What it Takes to Do Work That Matters



Yesterday on Twitter I asked folks what challenges they face when it comes to doing meaningful work.

These are some of the answers I got back:

Fear that I’m too late.
Fear that my work won’t be good enough.
Fear that my work will be rejected.
Fear of unworthiness.
Giving in to distractions to escape / pacify the fear.
Finding something that I feel is meaningful to work on.
Stuck in meetings, leaving no time to do any meaningful work.
Having to put out fires and check inboxes, leaving no time or energy to do meaningful work.
Am I even capable or equipped to do meaningful work? If it’s out there, do I even recognize it?
Moving too fast; rushing into projects and ideas.
Holding back; afraid of success and the necessary changes it would bring.
Lack of financial resources. Having to spend time doing non-important work in order to pay the bills.
Spending too much time doing meaningless, trivial stuff.
Frustrated by my capacity. I could and should be doing more, and the days feel as if they slip away.
I’m overcommitted.
There are so many distractions. I have a hard time keeping focused.
Fear that those I look up to won’t respect the work I do.
Getting others around me to be motivated and make change.

The fight to stay creative is real.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes that “any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity”, or, “any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower” is sure to elicit resistance.

Resistance comes in all shapes and sizes: Fear, distractions, diversions, interruptions, procrastination, hesitancy, shame, lethargy, doubt, et al.

In my experience, the greatest challenges to doing work that matters are these:

  1. Lack of clarity: Do you even know what meaningful, important work looks like and how to do it?
  2. Not thirsty enough: Not willing and eager to learn, grow, evaluate, try new things, and take risks.
  3. Fear: In all shapes and sizes, as listed above.
  4. Distractions (and diversions): which are both internal and external.
  5. Inconsistency: not willing to show up every day.

Therefore, if you want to do work that matters, this is what you need:

  1. Clarity
  2. Thirst
  3. Grit

Where grit is tenacity. Work ethic. Stubbornness. It’s the willingness to press through your fear, overcome the your distractions, and show up every day even when it’s hard.

If you’re reading this, you’re thirsty. You’ve got grit, too. Probably more than you think.

But do you have clarity? Do you know what your meaningful, important work looks like? And if so, do you know what you need to do to make it happen?

Clarity is at the foundation of meaningful work and meaningful productivity. We need clarity about who we are, our values, our vision for life, what’s important, and what we can do every day to stay steady in our aim of doing our best creative work.

If you know what you want (clarity) and you’re motivated to go after it (thirst), then oftentimes the grit takes care of itself. Fear is less likely to hold you back. Distractions suddenly aren’t so distracting.

* * *

You are capable of doing work that matters. We all have fears. We all have opportunities for distractions and diversions. We all have to choose to show up every day. You won’t find someone doing meaningful work for the long haul who doesn’t have at least some measure each of clarity, thirst, and grit.

What is a challenge you’re facing regarding doing meaningful work?
I’d love to hear from you: email or Twitter.









P.S. As you may know, I’m building a guided, online course about doing our best creative work and living a focused life. The Focus Course solves the very issues I’ve written about in this post. Well, mostly. While I can help you with clarity and grit, thirst, I’m afraid, is all up to you.

The Course is on track to launch in the late June! This week we are recording the 20 videos that will be part of the course (see below). The end is in sight and I am so excited to share this with you!

A few days ago I got an email from Ross Kimes who was a member of the Pilot course. He wrote to tell me about how the Pilot version Focus Course helped him, and with his permission I’ve shared it here for you.