Today’s post is a Q&A, although that term feels a little absolutist for my taste. Let’s call it a D&E – Dilemma & Exploration.

Here we go…

Dilemma: I feel so disappointed when my writing doesn’t get much praise or attention. I’m wonderingis that just ego? Or being addicted to external validation? I feel like I shouldn’t be so focused on what other people think, but on the other hand, another part of me feels like it’s okay to want to be recognized for my work.

Exploration: Let’s begin by pulling apart two things.

Thing 1. It’s true: a lot of us are held back by the need for praise. How can we do radically innovative work if we also want a crowd to applaud us? How can we pursue our unique individual paths, if we need all the people around us to understand what we’re up to? There’s a kind of dependence on approval that gets us stuck.

But then there is thing 2: the deeper longing to do our work and have it be seen by and appreciated by others in the human community. I believe this is a healthy longing, one to listen to and respect.

We are each a cell in the larger body of human community. We are meant to live and work in circles, to make our contribution to the whole.

Because this is who we are, when that truth is not reflected in our lives, we suffer a kind of soul sickness. It is not a small thing. I honor everything you are doing to discover what your real work is and how to bring it forward in the human community where it – and you – can be seen, known, and embraced.

And here are some ways to discern the difference between these two hungers:

How do you experience that hunger for approval or praise, or the dependence on it?
How do you experience that deeper longing simply to be known and valued in our human community?

To fulfill our longing for our work to be seen, known, and received by others with love, we first must bring out what is inside of us: speaking the messages, using the talents, bringing forth the work that we each want to share in the world. 98% of our fulfillment comes from this part.

Then a nice additional 2% of sweetness shows up in the words and faces of those your work has helped.

To find that sweetness, don’t get lost in imagining some distant and large human community. Today, life has put your next circle right in your midst, closer than you think. Give your gifts to them.

With love,



Photo by Matt Seymour

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