Amy Bermudez is a voice actor. During the COVID pandemic, she used the unprecedented upheaval to leave a job she hated, and pursue a creative career. While Amy’s new career is fascinating and her story of finding the silver lining in a moment of great turmoil is inspiring, what struck me most in our conversation on the podcast was how much she had always wanted a creative career.
She wanted to be a singer, a painter, an actor, or really, anything creative. She knew it as a child, she yearned for it in her college years, and the desire never died despite becoming an adult with responsibilities, a mortgage, and children.
Always, in the back of her mind, there was a voice.
“Amy, create.” it said.
“Amy, sing!” it said.
“Amy, BELIEVE!” it said.
And she did. She sang Doo Wop to her children as they fell asleep, animated the voices of their stuffed animals, and filled the karaoke hall with her music.
And yet, when that voice whispered, “Amy, take me seriously,” it was pushed to the side.
Until it wasn’t… and then, everything changed.
When you listen to my interview with Amy on the Unleashing Your Great Work Podcast you will hear how life-changing it has been for Amy to allow her dream to come through. She’s found that she’s happier, less drained, more efficient, and more present than she was before.
Even before Amy has her first national spot, before she becomes the voice of Lululemon, or wins her Emmy (which I predict for 2027!), her life is already better.
This is the power of doing your Great Work.
Great Work calls to you from the inside. And, just like with Amy, it’s very consistent.
- You see it when you look backward. You remember loving it as a child, desiring it as an adult, and getting as close to it as you dare, as often as you can.
- You think of it when you look forward. In workshops, I like to play a game called “Future Possible Selves, EXTREME” where I set a timer for 5 minutes and you name as many outlandish things as possible that you would do if there wasn’t any reason not to. When I do it, I see “Broadway star, rodeo clown, psychic priestess, philanthropist, illustrator, and best-selling fiction writer.” It’s all right there. My Great Work involves performing, helping, making interesting things, and telling stories. If you do this activity, your Great Work will be staring you in the face, too.
- It’s standing next to you, right now. When was the last time you got super jealous of another person? That was your Great Work telling you to pay attention to something that’s missing. What do you binge on Netflix? Take another look at your feed, and I bet you’ll see clues to what fascinates you.
The clues to our Great work are all around.
And yet, for some reason, many of us are denying its existence to ourselves.
In chapter two of my book, Great Work, I talk about a client, Chloe, who was desperate to leave her job at a non-profit. Her problem, she told me, was that she “didn’t have any idea” what she wanted to do instead. I asked her, “OK, but if you could do anything at all– If you had all the connections, experience, resources, and confidence you needed– what would you do?”
Out popped: “Corporate Social Responsibility.”
She dodged that answer for weeks and weeks, telling me all the reasons it didn’t make sense: it was too competitive, she didn’t have the right degree, she wasn’t in the right city, and she didn’t know how to start.
Eventually, however, she had to agree:
She knew what she wanted. She always had.
Why do we deny ourselves what we have always wanted?
Amy’s story is another example of a story I see much too often: People on fire for their Great Work who absolutely deny themselves the right to pursue it.
Even a tiny effort is slapped away.
Meanwhile, they are often doing other new things that are challenging and competitive. They aren’t concocting reasons to avoid those things. It’s the one that matters the most to us that we avoid.
At the broadest level, it is likely the importance itself keeping us at bay.
Our dreams are important to us. They give us hope for a better tomorrow. That hope is necessary and important even if those dreams never come true.
I think that part of us would rather keep the dream alive, shining brightly somewhere “out there” instead of going after it and discovering it wasn’t possible. A lost cause. A one-way ticket to nowhere.
When we look at this belief clearly, we see that it’s a house of cards.
Of course, you won’t get nowhere! When we interact with our Great Work, taking steps to get a little bit closer, we get SOMEWHERE!
Where exactly? Well, we can’t know until we get in there and find out.
We have worries. And that’s normal.
Once we start considering our Great Work more seriously and begin to consider taking concrete action, we will discover a new level of resistance.
Worries emerge. I have found four worries that pop up over and over again.
- What if I fail, and….
- What if it’s too hard, and…
- What if I succeed, and…
- What if everyone knows, and…
These four worries start the same across people, but the real gold is in how we each, individually, finish them. Inside these completed statements are the stories that you are telling yourself about the unnecessarily high stakes you are (sometimes unconsciously) assigning to even the slightest effort to engage with your Great Work.
It is worth asking yourself these questions, and then questioning what you hear.
Inside the Great Work Community there is a course called How to Create Deeper Meaning and Purpose. These four questions are central to Module 4: Allowing Your Vision To Thrive. The exercises in this module help you to overcome these worries so you can finally focus on your Great Work.
Also in this course are modules that will help you figure out what your Great Work IS (including a version of future possible selves!), a module that explores WHY you want it, and a brief introduction to the Great Work Method. Also, the workbook is beautifully designed and fun to work through.
(To gain access to the course, you need to join the Great Work Community. You can, of course, take the course and then leave, but I recommend you check out the rest of the membership before you do!)
As you work through these questions, and perhaps play the future possible selves game I describe above, or even ask yourself the probing question I asked Chloe, you WILL uncover your Great Work. Do your best to believe what you hear!
Then the task becomes learning how to engage– to get just a little bit closer to it every week, and every day.