Story: I Must Do the Work That I Am Best Suited For.

This week’s video story: I must do the work that I am best suited for.

As I mention, that story appears in Edward Weston’s Daybooks.

I can’t resist adding a bit of what he wrote about photographing peppers:

“It is a classic, completely satisfying,–a pepper—but more than a pepper: abstract, in that it is completely outside subject matter. It has no psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused: this new pepper takes on beyond the world we know in the conscious mind.

To be sure, much of my work has this quality,–many of my last year’s peppers, but this one, and in fact all the new ones, take one into an inner reality,–the absolute,–with a clear understanding, a mystic revealment.” — Daybooks, August 8, 1931

Sidenote: It’s surprising to me how many great visual artists are also great writers.

How about you? Do you have to remind yourself to “Be Gretchen” (substitute your own name) and to do what you’re best suited for? Self-knowledge! Always, it comes back to self-knowledge.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

Find the archives of videos here.  Almost 1.8 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

  • peninith1

    I like this so much better than ‘follow your bliss’ (was that Joseph Campbell? I think so). The work that I am best suited for is not some blissful dream, but the real, practical work that I am most equipped to do. My ‘blissful’ dream as a child was to be a ballerina. Hah. Let’s not even go there–my athletic ability is low and my body is, well, not suited. I dreamed of being an astronomer, too. Bad at math. I also was fascinated by paleontology and archaeology, which I might have done better with, but then I’m not tremendous at roughing it for long periods of time. Not a good idea. Still, looking at my childhood dreams tells me that it was always the elements of speculation, aspiration, art, beauty, and mystery in the things that attracted me–and I work now as an artist (quilter) and spent my career as a public affairs officer (writer, story teller, visitor of other people’s career worlds). I am ‘best suited’ to be a word person and a maker of beautiful and useful things. I would be a horrible accountant, nurse, veterinarian, lab technician, or anything that required a lot of athleticism.

    Likely Weston not only was an artist and an intense observer, but also good at the refined technical skills needed to use a camera and work in a darkroom. He had the mental equipment to be a ‘prima ballerina assoluta’ in his field, but also the hands, eyes, and technical mind to bring the objects to light as luminous abstract icons.

  • Jamie Wallace

    Love this, Gretchen. Thanks. We are too easily caught up in all the “shoulds.” –> I *should* be doing this, I *should* not be doing that, etc. How quick we are to overlook the value of the things we are best suited to – the things that come easily.

    Much to think about. 🙂

  • Maria

    Great reminder Gretchen! Sometimes instead of capitalizing on what comes naturally for us, we try to pressure ourselves to do things that we’d better not be doing.

  • HEHink

    Very similar to what the Reverend Mother tells Maria in The Sound of Music (right before she breaks into “Climb Every Mountain”) – You have to do the thing you were born to do. In my opinion, this is usually the work you are best suited for. It’s funny, but, life being what it is, after 18 years in and out of the teaching profession, this is the first year that I really feel I am doing what I am best suited for right now. Just being suited for a certain type of work does not necessarily make it easy. I believe we still have to put effort into making that work our own. Or, sometimes we may be doing the right work, but within the wrong capacity (working for someone else rather than ourselves, for example), and need to change our circumstances to make it right for us. And, what we experience along the way might make us suited for something else later on. So it seems we need to be open to both who we are, and where life is leading us.

  • Yes, but don’t get stuck on the words “must” and “best”.

    Most of us normal, deadly, less than perfect individuals just have to make the best of what is – and that’s not so bad!

    Focus on the positive!

    • Stephanie

      “Best suited for” isn’t the same as “best at, among all the other ones who are also good at it, but you’re the best at it” — “best suited for” is ordinary, normal, your own, your life, and real. It isn’t a superlative, it’s a clarifying specificity.

      And “must” is a compelling interior pull, which, if resisted, results in an interior splitting apart of who we are.

      So … if the “normal” and the “less than perfect” live a life fully engaged with the ordinariness of work in the everyday (if we learn to be Happier at Home, for instance 😉 ), then those people ARE doing the work they must do because it is what they are best suited for.

  • So glad you are back! Missed your posts in my feed 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks! I’ve been having RSS trouble…let’s hope it stays fixed. Thanks for your patience —

  • BKF

    Edward Weston was a true genius. I will have to check out his Daybooks. Regarding self-knowledge, something that has helped a great deal is the sentence completion exercises of Nathaniel Branden, the self-esteem guru. He has a -free- 30 day set of these on his website. ( I have no affiliation with him. )

  • Victor

    Check out this amazing article on how to keep you’re brain sharp and be as smart as you should be!

  • Great post and a very helpful advice. Something that everyone should remember instead of doing this and that. Do you know where I can buy Edward Weston’s books? Would love to read his works.