Five Tips to doing things so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.
I am saddened this week by the death of the great American poet Maya Angelou and mindful of one of her many quotes that I love:
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
We delight in stories about people who – often casting caution to the wind – decide to pursue what they love and end up doing it so well that people can’t take their eyes off of them. As an example, I had the recent good fortune to meet Corin and Brian Mullins who founded Holy Crap cereal on BC’s Sunshine Coast, went on to take the CBC programme Dragon’s Den by storm and now people literally can’t take their eyes off of them, and certainly can’t stop eating their cereal. (check out www.holycrap.ca)
I am surrounded on Pender Island by people whose art is their passion and who have foregone big salaries, the luxuries of city living and even laying the foundation for a secure old age in the name of their art. I think of one friend whose commitment to producing a children’s book is so strong that we are all riveted in watching her and eager to support her in any way we can.
I think the most important part of Maya Angelou’s quote is actually that you can only become truly accomplished at something you love. That is a thought to give you pause because it implies that you will not be accomplished when you are doing something that you do not love.
And over time, what you love doing can change. When I was aged about 35-55, I can honestly say I loved working hard, doing deals, catching planes, grabbing phone calls in airports etc. I also loved my husband, my friends and my garden during that time, but somewhere around age 55-60 I started a shift where these elements of my life became even more important and I started to figure out how I could get more of them.
Now, in my mid-60s, I would say that what I love most is the variety and balance of work and personal life. I have long loved a seamless existence that sees me walking around my garden with a cup of tea at 6 am and then floating upstairs to my home office and starting a day of working with clients from Vancouver to Melbourne to London.
Landing on what you love should be the easy part (not always, I get it) but once you have that part worked out, what are the steps to putting what you love doing into practice?
Here are five things that have worked for me:
Just start! – hardest thing can be getting going on what you love doing. I can negative talk my way out of doing something as well as the next person. My solution has often been to just start – take necessary precautions like ensuring an income flow, etc but figure out a way you can get started. Maybe it’s on a part-time basis or maybe you just start laying the track for what you want to do – but start!
Figure out a story you can tell yourself –before you can tell others the story of what you are doing, you need to be able to be able to convince yourself. I have had many hare-brained ideas over the years – fortunately most of them died a natural death when the person I saw in the mirror wouldn’t believe me! When I was honest about whether I actually loved the idea, it worked.
Figure out a story you can tell others – once you have yourself convinced, spend some time on getting your personal vision into a story that lands with others. There are many great vehicles for your story now – from LinkedIn to personal blogs – but being able to “speak” your story is where you should start.
Enlist people who will support you – if you are lucky enough to have a “Sugar Daddy” or equivalent, great! But chances are the kind of support you will most need and find is of a different kind. Surround yourself with people who will remind you of why you started on this journey when the going gets tough, pick you up and give you a glass of wine when needed, celebrate your successes with you and simply can be counted on to be there when you need them.
Enlist people who will hold you accountable – these people may be different than the ones who support you. This the friend or colleague who will not let you away with anything: you said you would have a business plan done by end of June, where is it!? Pick these people carefully since they may make the difference to your success.
Doing something you love has got to be the greatest gift you can give yourself. Achieving a feeling of accomplishment – whatever that may look like for you – is also a fundamental to human happiness.
What is it that you love to do and how can you do it so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you?