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/ Source: TODAY
By Sarah Epstein

Celebrity chef Ina Garten has an established and well-respected career now, but she took the long route on her way to getting there.

The author and star of Food Network's "Barefoot Contessa" actually started out working in the White House — and she wasn't in the kitchen.

Ina Garten
Ina Garten / Getty Images file

She told Motto, a website from the editors of Time magazine, last week, "When you're in your 20s, you feel like you need to have goals and that there are so many other things you should be doing."

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She felt the pressure herself while working on "nuclear energy policy and management and budget" in the White House, but eventually decided to buy her specialty-food store, Barefoot Contessa, and leave her job.

"The more I've grown my business and my career," she said, "the more I've come to believe that goals aren't always helpful — at least not for me."

Ina Garten
Ina Garten last JuneGetty Images file

Garten said, "I think if you set goals, you keep yourself from really interesting sidetracks."

She went on to say that had she stuck to her original career and life goals, she'd have gone into the real estate business, eventually. Instead, she chose to follow her passion for cooking.

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That leap of faith brought Garten to her store, which she eventually sold. She decided to write a cookbook while figuring out her next move.

Garten has now written nine successful cookbooks.

So for all women in their 20s, Garten offered some advice: "Complicate your professional life but not your personal life."

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She said that you need stability in your personal life if you want a fulfilling career. "Having that stability has really helped me be someone who jumps in the pond instead of standing on the side of it, endlessly discussing what it would feel like to jump in."

It's those times that I've jumped in even though I was really scared that I've done the things that were ultimately the most interesting."