“Faith and fear both need to be brought to the bargaining table to hammer out an agreement between them,” Gregg Levoy says of finding the work you love.
Gregg should know. As the author of Callings and Vital Signs, he has been writing about unearthing and enacting the work that matters to us based on his passionate insights and lived experience (especially leaping from being a salaried journalist to a beloved freelance writer and inspiring presenter).
Last Sunday, Gregg was a guest teacher in the Your Right Livelihood class, talking to us about the bridge between big dreams, solid plans, and our own measure of success. Here’s some of the wisdom he shared:
Listen to What Won’t Go Away
When something we always wanted to do or suddenly realize we must do comes knocking on our door, it’s not likely to leave if we pretend we’re not home. At least open the window and talk with what new impulse, notion, idea, or excitement wants your attention. As Gregg says, “The human psyche won’t stand for stuffing one side or the other under the floor boards.” Often, the persistent little thoughts that come circling around have something vital to tell us, and the more we ignore those voices, the louder they’ll become.
Take Small Steps
Gregg reminded us of something Mark Twain said, “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” So make small moves, perhaps dedicating 20 minutes a day to writing in your journal twice a week, making one inquiry into one potential new job each week, or simply take three breaths to check in with yourself before automatically saying yes to work that may or may not fit you.
Take Symbols Seriously
Obstacles and resistance are inevitable, but we can work with them creatively. Gregg told us the story of getting a bunch of rocks, then writing on each an obstacle he faced or imagined in leaving his day job for the wilds of the freelance world. Then he put the rocks on the ground and leapt over them. Small rituals like this can grow our faith and resilience and diminish our fear and doubt.
Define Success on Your Own Terms
Rather than let the world or your profession, community, or family tell you when you’re successful, name and claim what success is for you. Writing a best-selling book is a form of success that’s likely out of reach for most of us, even if we’re good writers with great ideas. Earning at least six figures in our first year of launching ourselves as an artist or entrepreneur is akin to winning the lottery. But in the effort and in working with and through delays and issues that arise, we can find satisfaction and meaning. Define success in what’s within your reach: what you can achieve in alignment with your goals and values. As Gregg says, “I’m successful not because I’m writer but because I’m following my passions. I am saying yes to why I was putting here on earth and the gifts I was given.”