How to know if you're Doing the Right Work

Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and wished you had the kind of success they have?  Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance get their ‘big break’ and thought, “why not me?”  I’d like to offer one reason why it may not be you... yet.  

There are two things to know about successful people.  The first is that they didn’t ‘catch a break’ out of thin air.  Most likely, they worked their ass off for years in pursuit of their goals.  So when the big break came by, they were more than ready to take advantage of every aspect of that opportunity.  This isn’t a profound truth.  You probably already knew that.  I’ve written about ‘doing the work’ several times.  But the second is just as important.  It’s the ‘why’ behind the work they do.  The motivating factor, if you will.  I’d like address that factor by asking some questions.

Why do you do the work?  Why do you create?  Why do you write, or paint, or teach, or play music, or whatever it is that you do?  Do you do it to make the world a better place?  Or do you do it so that you will be successful? 

There’s nothing wrong with being successful or even wanting to be successful.  But the work that makes up true success inherently helps people.  It’s written in its DNA.  Some people consider themselves successful because they’ve had 15 minutes of fame.  They got lucky somewhere.  That doesn’t mean that they’re successful… unless of course, their life ambition is the tiniest window of fame.

Your work should solve problems for people.  Here's a simple equation for success with your work.  Think about your purpose for being on the planet.  Now, how can you use your purpose to solve people’s problems?

If you are more concerned with getting a break than you are with doing work that matters to people, you have the wrong priority.  If you are more focused on ‘making it’ than you are on adding value to people’s lives with your work, you have the wrong motivation.  If you are more concerned with getting attention for the work you do than actually creating work that has a deep and meaningful impact on people, then you have it backwards. 

The truth is, with these misaligned priorities, you will never succeed to the extent you would if you focused on creating quality work that improves the lives of your audience.  It doesn’t matter if your audience is a spouse, a friend, or 80,000 strangers.  And if you do ‘catch a break’, you won’t be positioned to take full advantage of it because the selfish nature and low quality of your work becomes evident sooner or later.

The truth is, passion for making an impact and contributing to people’s lives will lead you further down the road of success than passion for success itself.

If you are focusing more on getting a break than on making work that changes people’s lives, you will always be wondering why someone else is having so much success.  The truth is that they are doing work that matters.   Work that addresses people’s problems and empowers them to move forward resonates in a way that creates more than a little ‘buzz’.

So if you have been doing the work for awhile and are wondering why no one is really paying attention, ask yourself this important question...  does my work make a difference in people’s lives?  If so, why?  If it doesn’t, or if you haven't asked, then now is the time to figure out what kind of work you feel you were born to do that raises the quality of other people’s lives.   It’s the difference between ‘doing the work’ and ‘doing the right work’.  It’s also the difference between being busy and being fulfilled.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” – Napolean Hill

“The highest reward that God gives us for good work is the ability to do better work.” – Elbert Hubbard