My name is James Augustine, and I am a 21-year-old executive chef and co-owner of two restaurants in San Diego, California.
On my social media, I document the entire process and experience of operating and scaling these two restaurants.
I also share my deepest and most intimate thoughts, a firsthand experience of my life, and a direct encounter with my mind.
I was born in Dallas, Texas, on May 29th, 2000.
Growing up, I remember feeling different than everyone else.
I was a very independent child, always by myself thinking, curiously trying to find the explanations for things around me.
I never had a real interest in School, and my grades reflected that. When I reached the middle of the 8th grade, I began applying for highschools.
While everyone else started getting their acceptance letters, mine never seemed to show up. I ended up receiving not even a single acceptance letter from any of my high school choices.
I had no options, so my parents decided to move our family to San Diego, California, where I would attend Torrey Pines High School.
Leaving all of my friends behind and starting over was both mentally difficult and extremely lonely. I remember some weekends of complete isolation where all I was left with were my own thoughts.
But I always remained curious, and my dreams of success motivated me to pursue multiple entrepreneurial endeavors.
Beginning in freshman year, I launched a clothing company called LA Streetwear. I spent my free time designing clothes and then selling them at school and online.
After 8 months, I lost interest, and I decided to change directions.
I then started an online fitness company where I helped the people around me achieve their health and fitness goals. It also lost my interest, and I once again wanted to change directions. But at this point, I ran out of ideas.
I was 16, driven, and lost.
My parents owned a restaurant in Del Mar called Beesalt Balcony. I thought it would be a good idea to start working there as a dishwasher to make some money while I was figuring out a plan.
That summer, I took a vacation back to my hometown Dallas. During the trip, I had a conversation with one of my friend's mom who was a relational therapist.
During our conversation, she asked me a question that would end up changing my life.
She asked me: "James, where are your thoughts coming from?" I was so confused. I responded: "where are my thoughts coming from? They're coming from me!"
She began to explain how the mind contains different subpersonalities. Each subpersonality contains a different motivation and corresponding behavior. Although I didn't completely understand what she meant, I was instantly intrigued.
After our conversation, I was relentless to gather more information. She recommended a book called The Road Less Traveled by Dr. Scott M. Peck.
I bought it, and I devoured it.
Things that I had never been aware of suddenly challenged my beliefs and completely transformed my way of thinking.
All behavior has a motivation...so what is mine? Why do I do what I do? Why do I say what I say?
I started to interpret everything around me with this perspective and I dove headfirst into the profound world of analytical psychology.
As I continued to learn and expanded my knowledge, I began to analyze the underlying motivation behind my behavior at work.
Why did I want to leave work early? Why was I just doing a decent job? Why did I keep making such lazy choices? Every action I analyzed, I gained more information about myself and other people and why they do what they do.
My understanding of the world began to materialize as I gained insight into its underlying motivational systems, into why certain people do certain things.
Although the world around me became clearer, my life still felt empty.
So, I began to search for answers. One night, I watched a psychological lecture given by Jordan Peterson where he said: 'the only thing that provides a meaningful life is by being truthful and responsible, by aiming at the highest possible good.'
I didn't have any better ideas, so I decided to give it a try.
I completely reoriented myself and analyzed everything I did with his framework: is what I am doing truthful? Is it responsible? Is it aimed at the highest possible good? If the answer was no, I got rid of it.
The result was an exponential explosion of work ethic, determination, and an absolute relentlessness to push myself to my limit. I went from dishwasher to salads, to line cook, to executive chef, and finally to chef-owner in 8 months.
I spent the next year working 60 hours a week while simultaneously attending high school.
The more I improved, the more I realized that there was a me acting in the present, and there was a future me that was directly created by those actions.
I knew that to create the best possible future for myself, I would need to first define what that future is and then design a daily routine that would lead me there.
So I did just that: I sat down one night after work and wrote down exactly where I wanted to be in the future. I took all of the information I had learned through personal experience and psychology and created my master plan.
Where do I want to be, and how do I need to design my daily routine to get me there?
I wrote down every major aspect of life I could think of: work, relationships, health, hobbies, and spirituality. I then asked myself where I wanted my future self to be in all those aspects.
What do I want to do with my life?
What kind of relationships do I want with my spouse, family, and friends?
How will I keep my body strong and my mind sharp?
How do I want to spend my free time?
How will I connect with something larger than myself?
As soon as I realigned my aims, and began to move towards my goals, the meaning in my life came flooding in.
The only thing to do now was to push myself to my absolute limit.
I knew that over the past year, I had been exceedingly successful as a chef-owner. So I made a goal to master my craft, open my own restaurants by 20 years old, and document the whole process in order to share my story and passion with the world.
Around the same time I made my commitment, the Del Mar Highlands owners had dinner at Beesalt Balcony and tasted my menu. They fell in love with it and asked us if we wanted to open two restaurants in the new SkyDeck food collection opening in the Del Mar Highlands.
At 19, confident and determined, I said yes.
That night, I broke down the entire restaurant industry and reimagined it from the ground up. I approached it exactly how I approached my life: by writing down every major aspect and reorienting each one towards perfection.
As I was creating both restaurants' concepts, highschool quickly shifted from a tolerable annoyance into a total hindrance. I knew I needed more time to accomplish my goals and build my future.
The next day, I dropped out of high school and never looked back.
The first restaurant, opening on February 10th, 2021, is called ‘J.’ It is a upscale New American restaurant that integrates my personal beliefs on life to create a reimagined dining experience, a restaurant where familiar flavors are transformed by modernist techniques to create something extraordinary.
The second restaurant, opening exclusively on November 20th, 2020, is called ‘Zizikis Street Food.’ It is a fast-casual concept that combines over three generations of passed down family recipes and techniques to create a truly chef-driven fast-casual experience.
I am now determined to document my process of opening, operating, and scaling both of these restaurants as well as share my story and beliefs to inspire others to take responsibility for their lives, find their purpose, and regain their meaning.
There is an indescribable feeling that comes from moving forward in the world, a combination of awe, serenity, confidence, and empowerment, a feeling that should be shared by everyone.
From my experience, there is only one way to get there, only one way to escape the aimless impulses that drain the meaning from your life: by completely reorienting your life around your highest aims and then creating a daily routine to get you there.
Whether you want to consciously believe it or not, all behavior has an underlying motivation. And in life, if you're going to become something great, it is necessary to know what you’re doing and where you’re going.
Ignorance is bliss until you realize that it's too late to live twice.