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Spend Your Best Words Today

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Great Work (part 3 of 3)

Photo credit: DTL from morguefile.com

This is the final post in a short series on great work.

To be honest, I originally wrote a short book’s worth of content on this topic.

But right before I hit publish, I decided to scrap everything and get to the heart of what I wanted to say: what great work means at the most fundamental level.

Great work is all about impact. 

And sometimes, the best way to make an impact is with fewer words.

In the follow up post, I wanted to dive deeper into this concept of impact – why do some things impact us so powerfully and others don’t? 

Love it or hate it, the messages, people, and things we remember are those that draw the line, that take a stand, that never compromise.

Easily said. 

Not easily done.

In this final post in the series, I want to talk about a common misunderstanding of great work – the biggest mistake we make in life, actually – and leave you with a final thought on how to create your own great work – this instant if you want.

But first, the misunderstanding…

The Biggest Mistake We Make…

Is confusing doing great work with getting RECOGNIZED for the great work we do.

These are not the same.

When we set out to do great work, we put our heads down and create.  Every now and then we share what we produce: 99% creation, 1% selling.

When we set out to get recognized, we stop creating and start plugging: 1% creation, 99% selling.

As long as we’re doing great work (truly great work), there’s no time to worry about recognition.  It may come, it may not.  That’s not for you to decide, nor for your great work to dictate.

But isn’t there some way to bridge the gap?  Isn’t it possible to create great work that WILL get recognized?  Surely, there must be a secret formula out there…

There isn’t one.

There is no 100% guaranteed 10-step model for creating great work that gets recognized.  It doesn’t exist.

And anyone who says otherwise is probably selling you something.

The truth is there is no secret formula because it’s not a secret and you already know the formula.  You’ve known it your entire life, in fact.

It’s just hard to admit you know the formula because once you do it changes everything.

Owning Action / Reaction

So why isn’t it possible to guarantee your work will be recognized?


You don’t own the reaction to your work. 

You can’t control the crowd’s opinion.  You can’t dictate the feedback of the audience.  You can’t determine the response of the client.

These aren’t for you to control – and trying to force it is either malicious or naïve.  In either case, it detracts from your great work.

The reaction shouldn’t concern you because it doesn’t concern you.

You don’t own the reaction to you work, but you do own something much more important:

You own the actions that create your work.

You control the words you put down on paper; you dictate the effort you put into your art; you determine the love, generosity and humility with which you embrace each day and every person you meet.

Your actions are for you to control.

And your actions SHOULD concern you.

The Best Words

In all these empty plans / The ink stains on my hands.

And everyone saves / The best words for the grave.

Are these weary morning tones / I’ll probably save mine too.

[The Airborne Toxic Event]

In every minute of every day is the opportunity to put your mind, body and spirit into doing something worthwhile.

Every action is an opportunity to do something bold.

In every passing moment is the opportunity to change everything.

Want to do great work?

Serve the people closest to you, regardless of their rank, title or following.  Put it all on the line for those who need you most, not those you think you need to impress.  Speak to those who want to hear from you – ignore the rest.

This is generosity. It doesn’t scale.  And it’s what really counts, regardless of applause.

The recognition you think you want?  It doesn’t matter nearly as much.

Stop saving your best words.

Spend them today on the people who count.

Would love to hear your thoughts…leave a comment below!

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  • Hell Yeah Tom!

    I think the biggest thing to overcome is the fear. When you’re trying to do something that matters, there’s always the lizard brain effect. But maybe if we aren’t afraid to hit publish then it’s not truly great?

  • I love the “you don’t own the reaction to your words”.

    If your words mean something to you and you are authentically sharing them people will listen. A lesson I have recently learned. We can never control what happens when we push the “send button” we can only control what it is we send. That is the key. In our work and in life we need to Understand, Accept, Thrash, Chunk, Edit and delete what we want to offer the world before we hit the send button. Once it’s gone forget about it. It is now gone, out into the great wide open and like a plastic bottle in the ocean it will go where the current takes it. Just be proud of what you have sent.

    Thanks Tom.


    • Great stuff Alan – couldn’t agree more. You hit on another aspect of it I didn’t cover directly but that is absolutely essential…letting go of whatever it is that you do once you’ve shipped.

      Great stuff 🙂

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