Sue Grafton is a Success Because She Loves What She Does

Clarity of purpose and direction is one of the keys to career and life success in my Common Sense Success System.  I discuss it in detail in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success, Your Success GPS and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  To develop your personal clarity of purpose you need to do three things.  First, define what success means to you personally.  Second, create a vivid mental image of you as a success.  This image should be as vivid as you can you make it.  Third, clarify your personal values.

I love to read.  I especially love to read mysteries.  I think this comes from my childhood when I devoured every Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew mystery at the local library.  Sue Grafton is one of my favorite writers.  Starting in 1982, she has written a series of mysteries; beginning with A is for Alibi.  Last week, U is for Undertow came out.  I’m hoping to get it for Christmas – that’s hint Cathy.  I want to take a few minutes here to talk about Sue Grafton.  She is someone who is very clear on her purpose in life – writing entertaining mystery stories.

On December 1, I read an interview with her that appeared in USA Today.  When she was asked, “Are you working on your next book?”  She replied, “I’ve been working on V, which doesn’t have a title yet.” 

“Do you feel like you’re in the home stretch with the series?”  “Yes, but since it takes me two years per book, I’m not going to finish for 10 years.” 

Sue Grafton will be almost 80 years old when Z is for Zero (the title she has already chosen) is published.  She expects to keep writing – but not a series of linked books.  Writing a series of 26 books takes an amazing amount of focus, especially since each book takes two years to write.

I think it’s great that a woman is approaching her 70th birthday can look ahead and know what she will be doing with her life over the next ten years.  I’m approaching my 60th birthday and I know that if things go according to plan, I will be writing this blog and helping people create the successful careers and lives they deserve when I’m 70 and hopefully 80.

Successful people find what they love and then they make a career of it.  I know a man who was a very successful surgeon.  He found that he enjoyed tinkering with the disposals tools used in surgery.  He’s gone now, but by the time he passed, he had over 25 patents and had built a very successful medical device business from the ground up.  He was successful as a surgeon, but he loved creating helpful tools for other surgeons.  That was his true calling.

And that’s why developing your clarity of purpose is so important.  When you find something you really like to do, you can see yourself doing it forever.  You won’t be counting the days till retirement.  You’ll be savoring every minute of every day as you do what you love.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people have a clearly defined purpose for their life.  Sue Grafton’s purpose is writing mystery stories that entertain large numbers of people.  My purpose is helping others succeed.  My friend’s purpose was creating better surgical equipment.  What is your purpose?  It should be something you love.  If you don’t love it, you’ll get burned out and see your work as a grind.  If you love what you do, you see your work as a gift and something to which you look forward every day.  As we approach the end of 2009, spend some time thinking about what you truly love doing.  Then, and more important, think about how you can make doing what you love your life’s work.

That’s my take on the importance of doing what you love.  What’s yours?  Please take a few minutes to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. So many people are so busy making a living that they never stop to reflect on what they love to do, and think about how they could move into a field they love. One benefit of the downsizing trend is that having lost one’s job, sometimes going all the way to zero gives someone that chance that they previously would never have had. (I know, it happened to me, and I’m in the process of doing just that.)

  2. As a career development teacher, I always tell students to find work they love. If you are going to spend most of your time working, it will be far better to enjoy it than to dread it.

  3. You got that right Carol.
    Work you love isn’t work.
    I haven’t worked a day in the past 20 years.

  4. Paloma:
    Good for you — you’re turning a difficult situation into an opportunity.
    I’m proud of you.

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