How to Do Great Work

Aug 16, 2010
4 Min Read

Michael Bungay Stanier recently got me thinking about the concept of great work.

An Eye-Opening Story

2007 was a really rough year for me.  I had a trio of horrible events occur in my personal life, and my faith was really tested.  One day, I went to speak at a Fortune 500 insurance company on the east coast.  After I answered all of the questions and signed some books, I got ready to pack up.  There was one young professional left in the room, sitting shyly in the corner.   I asked her if she had a question, and she said that she had been trying to get up the nerve to come and talk to me, but it was hard for her to approach strangers (especially someone in a position of authority) because she was an introvert.

I told her I understood because I’m an introvert too and that even though I’ve done hundreds of speeches, I still got very nervous getting up in front of a group.  She was surprised at this, and then was able to tell me that the on the job emotional management tactics I recommended in my talk were possibly going to save her from getting fired.  She’d been in a tailspin of negative interactions with her boss and wasn’t sure how to stop the cycle, and now she had a clear action plan.

I’m not going to lie, with everything going on in my life at the time, I hadn’t wanted to do a speech that day.  I felt beaten down and just didn’t want to deal with it.  But this comment made it all worthwhile.  It was like the universe was speaking to me and telling me I was on the right path.  I had helped this one young professional, and that was great work to me.

More Thoughts on Great Work

  • Great work doesn’t always involve getting paid.  Sometimes you will have to have another “good work” job to support your pursuit of great work.
  • Doing great work doesn’t necessarily mean changing your career.  In many cases, you can sufficiently stretch your wings right where you are.  Be creative.
  • Even great work won’t be perfect and 100 percent satisfying at every moment.  That’s why it’s called work.
  • It takes a lot of emotional energy to pursue great work, and there will be various times in your life that are better suited to this.
  • Don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel.  Look to others who have been successful on a similar path before you.  Seek their input and take their advice.

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