, nine-versus-nine, summer-night, smell-of-grass, shine-of-lights experience — has made me appreciate the game even more. It's a huge entertainment business. Baseball's revenues will be north of $4.5 billion this year. I get to exist inside the game, but I also get to work in an enormously dynamic business environment.
A childhood friend of mine from the Lower East Side still calls me and tells me what's good, what's bad, what's wrong, and what's right about baseball. I can have that discussion because I still have that love for the game. The only thing I can't do is root as hard for the Yankees as he does.
Tim Brosnan, 47, is responsible for developing and negotiating Major League Baseball's corporate sponsorships and licensing. In the last year, he has closed deals with XM Satellite Radio, General Motors, and DHL.
Pursue the Creative Spirit
Head of Children's Television
The Jim Henson Co.
In college, when all the other students were making dark movies, I was saying, "Let's do a puppet television show!" I interviewed for a job with the Jim Henson Co. after graduation and was told that I was overqualified but to keep in touch. They actually meant it, though, because soon after, I was hired as a creative assistant. I was the grand note-taker, but it was exciting nonetheless. The first time I met [Muppets puppeteer] Frank Oz, I nearly fainted. The words that came out of my mouth were, "I like Grover." And he said to me, "So do I."
At the time, the company had just healed from the grief of losing Jim, when everybody picked themselves up again. As a 22-year-old just starting out, I really benefited from that creative spirit. The company was willing to nurture who I was, building my talent from within, and I worked my way up.
In 2000, a German company acquired Henson. I loved working at Henson, but I didn't love watching the company go into creative limbo, so I left. For three years, I produced shows on my own, trying to keep that Hensonesque creative dialogue going. When the Henson family took back the company in 2003, I knew it would have everything again creatively. When Jim's daughter, Lisa, called me last year to come back and head kids' TV, I gladly accepted. The staff is leaner, more focused, and very excited. My mom told me, "You are so much happier now that you're back there again." It really is more of a dream job now.
Halle Stanford, 35, is responsible for developing such children's television programming as Bear in the Big Blue House and the Dark Crystal anime series.
Those Who Do, Teach
Travel-guidebook author and TV host
I'm real thankful that I found something I love doing that works from a business point of view. When I wrote my first guidebook, I was a piano teacher with a recital hall, but gradually the hall became used more for travel lectures than for piano recitals.
When I'm in Europe, I'm breathing straight oxygen, I'm 10 years younger, I'm bolting out of bed in the morning, making new friends, learning new things, putting the puzzle together, coming home, and making a lot of money. It's pretty cool.
Lately, I have so much to update that I spend less time out there looking for new stuff, which is frustrating. But it's just a reality that I can only do so much, and I'm more committed to making sure my existing material is accurate than finding new stuff. In the old days, I would lead tours all summer long, five three-week tours in a row. Now we do 300 tours a year, and I have 80 guides who work for me, so I lead tours mainly through my books, which are a kind of blueprint, and TV shows.
Even though I don't get to explore as much anymore, the joy and reward in my work have always been about teaching. I just love helping people travel better. I'm a teacher with eager students. People come to me because they're excited about their upcoming trip, and the idea that they can learn from my mistakes and travel better is very exciting to me. People rely so closely on the books for their trips that they're on a first-name basis with me. I'm their travel partner in their pocket. I've got enough money. I measure profits by how many trips I positively affect.
Rick Steves, 50, wrote and self-published his first guidebook, Europe Through the Back Door, in 1980. His company now publishes 30 guidebooks, hosts guided tours through Europe, and produces a PBS travel series, Rick Steves' Europe.
A version of this article appeared in the July 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.