I’ve written before about Michael Bungay Stanier and his great tips for doing Great Work. (I also interviewed him for this piece.) About a year ago, he gathered over 60 writers and thinkers to contribute to a powerful book called End Malaria: Bold Innovation, Limitless Generosity and the Opportunity to Save a Life.
(Why the strange title? A whopping $20 from each book sold goes toward ending malaria in Africa. You can learn more at EndMalariaDay.com.)
In it, you’ll find short inspiring essays with tips on pursuing your purpose, doing great work and making a positive contribution to the world.
Today, I wanted to share some of my favorite insights from the book on persevering despite self-doubt and becoming more productive — common issues entrepreneurs and many workers, in general, struggle with.
Using Your Strengths & Ditching Self-Doubt
Self-doubt is a common bedfellow for many of us — especially when it comes to pursuing our dreams. Your inner critic might say everything from You’re not that talented to Who do you think you are to do this work?
Pam Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, offers several key tips on “reclaiming your authority” when self-doubt strikes.
Slim says that our power originates not from our self-worth but from the deep belief that our work is about the people we affect with that work. (In other words, it’s not about you, it’s about them. When you make it about helping someone else, you realize that you must do this work, and it’s truly significant.) Slim views this belief as “a deep root of meaning” that serves as our anchor.
To identify that root, she suggests asking yourself: “How do I want to affect the world? Why is this important?”
It’s also key to determine your definition of success. Everyone has a different version. But you need to figure out your own. Slim suggests asking: “What are the conditions that allow me to bring out my strengths, do my best work and enjoy what I am doing while I do it? How would my life look if I designed it to fit me perfectly?”
Another tip is to bring together your crew, the people who want you to succeed and will challenge you. According to Slim, ask yourself: “Whom do I need around me to strengthen my resolve, better my game, and get my back?”
After you do all of the above, as Slim points out, one morning, you’ll inevitably wake up and forget everything. That’s why she recommends surrounding yourself with reminders that ignite your passion, such as photos, soundtracks or quotes.
And remember that: “Great work does not flow only from the most talented, the most equipped, or the most worthy. It also flows from the people who believe they have the right to do it. Why not you?”
Being Creatively Productive
Productivity is pivotal for pursuing our passionate work. Danielle LaPorte, an inspirational speaker and author of The Fire Starter Sessions, shares her insights on creative productivity.
According to LaPorte, “There is no separation between life and work.” So she suggests approaching everything in your life as a creative opportunity, whether you’re at the dinner table or at your desk.
She also suggests immersing yourself in the cultures connected to your work and passions by engaging in the following pursuits:
- reading a variety of publications
- listening to your audience’s wants and needs
- absorbing the teachings of spiritual masters and successful entrepreneurs
- creating a style file or inspiration box. LaPorte says that she always gains a new outlook after closing her eyes and reaching into her box, where she keeps everything from saved concert tickets to old business plans.
- watching documentaries. According to LaPorte, who loves this medium, “Documentaries give me all sorts of weird, tragic, and breathtaking imagery, inspiration, and facts to work with.”
- asking people you typically don’t talk to powerful questions (such as asking your friend’s teen her thoughts on the future)
- giving up quickly if the project or task “feels like a drag” but persevering when it feels exciting.
Bungay Stanier has a poster on his desk that says “Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.” That’s exactly what he’s done with his book, and I hope it inspires you to take action and pursue your passions, whatever they might be.