The Courage To Do Great Work | UYGW031

This podcast episode is a reflection on myself and MY OWN Great Work. The idea of “Great Work” is the work that matters most to you. For myself, I wrote a book (a lifelong dream of mine), received a PhD, have a podcast, did consulting in schools, and so much more work that was so important to me. It may seem obvious to do great work when you feel it is YOUR great work, when it comes from YOUR unique point of view, when it keeps YOU out of your comfort zone, and causes you to meet good people doing great things. You begin to leave a legacy behind you. Your unique idea of great work becomes an “of course”, OF COURSE you are going to do the work. However, one thing that can happen unintentionally is to gloss over the fact, when you talk about doing great work, that it is really hard and terrifying. In reality, doing great work is a joy, but it also a struggle. It’s a struggle against ourselves, our expectations, procrastination, perfectionism, burning ourselves out, and even being afraid to fail. The idea of “I can’t” is so prevalent in our brains when confronted with the possibility of achieving great work. Our ideas become filled with such high stakes, and we need to remember to lower the stakes, drain the drama, and focus on what matters most to us. I want to be honest with you about Great Work and how I engage in a struggle to do great work every day.

You are not alone. We are doing Great Work together.

Join us as we discuss:

03:28 In reality, doing great work is a struggle and a joy.

04:57 Struggle is reasonable because great work at its core is high stakes.

05:24 Reasons why doing your great work is hard.

08:19 Think about the proposition of great work.

09:10 The question of leaving your legacy behind you.

09:51 Nature of great work is terrifying, yet nobody says that they don’t want to do great work.

12:11 There was a part of my great work that I had been ignoring.

14:26 Middle school is a vital age because it is the time when the body is triggering the body, the hormones, the brain, and puberty is happening.

15:26 My stories and realizations in my orientation keynote at the University of Toledo.

17:56 If you think you don’t have any great work, or you don’t know what your great work is, think through all the times that you were just consumed with jealousy or envy.

20:36 Middle-grade students are not getting the educational media that they deserve.

22:21 If you are in the thick of the terror of doing great work, know that you are not alone.

Resources Mentioned:

Click here to get your own copy of Amanda’s book, Great Work.


About The Host:

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist, speaker, author and coach changing our perspective on the world of work. It IS possible to do Great Work– launch a successful business, make a scientific discovery, raise a tight-knit family, or manage a global remote team– without sacrificing your health, happiness and relationships.

Amanda is the Author of the book, Great Work: Do What Matter Most Without Sacrificing Everything Else, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda’s TEDx talk has received more than a million views and has been featured on TED’s Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.

Sponsored By The Great Work Journal

The Unleashing Your Great Work podcast is sponsored by the Great Work Journals! The Great Work Journals are here to answer the question “But HOW?” How can we figure out what our Great Work is? How can we get started, stay with it, and finish our Great Work so it can go out in the world and have an impact?

Click here to learn more, and try it out for yourself!

For more information about the Unleashing YOUR Great Work podcast or to learn more about Dr. Amanda Crowell, check out my website:

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Dr. Amanda Crowell:

I came face to face with this part of my great work that I've always wanted to do and have never done.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Welcome to unleashing your great work, a podcast about doing the work that matters the most to you. I'm your host, Dr. Amanda Crowell, a cognitive psychologist, coach, author of the book, great work and the creator of the great work journals. Every week on this podcast, we're here asking the big questions. What is your great work? How do you find it? And why does it matter? Whether we do it? What does it actually take to do more of your great work without sacrificing everything else? And how does the world change when more people are doing more of the work that matters the most to them? Stay tuned for answers to these questions, and so much more.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Welcome, everybody, to the first episode of season two of unleashing your great work. I'm so excited to be back for another season. Next week, we have our first guest of the season, which is the author Jay A white, he wrote all of the middle grade books, notebooks, this whole truly terrifying series called The thick at shadow school. And he also recently had one of his books turned into a Netflix series or not a series a special turned into a Netflix special. So he is an amazing, fun, interesting person. He also happens to be my son's fifth grade teacher this year, and I loved interviewing him, he was so amazing. So be prepared for that next week. And it is just the beginning. We have a lot of really cool guests have been interviewing all summer, ready to share those with you. But today, I didn't want to start with somebody else's great work. I wanted to take an episode and really talk about my own. And the reason I wanted to do that is because throughout the first season of the podcast, and also, you know, the podcast is called unleashing your great book, great work. My book is called Great work, do what matters most without sacrificing everything else. And so because the book came out in June and the podcast had its first season, starting in January, I've been having lots of conversations about the concept of great work kind of all over the place. I've done a lot of podcasts myself, I've been doing speaking engagements, I've been writing my own blogs, and of course have been writing them, you know, writing the episodes of the podcast. So one of the things I've noticed that can happen without really any intent on anyone's part myself or anyone I'm talking to. But there's a way that when you are talking about great work, it's easy to kind of gloss over the fact that it's really hard that it's kind of terrifying, to do the work that matters the most to you. Because it sounds like this super obvious, given a conclusion, if it's my great work, if it's coming from my unique point of view keeps me out of my comfort zone and growing, puts me in contact with cool people doing awesome things, and leaves a legacy behind me, of course, I'm going to do it, it becomes this, of course. And then that can lead I think, to a lot of unnecessary angst on the part of us, those of us really trying our hardest to do our great work. Because in reality, the doing of great work is is a struggle, it's a joy. Of course, of course, it's a joy. And also it's a struggle. It's a struggle against ourselves. It's a struggle against expectations. It's a struggle against procrastination, and perfectionism and burnout. You know, it's, it can be a struggle, and I don't ever want for great work to be reduced to a concept of like, you know, do what you love, or follow your passions, or you can be successful if you try, I don't ever want great work to be reduced to that. Because the way that I think about great work is a much richer, truer reflection of the human experience sort of made manifest in the work domain, right in the accomplishment, task goal like productivity domain.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

So I want to take this opportunity of the very first episode of this second season, to be honest with you about even even me who loves great work, wrote a book about great work as a podcast about great work is really engaged in us struggle to do it every day. And I think that struggle is really rare. reasonable because great work and it at at its core is high stakes. It can feel terrifying. I mean, there's a reason that a whole half of the book is about lowering the stakes, straining the drama, getting clear in your own mind. Because all by itself in the world and its natural state, great work is almost too hard to do. And I think the reason it's so hard to do comes down to the fact that it is coming from your own unique perspective, is one reason. Because when it really truly matters to you, for real reasons in your real life, like, I mean, think about the doctor who goes to medical school because they watched their mother die of a preventable heart attack. And they want to go be a doctor to help other little 10 year old kids to keep their moms for longer, like that's personal, that's important. That matters a lot to that particular person. And when the work you're doing matters to you, which is what great work is right? Great work is the work that matters the most to you. And when that's what you're trying to bring yourself to do the the stakes on failing to be able to do it or struggling or being told you can't like the stakes on that just they just rise exponentially. It's really different than if that exact same person was trying to get a CPA, you know. And even though a CPA is very difficult accomplishment, if what you really wanted what your heart of hearts was telling you is that you wanted to help people have longer lives from preventable illnesses, be getting a CPA, even though it might be as hard as getting into medical school. It just the stakes aren't there for you. You're like, Okay, if I don't get an MBA, or if I don't get a CPA, I'll just get an MBA, if I don't can't get the MBA, then I guess I'll go to get a PhD in psychology, which is what I have everyone's backup plan. So when something is very important to you, because it matters to you, from your unique perspective, it's expressing your values, it's expressing your experiences, it's trying to prevent the trauma that you yourself experienced, or trying to share the joy that you have in something like that the stakes go way up, they just do. So even doing it's not the difficulty of the task, it's the personal relevance of the task. It's the way that it intersects with your own story, your own beliefs, your own purpose for being here, that like alone would be enough. But then great work also puts you into relationship with people that value what you value, cool people doing awesome things is how I like to say it. And you don't want to look like an idiot in front of cool people doing awesome things, especially cool people doing awesome things that are related to that thing you care so much about. Like that adds a layer of visibility and public performance to to the thing you're trying to do. And then add to that the fact that it's going to take you out of your comfort zone, make you uncomfortable and keep you on your evolving edge. And now not only are you with cool people doing awesome things in an area that you care so much about, but you also have to be pushing yourself to do things you don't know how to do. So think about the Think about the proposition of great work, would you like to do something you don't know how to do in front of people you admire in a space where you want nothing more than to be a part of the solution? It's kind of a, an outrageous proposition? No, I do not. In fact, what I would like to do is, you know, we tend to want to stay in this space where we can make a difference, right, that we care about so much about but you know, can I do what I already know how to do. So that the cool people doing awesome things will think I'm cool and awesome, too. When you add that extra piece of you know, go outside your comfort zone and do it badly, then that really adds a layer that just adds just a level of terror to the whole thing. And then there's the question of leaving your legacy behind you. Which honestly, sometimes, depending on how you think about it can feel like the reason why you're doing it all anyways, you know, we're here on this planet, why are we here? You know,

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

is it worth it to, to raise the stakes in our lives, fail in front of people we value and be uncomfortable all the time on our evolving edge. It is sometimes for some of us, for me, for example, because we want to leave the world a little better than we found it. And we want to be sure that people like us get support that we need to be the best version of ourselves. So just to be clear, the nature of great work is terrifying. It is a terrifying proposition to do this and yet Nobody says that they don't want to do great work. I think there are people who disagree with the idea that work as its defined sort of as your career for a company that someone pays you to do that that is not worth any about any of this drama. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about engaging in the problems and endeavors you care a lot about with people, you think you're cool, and growing as a person. So you can leave a legacy behind you that can be at a company, it can be your own company, it can be raising a family, like, whatever it is that matters the most to you is your great work. And when they can hear it that way. Everybody agrees that yes, a life of meaning and purpose is a worthwhile endeavor. Like, what else are we doing? I personally have been thinking a lot about this lately, because I was hired to do a keynote, the orientation keynote at the University of Toledo, the rockets, the Toledo rockets. And so I was putting together my keynote address about great work. And you know, from a college students perspective, what does it mean? What can you do in college? How can you spend your years in college to prepare yourself for a life of great work? And how can you begin to actually do great work while you're in college, that was the that was the goal of the talk.And as part of that, I was thinking about my own experience of being in college.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Now this keynote, I was working on it over the summer, because it was an orientation keynotes happened over Welcome Weekend. And all last year, as you know, I was you know, finishing the book, preparing to launch it, launching the book, starting the podcast, all of that stuff. And you know, I have done a lot of great work in my life, I truly have, I feel like I've, you know, really overcome a lot of my own worries and procrastinations. I've done interesting things. When I wrote a book, which was a lifelong dream, I got a PhD, which is something I desperately wanted to do, I did consulting in schools like that, you know, those things might not sound to you like great work, but they were the things that mattered the most to me, it put me in closer and closer contact with real kids learning real things. And that was something I always wanted to do. But as I was writing the book, and talking through the podcast, and, and especially writing this keynote, I was it was brought to my attention in a way that I could no longer ignore, that there was a part of my great work that I had been ignoring. And it was a part of me from the beginning of time, you know, it feels like an ancient part of me. Like insofar as a, you know, woman in her 40s can have an ancient part. It's a part of me that had been active and present in childhood, in high school, college, once I had kids, every minute of every day. And yet, it was a part of me that I had sort of just denied, not in a dramatic way. Like I wouldn't necessarily say that I lied to myself for decades or anything like that. But instead, it was just a part of me that I knew was there. I agreed that it was awesome. But was I going to do something with it? Was I going to put myself out there was I gonna, you know, go work with cool people doing awesome things and get uncomfortable. I'm like, No, I had never, I had never really done that. And that part of me is the part of me that has been interested since childhood in children's educational media, particularly middle grades, educational media. So middle grades are like, third through sixth grade, basically, sometimes called the missing middle in the world of education policy, because people don't quite know what to do with these tweens that some people will say that in middle school, which takes us up to eighth grade. If your students don't go backwards in their learning, you've succeeded because their hormones are all over the place there. They just become these crazy humans, right? They just like they don't even know why they're yelling at you, actually. And they're yelling, and they're really what they're doing is they're going through a basically a coming of age, but in a society where they're coming of age is not supported, really. So the thought is like, Oh, you come to age when you go to college. But really, this is the time when the body is triggering the body, the hormones, the brain, puberty is happening. This is when you come of age. And if you don't have the support, if you don't have somewhere to like, funnel, all of that coming of age, energy, the desire to be more of a risk taker desire to be a part of adult conversations, the desire to, you know, like, these are the things that help a person, you know, back in the day, like go join the huntsman for the first time and, you know, get married and have kids and like all the things that that used to have banded around this age that don't anymore. So we have this group of kids, and they're like they're real volatile. But that's because they don't have anywhere to sort of push it out. And so I've been interested in that age range for a really long time I went to my PhD was focused on that age range. So I've been interested in this age range for a really long time. And the particular focus on educational media, I realized most of all, as I said, when I was putting together this University of Toledo keynote, because I was thinking back to my own days in college, and as I was telling them, the stories of doing great work in college, my own stories of it, they were all stories around educational media, I was telling them about how my very first class and my communication major the professor mentioned Educational Television, and the kind of research that people do, to see if the educational outcomes are being met, and, and how some people are, like, the education experts on those shows and how Children's Television Workshop which makes Sesame Street now they change their name to Sesame Workshop. But either way, they were Children's Television Workshop at the time, how they had researchers on staff, and there was something about that, that just totally made me sit up straighter. My heart was beating really fast. Tell me everything. Who are these people? What

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

are they doing? Like? How can I be part of it? It was instant, wasn't like I thought about it for a minute, put together a list of pros and cons. decided that it would be like a good career move. For me. I had no cognitive thoughts about this. It was an instantaneous, full body reaction. What did you say? children's educational television tell me everything about it. And then I was telling them about, we were talking about collaboration and the need to learn how to collaborate and how difficult it is. And I was telling them about a collaborative experience I had in my junior year of college where we pitched a television show this was in like a creative development class. And so we were asked as our final project or whatever, to put together a pitch. And I had these three people in my group, it was me and two others me who was so focused on the educational relevance of it. And another person who was really fascinated by the story arc of it and the writing of the story. And another person who was like, whatever you guys want to do is fine. What I want to do is put together the marketing plan. And I was sharing with these University of Toledo students how remarkable that experience was and how much better the pitch was. Because I wouldn't have, at the time really thought about the business case. And they wouldn't have necessarily thought about the need for the educational content to be relevant to like what people do in the real world, which is my particular area of passion, and what I think middle grades, media is missing. So I was telling them that story. And then one of my favorite things to tell people when they're like, I don't have any great work, I don't know my great work is, is I'll tell them to think through all the times that they were just consumed with jealousy or envy. And I always tell the story of a boss that I had, who happened to be on Sesame Street when he was a kid. And we were doing one of those games at one of our like T meetings where it's like two truths and a lie or something like that, where he revealed that one of His truths was that he was one of these kids on Sesame Street. I found the video on YouTube, of him sitting and talking to Kermit the Frog. And it was in the 70s. So he was actually talking to Jim Henson who if you've followed this podcast for even a nanosecond, you know that my like, number one sort of celebrity hero is Jim Henson. So I like literally had an out of body experience. I was like, you cannot be telling me the truth. Like you were on Sesame Street, you talk to Jim Henson, like, I can't, I couldn't handle the wave of envy and jealousy that consumed me, I couldn't like participate in the meeting for like half an hour because I was just so like blown back by the idea that he had had this experience. That kind of like visceral full body like experience is a clear indicator that this is your great work. And this had been happening to me, forever. Every time someone mentions it ever, every time I have the chance to kind of go see what it's about. I want to take that opportunity. And yet, I have not ever truly organized myself and moved into the space to work in children's educational media. And so as I was saying, at the beginning here before I told you this long story about the University of Toledo. I came face to face with this part of my great work that I've always wanted to do and have never are done. And so as I sit here, launching Season Two of the podcast, I want to name that I am right back in the terror of it. Because I am not a film producer, or an actor or a writer, like a television writer, I'm not, I have no experience in production. With the exception of theater production, I did some of in high school and college. And yet, the truth is, I have something there's a part of me, there's a, there is a voice inside of me that wants to talk about the fact that middle grade students are not getting the educational media that they deserve. It is not educationally relevant, it's not helping them to understand the world of work. It's not helping them to understand what their great work is. It's not helping them to develop collaboration skills, like there are things that middle grade kids want to hear about. And they're not getting it. And I would like to be a part of solving that problem.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

I've always wanted to be a part of solving that problem. But now, I'm sitting here with the terror and discomfort of knowing that it's time to try and adjust. I don't ever want anyone to think that great work gets easy, ever. Because you're always on your evolving edge. I'm on my evolving edge. Right now, I have an idea for a middle grades, educational television or educational media, maybe it's a graphic novel, maybe it's a, you know, I don't know what it is in this world of proliferating media. It could be anything, that's what's exciting about it, hopefully, it's all the things actually is what we really want. And I'm gonna give it a shot. And it's terrifying. It's terrifying to do the thing you want to do amongst people you admire, who you desperately want to admire you in a space that you're growing into, and are not yet the expert who can kind of sit back and, and just contribute in a comfortable way. So if you are in the thick of the terror, of doing great work, I first of all want you to know that you are not alone, I am right there with you, we are going to do it together. Together, we will face the fears of great work, we will face our fear of success, that we will actually get it and it will take us over and overwhelm us and we'll get burned out and we won't be able to handle it we'll face our fears of failure of looking stupid in front of all these people that we really admire. And maybe most of all, we will face our fears of disappointment, that we won't actually be able to do it. That the thing we've always wanted the thing we've desperately desired the disappointment that we might feel if we discover that we can't. Now of course, can't is not going to be the outcome we may choose not to we may choose to do it in a different way. But that doesn't change the fact that the fear is the thing I've wanted my whole life might not be possible for me. And if that is a fear you're facing, if you're fearing your success or your failure or your disappointment if you're facing any of those just know we're doing it together. And we'll be talking about it all season right here on unleashing your great.


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