The Secret of Doing Something That Matters

Berry Hard Work

Be the revolution. Do something that MATTERS. Live Your Legend. –part of the Live Your Legend Creed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that quote above, particularly the middle sentence: “Do something that matters.” For a while I’ve thought that this phrase simply meant “Doing something that has significance; that makes a positive change in the world; that serves others.”

But lately, my current day job has caused me to think differently about it. The job is in an organization that supports dental health for the military. Now, I would consider this “doing something that matters”—and so would many others, I’m sure. I imagine it matters quite a lot to the soldiers and their families.

But for me, the feeling of being of service in this role is not enough. It doesn’t make the job more appealing to me, more enjoyable in the doing, more significant. Yes, I’m doing work that matters, but that by itself does not make the job complete, or me in it.

This work is, for me, missing something, and something important. It might be just the role for someone else, for whom the work itself is ideally suited to their talents and temperament and serves their personal needs.

And so I’ve come to realize that when we talk about doing work that matters, there are two parts.

The first is that the work must matter to someone else—must be in service to someone other than ourselves. The second is that the work must matter to us, and allow us to be our best selves in the doing.

One without the other is incomplete. Work that matters to someone else and not to us is just a job. (My current role fits here). Work that matters to ourselves and not to others is just a hobby.

But work that matters both to ourselves and to others has the chance of being something more: powerful and meaningful, self-changing and world-changing both.

“Great work,” as Steve Jobs called it. A life’s work, perhaps.

A true calling.

A heroic purpose.

And isn’t that a key piece of what each of us is looking for in our lives—the reason we are here?

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. –Steve Jobs

I know my current work is not my purpose. But I do it now because it serves not only some greater good, but serves my family as well, and that is important to me. I won’t last forever at it, because it doesn’t meet that second criterion. And so I’ll continue to search for ways to make this work—the writing I do, both here and elsewhere—to be both the work that matters to me and to others.

We each have a responsibility to continue to fight for that great work, that heroic purpose. We owe it to ourselves and to the world to do our best work, which means finding work at the intersection of what matters most to us, and is of most service to the rest of the world.


What about you? Have you found your purpose, or are you moving from job to job, hobby to hobby, not finding something that fulfills you and serves others? What actions are you taking consistently to move yourself closer to your great work? Please share in the comments.


If you’d like some additional resources and encouragement to help you find your heroic purpose and do the work that matters to you and the world, be sure to subscribe by entering your email in the box in the sidebar to your right. You’ll get your own copy of the Be Your Own Hero manifesto, regular updates from the blog, and other subscriber-only tools and goodies.


[photo courtesy of JD Hancock (cc)]

2 thoughts on “The Secret of Doing Something That Matters

  1. James Michael Taylor

    Your insight really drives home the core of doing great work.

    While I love my day job, it’s not my calling. I know what my calling is. But I had to do a lot of work, and soul searching, and debating, and listening to learn what my calling is. And my calling will change with time and growth as a person.

    I know what torture it is when your most precious resource, time, is not in alignment with your most precious act, that of living your calling.

    Like you, I recognize that my day job is a tool to help me transition to working full time on my calling. It serves immediate and urgent needs (paying the bills) while investing my side hustle time into building a foundation and structure for my calling. I’ve learned over years to help my day job serve my side hustle – flexible hours, paid training, in the field experience (especially with sales, which is a valuable skill in any life work).

    I try to stay zen, to practice peace in every step, grateful for each moment and each blessing and each dollar both my day job and side hustle provide me.

    With the base emotional and spiritual need of knowing where I am going and why, I have what I need to endure and even thrive in the journey.

    1. Steve Post author

      Thanks for the comments, James, about your own experiences juggling day job and side hustle, and using all of it to further your calling. And you’re absolutely right – it makes all the difference to know where you are going and why. Makes the hard parts of the journey bearable, and the good parts even sweeter…

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