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9 ways to do more of what you love [Day 27 – 30 Days to Changing Your Game]


This is Day 27 of 30 Days to Changing Your Game. Yesterday Danny Brown helped us break our CRAPtastic patterns.  Today Michael Bungay Stanier is going to give us some very specific ways to do more of what we now know we love – and ways to do less of that stuff we know now we don’t love so much. Sounds great, doesn’t it?!

The Wisdom of Great Work: Nine ways to do more of what you love (and less of what you don’t)

By Michael Bungay Stanier (@boxofcrayons)

Let’s set this up.  Everything you do falls into one of three buckets.

Bad Work: the mindless, soulless, pointless work that somehow shows up and sucks us dry of life.

Good Work: the busy, efficient, useful work that takes up most of our time – important and necessary and also a comfortable rut.

Great Work: the exciting, important, engaging work that’s more meaningful to you and makes more of a difference. It’s both exciting – and scary.

Here’s the brutal truth.

You’ve got too much Good Work.

And not enough Great Work.

So how do you get to do more Great Work? Here are nine fundamental strategies inspired by others’ words of wisdom (and a useful resource or two.)


But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. ~ W. B. Yeats

You can’t do more Great Work without your dreams. They pull you forward and connect you with your longing or excitement. They shape what’s possible.

Give yourself time and space to let your dreams form. (In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to miss them.)

And when you’ve found your dreams or got a hint of what they are… hold them, protect them and nourish them. They’re easily torn, easily forgotten.

Ask yourself: What impact do I want to have in this world?

Handy resource:

Key insight: There are extraordinary dreams coming to life. Yours can too.


Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. ~ Aldous Leonard Huxley

Dreams are well and good. You need to know where you’re heading. You want to hear the call of what’s possible.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore reality.

Feel the ground under your feet before you begin your journey.  Look around you so you know where you are now and you’re clear what resources you have and what you lack.

When you know where you’re starting and where you’re heading, the path begins to form.

Ask yourself: Where am I now?

Handy resource: Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Key insight: You lose (every time) when you argue with reality.


Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. ~ Ambrose Redmoon

There are your dreams.

And then there’s reality.

You can see the gap between them, feel the difference.

So you face this moment of truth, this moment of choice.

Do you step out? Or do you back away?

Joseph Campbell tells us that in the Hero’s Journey, the hero is called to the threshold a number of times and backs away – before finally answering the call to adventure.

You’re that hero.

Ask yourself: Will I answer the call?

Handy resource: David Allen, Getting Things Done

Key insight: You can only do the next action. So what’s the next step?


Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.  Breath. ~ Japanese proverb

When uncertainty looms – stepping out towards Great Work, stepping into the daily hurly burly – we’re tugged away from our own best sense of who we are.

We lose our balance and play small.

We’re triggered and we behave in a way that’s less.

We get distracted and busy and we get diluted.

One way to back to who you are is through stillness.


Breathing, not acting for the moment, and remembering who you strive to be at your best, before you chose how to respond.

Ask yourself: If I was truly being myself, how would I want to behave here and now?

Handy resource: The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun

Key insight: When you find out who you are – turn up the volume!


I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to ~ Elvis Presley

It’s easy to think to fall for the belief you need to be an expert to do Great Work.

But it’s a vicious circle of course.

I’m not an expert therefore I can’t do Great Work therefore I don’t focus therefore I don’t become an expert.

Bring a passion. Find a need.

Show up as yourself. Start something.

And keep going.

You’ll find expertise has somehow shown up in the night.

Ask yourself: Where will I put my focus?

Handy resource: Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

Key insight: Put in the time and the expertise comes


Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You, too? Thought I was the only one. ~ C. S. Lewis

You can’t do Great Work by yourself.

You need others around you, contributing their skills, their wisdom, their love.

They hold you when you’ve fallen, they kick you in the butt when you’re flagging, they celebrate your success.

Whatever you can do by yourself, imagine if you had a small but perfect group of people around you encouraging you to go bigger and bolder, deeper and further.

Imagine just what you could do with full support.

Ask yourself: Who will I invite into the game?

Handy resource: Twitter, LinkedIn and FaceBook (and that’s just the start) have shrunk down six degrees of separation to more like three degrees, maybe two…

Key insight: Search out the best – and say hello.


To fly, we have to have resistance. ~ Maya Lin

What are your metrics for doing Great Work?

Here’s one you might not have considered.

Who’s resisting? Who’s scorning you? Who’s dismissive of your work?

It’s one of the ironies of Great Work that a measure of success is that someone feels slightly disappointed, irritated, let down, pissed off.

Because you’re saying Yes to Great Work which means you’re saying No to someone and something else.

Ask yourself: Who really matters? And who doesn’t?

Handy resource: The Great Work Movie

Key insight: If everyone’s happy, then you’re not doing Great Work.


A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. ~ Richard Bach

Did you watch ‘Finding Nemo’? (And if not, step away from the computer right now, find the DVD and give yourself a treat.)

At one stage Dory, the blue and ditzy partner of our hero, Marlin, encourages him to go on by singing (and singing and singing)

Keep swimmin’
Keep swimmin’
You’ve got to
Keep swimmin’

It’s pushing past the barriers, getting over the dip, taking the next step forward that keeps you moving towards Great Work.

Ask yourself: What’s the way through this?

Handy resource: The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

Key insight: You can show up as a professional or as an amateur – the choice is yours.


Nothing is so important that you cannot make fun of it. ~ Arthur C. Clarke

And finally… relax.

It’s too easy to spend this quest for Great Work with overly clenched buttocks and a deep sense of earnestness.

And, to be frank, it’s hard to move gracefully, fluidly with clenched buttocks.

Look for the sweet spot between determination and joy.

Between focus and laughter.

Between courage and play.

Great Work is too important to be taken seriously.

Ask yourself: How can I travel with a light step?

Handy resource: The Manifesto of Insignificance.

Key Insight: It all matters and it all doesn’t matter.


An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.
~ George Orwell

Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. His viral movies have been seen by millions of people around the world. His latest book is Do More Great Work: Stop the busywork and start the work that matters

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