When we take on too much good work our time and attention gets distracted from our great work. This busyness trap distracts us from taking responsibility to choose work that matters. Great work is work that has meaning. It’s work that has impact. It’s work that stretches you. It’s work that makes a difference.
One example of a leader who lived a life pursuing his great work is Steve Jobs. He live his life on his passion, learning how to express and live his great work, even if it challenged people along the way. You cannot live a life that matters if you’re worried what others think of you. To live a life of meaning requires that you live your life doing what matters. Everything else is of secondary concern.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, June 2005
The secret is not to settle. But, this is exactly what we do! We settle. We settle too easily. We settle into our stable, but boring job. We settle into familiar patterns and routines that fail to challenges us to do and be more. We settle into the living a pedestrian life, fulfilling someone else’s dream, vision and purpose.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, June 2005
In the day-to-day pressures of life it’s easy to get distracted, to miss your passion, to overlook your purpose and end up living someone else’s life. We often don’t think about the sacrifice we’re making when we live our life striving to meet the expectations of others, whilst we miss our own purpose and passion. It easier to purse what others deem to be necessary. As opposed to the courage it takes to pursue your own great work. But, this is the essence of effective leadership that passion and conviction to accomplish your great work.
As leaders, it’s our responsibility to focus on work that matters. That is work with greater impact. A focus on better quality work allows us to work less, accomplish more and have greater impact.
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, June 2005
Finding your great work provides the context and the focus against which all work and effort is assessed. Clarity concerning your great work keeps you focused on what matters. Great work is your true north. It’s the focus on your great work, the few things that really matter that sets apart the great leader from the good leader.
The commitment to great work is a choice we all face. To live a life of meaning demands we choose great work, rather than merely good work. It demands courage, but it’s what makes the journey worthwhile. It’s the difference between living a pedestrian and a life of meaning.
Have you made yours? Or have you settled? Are you clear on your great work?
Take some time and consider the following:
- How much time do you spend doing your great work?
- How much time do you want to spending doing your great work?
- How could you make that happen?
- What should you stop doing?