When it comes to our work, we can be the star if we want.
If it’s remarkable work that we’re after, being the star is also something we’d be better off to let go.
That belongs to those we seek to serve.
They won’t demand it from us. They’ll simply go elsewhere, choose otherwise, connect another way. We make them the star, we give them the spotlight. And because trust is something that is earned over time, and can be lost in an instant, we don’t do it once. It’s the way we show up every day.
On purpose. With intent. Seeking to generously serve. Drip, by drip, by drip….
Take for instance our friend - the consultant - who pitches a small business owner on a small budget proposal because he intends to be respectful and work inside of what he imagines are the owner’s financial means. Our consultant friend means so well. Which is why it makes it all the more surprising for him if the owner decides to go with the much more expensive pitch. Yet it happens all the time.
When our consultant friend thought he was thinking of the owner, he was actually thinking for the owner. He assumed that the owner would care the most about price, but it turns out the owner probably cared about other priorities more. That’s why he want with the pricier pitch.
Our friend forgot empathy.
Intent matters; and positive intent makes a powerful difference. There’s still more to the picture. Empathy would’ve helped our friend take the time to walk in the owner’s shoes, investigate the owner’s hopes and dreams for the business with curiosity, and then seek to see how he might serve his new client in the midst of that. It would’ve changed his whole direction.
Empathy helps us find a place to stand together. Once there, our consultant friend would see much better the pitch that matches his client’s hopes, fears, and dreams.
Begin with empathy. Then commit to the work of showing up each day to build a match.
It seems that our culture has almost conditioned us to believe the path to fulfillment in our work is to do the thing that we want to do.
Which makes it all the more discouraging when it so often doesn’t work out that way for us.
Perhaps you are one of the fortunate ones who fell into doing exactly the thing that you wanted to do all along. What a gift. For the rest of us, a more reliable path to fulfilling work is to seek out something you have to give that solves a need in the world.
Is it possible that loving our work has less to do with getting what we want, and more to do with focusing on how we give?
From an early age we understand how to jump. If not literally, then certainly figuratively. Following the rules, meeting expectations, fitting in; they’re all forms of figurative jumping.
Societal norms train us from a very early age in the practice of jumping. And with so much training under our belt, it’s quite easy and comfortable as we grow to carry on jumping through life everywhere we go. Yes, by all means jump high, just as long as it’s not so high or so far as to stand out in any noticeable way.
Most people go to sleep at night with their best work inside them. It’s hard to put your best into the world when you’re constantly concerned about coloring inside the lines — a symptom of our natural default toward jumping on full display. Some of us see a different way, one where we go to sleep with our best work out in the world — leaping.
Leaping is available to all of us; provided we’re willing to show up on purpose with generosity, care, and intent.
The thing about leaping with our work — much like the literal version — is it’s unnatural. It stands out. It’s different. And, especially because we do it on the edges, can be quite uncertain. Gone are the lines that tell us where to color, and the numbers that tell us what color to use. The choice is ours.
Freedom. It’s simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. This is the dance with leaping — it’s both. The fear isn’t gone for those of us who leap. We simply decide to do the work that matters anyway.
The fear creates an opportunity for those of us brave enough to dance with it. We can leap first, and in doing so, show others the way. We can turn the lights on, helping those who can’t yet see a path to getting their best work out into the world.
No qualifications required — merely the willingness to show up and spread your best into the world instead of falling asleep with it still inside.