The Secret to Doing Great Work

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs

I first came across Steve Jobs’ commencement speech video in 2010. I just left Aquent to start my own company (read about my journey here). I was starting from zero, I didn’t even have a name for the company. Without a big corporate brand behind me, I felt lost at sea, disoriented.  Steve Jobs’ rousing speech gave me a direction: “Love what you do.” That gave me the burst of hope to get off the starting blocks.

The early days were tough. Being a first-time entrepreneur, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. There was so much uncertainty, I feared making decisions, but inaction was not an option. Nothing moved unless I nudged it. So, I acted despite the uncertainty. I made a lot of mistakes, and mistakes cost money. Steve Jobs message no longer brought hope, but bitterness. I was supposed to be taken to heaven, but instead was let to fall. I felt alone in the dark.

Steve Jobs message no longer brought hope, but bitterness. I was supposed to be taken to heaven, but instead was let to fall. I felt alone in the dark.

However, in the darkness, Steve Jobs didn’t desert me. In the stillness, his voice got stronger: “Love what you do”. And inspiration would flood me again. I must carry on.

I continued experimenting, figuring out what worked and what didn’t. I read voraciously. I attended training and workshops. I locked myself up for 10 days in the cool hills of Bogor in search of clarity. I sought out experts to help with our marketing, business strategy, etc.

Slowly, I started to discover what was truly useful and effective, and thus valuable. We started to see signs of success. It hit me one day: I was doing great work, and I was helping others, my team and clients, to do great work too.  After 7 years, Personna has transformed and we’re on a mission to help more people do great work.

My journey towards great work has taken 7 years, and it falls into 3 distinct stages:

Stage 1: Leading myself through positive change

Role: Personal leader

Sign of success: Money

I allowed my inner wisdom to rise to the surface and guide me with its intuitive principles. I wanted to create something of value, a heady combination of beauty and effectiveness. I learnt what worked and what didn’t based on my own experimentation. The most rewarding thing for me is not so much the money taken at its face value, but the sense of accomplishment from creating something valuable.

Stage 2: Leading my team through positive change

Role: People leader

Sign of success: Influence

As I’ve discovered how to do great work myself, I wanted to share the secrets with others so that they could do great work as well. I learnt, again through practical real-life experimentation, that not everyone is ready to allow their inner wisdom to guide them. But for those brave souls who chose to embrace their inner warriors, they transformed. The most rewarding thing for me is seeing others experience their own sense of accomplishment from creating something valuable.

Stage 3: Leading my community through positive change

Role: Community leader

Sign of success: Meaning

As I’ve discovered how to help others do great work, I started working with clients and guided them through their amazing transformations. Here, my learning journey continues. I’ve only scratched the surface. The most rewarding thing for me is to see a world where people derive meaning and joy from their work.

The future of work is coming, and it’s going to be wonderful, if more of us will step up to lead through positive change. Everyone’s contribution is necessary, no matter how small. We can make a huge difference to our world by making small and simple changes in how we operate. It’s worth it, believe me.


Photo credit: Botticelli, Sandro. The Birth of Venus. 1486. Uffizi, Florence. Web.

About Sophia Chin, Leadership Coach & Co-founder of PERSONNA

Sophia believes everyone has a powerful force to lead positive change. She helps leaders to empower themselves to lead change in their organisations. We overcome the toughest challenges by being true to our Work Persona.

Over the last 10 years, Sophia has interviewed thousands of senior leaders who have successfully led changes in some of the most innovative companies, and designed a simple process to make tough change easier.

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