“You serve best by doing the things you love most”

Every so often the blog world–or perhaps the world in general–seems to hit this period of group existential angst. I see it in posts about blogging or quitting blogging or changing the way we blog. Maybe we just start to reassess who we are or what we can do in this world. What our relationship is to our children, and how that fits in with a love for writing or a passion for work.

I could chalk it up to September and getting back to business; to the election season; to aliens messing with our brains for sport. Who knows. But it’s there, isn’t it? Am I the only one feeling it?

This weekend so much of it was clarified for me,  because had the privilege of experiencing just a small portion of Mashable’s Social Good Global Summit thanks to the wonderful people at Shot@Life. You know–the ones you helped to save 10,000 children.

social good summit

At the Social Good Summit with compassionate heavy-hitters Julie Marsh, Pete Cashmore, Isabel Kallman

While I sat there listening to Nobel Prize winners and Senators, thought leaders, CEOs, Prime Ministers and still more Nobel Prize winners right from the front row (wow) I realized this morning how many moving, motivating, incredible thoughts and words were still swimming in my head this morning. Including those from Sophie Blackall who I had the pleasure of meeting at a UNICEF luncheon. You may know her best as the illustrator of the Ivy and Bean books, but she’s also a global activist in particular via their remarkable and effective measles/rubella initiative which is saving children one shot, one dollar at a time.

sophie blackall | measles rubella artwork for the red cros

It was such a great reminder that everyone has something to contribute. You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner to do it.

But you know, you don’t have to save the world’s children to make an impact during our short term on earth.

Which is perhaps why the one line of the entire day that may have stuck with me the most came from actress Maria Bello, who’s extremely active in global women’s issues the Haiti effort in particular and manages to have glowing skin too. You’d almost hate her if she wasn’t so amazingly awesome. She told the story of being conflicted about her pull towards acting in college, when she was so committed to other pursuits. In response, a mentor told her:

You serve best by doing the things you love most.

It struck me that this is the key, isn’t it? For all of us? Whatever it is. If you’re writing for love, writing for money, writing for fame and glory. Writing to bear witness or make change in the world, writing to understand your place in the world. Writing as an escape from your life for a few moments out of every hectic, whirlwind of a day. Writing to connect, writing to feel connected.

It’s all good.

It’s all okay.

It’s all important.

It’s how you serve.

It’s easy to look at people doing so much and think, I could be doing more. It’s easy to look at bloggers making wholesale changes and question your own path.

Use them to inspire you. Don’t use them to beat yourself up.

If you love what you do, the purpose will come. Maybe it’s about changing yourself. Maybe your number one commitment is raising productive, wonderful children. Maybe you look beyond your backyard and want to help your community. Or hey, change the world. Maybe you just want to earn a little money. Either way, I don’t believe you can do any of it particularly well if you don’t find love and satisfaction in it. And through that love, the path will become clear.

Sophie contributes by painting. Maria uses her platform as an actress. Pete Cashmore puts together his love for digital and his commitment to social change and puts on a conference like this one. I do what I can with my words.

When I spoke as the Keynote at the Type A Parent conference last year, I talked about the Myth of Doing it All and gave my tips for blogging without going crazy. The number one tip was know why you blog. I said to think about that reason, give it words, say it out loud, then jot it on a sticky note and stick it at top of your laptop so you can look at it every day.

There are two points I would add to that presentation after this weekend; first, love why you blog Because if you don’t love it, then there is no point. If you don’t love what you write about, then there is no point.

I love what I write about here. I love what I write about here. I love what I write about here. And I love what I write about here even though oy, it’s been way too long since I’ve done it.

The next point I would add is, it can change.

You can be here for one reason today and a completely different reason tomorrow.

You can move from mom blogging to activism. You can move from activism to mom blogging. You can move between activism and food blogging and fashion reviews and stories about your kids.

You can just write about what you had lunch every day. (With apologies to Maggie.)

But I think the key is, you have to love it.

Ask yourself: Do you love this? Could you love it more? What would have to change?


51 thoughts on ““You serve best by doing the things you love most””

  1. I agree! Maria’s comment stood out to me as well. It’s a great reminder for us all to just give what you have and do what you love and don’t worry about the rest.

    1. I was so happy getting to spend time with you, especially in a forum that’s so meaningful. You inspire me constantly Katherine. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s clear you love it.

  2. Thank you for this reminder. I needed it today. As a blogger who is just starting out it is hard to explain to others what I am doing or more accurately why I am doing it. I ran into an old friend from high school yesterday and I got stumped at the question,”So, what are you up to these days?”. I stumbled and just threw out, “you know, just being a mom…”. Since I have started blogging I have opened up this creative energy that I didn’t know I had and in the past few months have looking at the world differently. It will and has brought out a better version of myself. Though it’s hard to say that seriously to someone you haven’t seen in 20 years over beers in someone’s backyard. Thank you for reaffirming why I spend so much time doing what I do!

  3. I needed this this morning as I sit and contemplate why I write (I know why but I sometimes question if it’s enough of a reason). But then the answers to your next two questions are immediately there: Yes, I could love it more, and I know precisely what needs to change. Thank you.

  4. How timely! Are you peeking into my brain somehow? I just returned from library yesterday with armful of “Mindfulness” books. To stop myself (at least partially) from constantly longing for something bigger/better/bolder and think about what I’m doing daily, just one precious moment at the time. And to do it proud:
    “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
    I have my calling to be a parent, a women, a wife, and a kick-ass business analyst in IT. And loving it all.

    1. I’ve mentioned before that I used to have a sticky note (again with the sticky notes!) on my bulletin board:
      We are not judged by the job we have but by the job we do.

      I love yours too.

  5. I love much of what I do. I started blogging because I wanted to chronicle our adoption (although it seems like a lifetime ago). If I look through my posts over the past 6 years–it is very clear what matters most to me–Education, issues of race, and parenting.

    I think it becomes hard for folks to find where they fit in this landscape of blogging, as they look at all of the blog market. The focus now seems to be finding a niche and defining yourself and audience first and then writing. This can be applied to all aspects of life. I think about people looking for jobs or education or volunteer opportunities. So often, people are reactive as opposed to proactive.

    I love this idea of being proactive. It is just the reminder I needed this Monday.

  6. You are spot on. AGAIN.

    My blogging has changed a lot in last (almost) 6 years partly because of the community itself but also because I’ve changed as a mother and a person. I used to just kinda like to take photos and now it’s turning into my own little business and a true passion of mine.

    But mostly, I still LOVE to write about my kids/family so yeah… thanks for the reminder. I have to remember one of the main reasons I blog is because I no longer scrapbook and I want my kids to read and see how things were years from now.

    1. Funny enough Elaine, I’m exactly the same way.I always imagine my blog bound into a book that I can give my kids one day, good bad and ugly. That’s a fine reason to blog.

  7. For me, blogging, both reading and writing has helped my little world feel a little less little. I’ve gotten to read about people I probably never would have met otherwise and I’ve had people read and get to know me that I know I would have never known but for my blog. It keeps me in touch with people I know in real life who live in far flung places. Most days, they best I can say about my writings is “it’s about what was in my brain on that day”. I don’t think there’s any other rhyme or reason to it than that. And I love it 🙂

  8. I love this post, and may have to print it out (how retro, I know!) to re-read it from time to time. You are right, there are no rules, or shouldn’t be, for doing what we feel compelled to do.

  9. Lovely post and you do more good with your words than you probably even suspect.

    It was interesting for me to read this today because last night I tried to work on a new blog post and was thwarted due to technical difficulties. I was thwarted again this morning due to impromptu (and impossible to resist) snuggling with my son reasons. As I headed out the door without getting my new post up I was feeling irritated about it. And I started to ask myself, Why do I care so much? What difference does it make on my little blog if I post or not? But I love it. I love sorting through my thoughts and finding the right words and putting things in order and sharing it with other people who care. I love the connections I’ve made simply by having the nerve to put my writing out there. I love to blog. That’s reason enough to do it.

    1. I understand completely. I also understand that nefarious snuggling thrwarting, which happens to me every night. But I notice I get twitchy when I haven’t posted for a week. Like uh…this week.

  10. WHOA. And thank you. It’s so easy to see people with so much passion for one thing and think “my blog isn’t that, so it isn’t good enough”. But as long as I can look it every day and think “Yes, I still love this” it’s something worth doing. THANK YOU.

  11. This post came at the perfect time. I started blogging two years ago in an effort to have something to do once I became an empty nester. Well, here I am two years later. And now that my home is empty the need to write isn’t as great. Could it be that now I’m not juggling kids and home time doesn’t feel as precious? I hope that passes because this blog has given me so much joy. I’d like to believe that falling in and out of love with our blog is normal.

    1. Interesting to think of falling “in and out of love” with your blog. Like a marriage, I suppose, satisfaction is going to ebb and flow. And every once in a while, we need to get back to basics and re-evaluate things and do something fresh. Giving up on something can be tempting. But sometimes we just need to let go of superficial stuff and appreciate something that’s underneath it; stripping away the accumulated petty desires and whims and get back to the core.

  12. I think we get so results-oriented sometimes that we forget to do things just because we like them. Like, why take guitar lessons when you’re too old to be a rock star? Why bother taking up running if you’re never going to run a marathon? Want to take an oil painting class? What on earth for? You’re never going to be an artist.

    Writing makes me a better person. In fact, I’m quite cranky when I don’t write. Because writing is my “thing.” It’s that itch that has to be scratched. When I do it, I’m a nicer person. I’m a better, more patient mom. I’m a more compassionate friend. On a plane, don’t they always say to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others? When I write, I can give more of myself to people around me — joyfully — because I’ve taken care of my own needs.

    We don’t always need a tangible reward like money or fame or achievements. Sometimes just doing is its own reward.

  13. I am in the middle of writing a post about this very thing! I went to an event last week that made me think a lot about my blogging voice. There were no Nobel Prize winners in the room, but we did have Tanis (Redneck Mommy), and I am pretty sure she deserves some kind of prize! Thank you for this Liz, I do so love your blogging voice and what you do for all of us as a community of writers/bloggers!

    1. I vote to give her a prize too. It might be a little raunchy because she’d appreciate that best. Maybe an anatomically correct Nobel Prize statue?

  14. Wow, loved loved loved this post. Also, Maria Bello? Gorg.

    But I do find when I’m writing my blathering on posts about this, that and the other, part of my brain is thinking WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? while the other part is tauntingly dancing and singing LALALA CAN’T HEAR YOU.

    But this, this is a nice reminder that I’m just chronicalling (is that a word? It is now) my journey with my short peeps, my guy, and my world and not everything is rocket science or heaven forbid, nobel prize winners.

    Thanks again.

  15. Just got home from day three of the Social Good Global Summit and I too was blown away. When the head of the World Bank spoke he told the audience that he was looking for ideas and solutions from everywhere, that through social media an institution that large and empowered with mission to change the world, wanted to hear the thoughts of individuals across the globe. I understand the angst about blogging but what a way to touch people’s lives. I think blogging allows us to live in a world larger than our own and that, it seems to me, is a good thing for both us and our children.

  16. I needed to read this today. I have been struggling with what to write lately. I have been blogging since soon after we lost our daughter and it has been a huge part of the healing process but lately I’ve really struggled with whether or not I should depress people one more time with one more post about how I feel. Ultimately I need to remember why I started and why I love to write so much and just do whatever I need to do for me. Thank you for this.

    1. I’m sorry to hear it Jessica. I can only imagine the inner struggle. But I can’t imagine anyone faulting you for writing whatever it is you have to write at all. Most of all, your readers and your community.

  17. You’re so smart, and you make sense too. I love that I can write about whatever I want. If I feel funny, I can be funny, but there’s no one saying I have to be funny. I can do whatever the hell I want to. That’s what I love. I know humour bloggers that feel like they can’t write anything if they aren’t “on”. I never want to feel like that. EVER.

    Glad to know that it’s not frowned upon.

  18. It seems we can never hear this enough. Thanks for saying it in a way that went straight to my heart. Loved hearing about the Social Good Summit…amazing.

  19. Bravo! Well said! What fabulous advice that can be applied to so many things in life: do what you love. When I first started my blog it was purely for personal reasons- I was a mom of two kids, drowning. I just couldn’t seem to just get happy. The pressures of motherhood and the loss of my sense of self was weighing me down. I had thoughts and thoughts and thoughts chasing each other in my head and I just needed to get them out- and spare my husband the roller coaster ride. My blog was my life preserver.

    In the end it became more than what kept me afloat. It was the catalyst to changing my life and quite literally redefining how I saw myself as a person for 35 years. I’m sure that sounds dramatic, but it’s how it felt to me.

    I love your second “add on piece of advice”: It can change. As a person I grew and changed throughout my blogging history, it was only natural that my voice, my thoughts and my subject matter did as well. That was scary at first, but since it remained authentic and what I loved, I knew it was the right thing.

    Thank you for this beautifully honest and wise piece. As a blogger, woman and mother it is always so encouraging when someone else out there just “gets it.”

  20. Dammit. I was supposed to go. I was supposed to be at the summit! But then soccer and dance class and my husband saying, “but I haven’t seen you all week!” all sucked me in. I’m having trouble carving out time these days. I am only blogging once a week. But…I love my job. I love being with my family. And I love that I have been able to create a financial situation where I can afford to contribute ALL my blog-based earnings (it’s not much, but it’s something) to Every Mother Counts. I made that commitment. And that is a commitment that feels really, really good.

    1. For what it’s worth I only made one of the days (I was sick). And you know, you can’t do it all.

      But maybe you can come to DC for the SG Summit in January?

      And wow Kami, I had no idea you put all your earnings to Every Mother Counts. That is just freaking amazing.

    2. Kami, first things first. Missed you but you’re doing all kinds of awesome!

      Liz, phenomenal you were able to make it. Maria Bello was a highlight for me too. You bring what you have in your heart to the table. For me that’s words and advocacy on the things I care about. But always my life and family are the lens I’m using. I can’t pretend to know another’s journey, I can only relate my point of view.

  21. Thanks for these important tips ! I agree. This blogging thing is a commitment, alright! I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t LOVE IT! Let it change us and motivate to be better at everything we do.

  22. This is also a life lesson. You can only succeed if you love what you do. Malcolm Gladwell in “Outliers” makes a wonderful point that success is predicated upon 10,000 hours of rehearsal and practice. One cannot spend that much time becoming successful if you don’t love what you do.

  23. OK, you know I already love you to infinity, but now you enlightened me on something — I love Sophie Blackall even more than before.

  24. Liz, I can’t say it better than the many others who have responded, but thank you for the inspiration. In just the short time I’ve been blogging I can feel parts of my weary lawyer brain come back to life. I have renewed energy for my life in all its dimensions, and now the goal is to channel it.

  25. As a newbie blogger who is still getting her feet wet, this post was energizing. I DO love to write and I DO love what I’m writing about and that’s all that matters to me right now. I have no idea where my blog will take me, if anywhere, but for now, I just like having it and contributing to it. Thank you for your thoughts on this!

  26. Love this post. Maria’s words resonates with me, too. I thought you would be at the conferences and kept an eye out for you but never found you (I was there Sat and Mon and just watched the live stream from home on Sun). Such an incredibly inspiring weekend. Hope you’re doing we’ll, Liz!

  27. Wow. Thank you so much for the inspiration! Lately I have been feeling as if I just don’t have any idea who I am anymore – aside from wife and mother, mother and wife. I have always enjoyed writing, so – while I figure out my niche in the blogging world or simply bring a little organization to the millions of thoughts running through my head – I am excited to rediscover ME. I really miss ME…

  28. I think sometimes you don’t realize the impact you’re having on other people. I love your blog for those little ‘think nuggets’ (oh yeah, totally made that up on the spot, kind of sucks but I’m keeping it) that you plan in my brain. But there are smaller, peripheral things too. For example, you’ve mentioned here and there about reading the Oz series to your girls. I have struggled to get my daughter interested in reading anything that is remotely a classic. In the library the other day the Oz books caught my eye and I thought, ‘Hey, Liz’s kids like those, maybe mine will’. Lo and behold she loves them. So there you go, a small, unintended positive outcome from a blog.

    1. Oh Kelly! I love that you shared that! Hooray!

      We’re up to Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz right now–not my favorite but after about 6 books we’re starting to run out of the best ones.

  29. Liz, you are so inspiring. I just want to be you when I grow up. I love how you use your voice for a purpose.

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