The elephant in the room

Single elephant walking in a road with the Sun from behind

Since the end of last year, I have been writing a series on accomplishing your goals. I talked about the importance of knowing whether you had an inhale or exhale year in 2015, using the hair of the dog to re-energize your new year’s resolutions, the importance of a growth mindset, and the missing ingredient in making progress on your goals.

Now there is just one important thing to say, which in my experience as a coach, and a creative professional myself, is the elephant in the room:

There is no way around doing the work.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it?

If you want to get healthy, you need to make good choices about food. You need to get up in the morning and go for a walk, instead of snuggling under the covers for 15 more minutes.

If you want to write a book, you have to write. You have to sit down at the computer and type imperfect words into your keyboard, until they begin to form coherant thoughts.

If you want to grow your speaking business, you have to build relationships with people who manage events, and create clear and compelling keynotes. Then you have to speak. Again, and again, and again, until you find the strength in your voice, and your message.

We want a secret formula, hack or perfect system to make it better for us. Maybe if you read one more blog post about the productivity habits of famous entrepreneurs, a switch will flip and you will magically become Richard Branson.

There is no magic switch.

The magic is in the work itself.

The good news: The magic and momentum of completion

25 years ago, I went to a career coach in Emeryville, trying to figure out the next step in my career. I filled out a bunch of worksheets from What Color is Your Parachute and figured out that I really loved teaching and training.

When I finished my work, she handed me a piece of paper with a quote on it. I felt a quickening in my heart as I read it:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

-William H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

With my coach’s sage advice, I made a great career change into the field of coaching, training and development, which has been my true love for 25 years.

But that quote impacted more than just my work.

Five years after my career coaching session, I had a personal crisis in a bad relationship, and got a strong and powerful talk on Christmas from my sister-in-law Rose. I was telling her how I felt so stuck and trapped and scared, and wanted to leave the relationship, but didn’t know how. She zeroed in on the one thing I had been afraid to hear: my only job was to take the unthinkable step.

When she returned home to Pittsburgh, she sent me an email, with further encouraging words. She closed with a quote.

“Until one is committed ….”

Yes, the same quote.

My heart raced again. I left the relationship and never looked back.

Everything I have ever done — from living in Switzerland, Mexico and Brazil as an exchange student, to growing a huge martial arts group in San Francisco, to writing two books, to giving birth to two amazing kids, to surviving the economic meltdown in my family in 2008, to getting my black belt in mixed martial arts to supporting hundreds of clients to do amazing work is based on one core belief:

I will do the work.

All the stress, doubt, fear and anxiety that comes with the creative process is worth it.

And because my work is helping people do their work, I get to do things like:

  • Receive an email from a client who I helped to start a successful consulting business telling me she had her first million dollar year
  • Being a key part of launching a Quiet Revolution with introvert activist Susan Cain
  • Inspiring Filipina architect Daryl Garcia to quit her job and launch Dream Architects
  • Watching one of my earliest clients Willie Jackson land a gig as CTO for Seth Godin’s Domino Project, then launch Abernathy Magazine to support black men in controlling their own narratives.
  • See Portland Community Tour participant Emilie Wapnick nail her TEDx talk about multipotentialites, landing her on TED’s home page, with 2.2 million views and counting.

My mission is to build the leadership capacity of the community I serve, so that you can build and share great things that will make the world a better place.

Whether we ever work together or not, I want you to know:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

The world is waiting for your work.


Reader Interactions


  1. Dawn says

    ‘the magic is in the work itself’
    that single phrase can give a person a lot of insight of what the path might feel like. Thanks.

  2. Lianne Raymond says

    Hmmm – coincidence that this is the poem I started the day with?

    Throw Yourself Like Seed
    by Miguel de Unamuno

    Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
    sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
    that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
    the man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.
    Now you are only giving food to that final pain
    which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
    but to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
    is the work; start there, turn to the work.
    Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
    don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
    and do not let the past weigh down your motion.
    Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
    for life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
    From your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.

  3. Paula G says

    Amen to that! I often get on my soapbox about all this supposed fairy dust that is supposed to make everyone magically rich and successful. It is the consistent day in and day out work that gets things started and done. And when you get to milestone one you keep on going, keep on working.

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