Can I Feel Your Soul Through Your Work?

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Ever wonder “who am I to…?”

Write a book, start a business, lead a movement, make art, stake a claim, land a role or anything that matters AND has a long history of kick-ass players and achievements that’ve come before you.

What is there possibly left to do or say or write or create that hasn’t been done before?

The answer is your voice. Your stories. Your lens.

You don’t need to be the next Jobs, Curie or Van Gogh to do great work and create things that matter. Paradigm-shifting innovation is not the only path to impact. You can add value to an existing body of knowledge, solution or experience by crafting the container, the context, the voice and story, the mode of delivery in a way that illuminates and connects.

It’s not a quantifiable thing. But that space in between, the one that’s filled by soul, vision, language, purpose. It’s where the magic takes root. If I can feel that radiating out, regardless how many people have come before, that experience matters to me in a way 1,000 similar ones didn’t. It lands.

I’ve been told to rise above adversity a million times. But when I hear Maya Angelou recite And Still I Rise…I get chills. It lands. I RISE.

Nearly every great story follows some variation of what Joseph Campbell called the “monomyth” or “hero’s journey.”

paulo

An inciting incident leads to a deep and unsettling yearning and sets in motion a quest. The protagonist departs on a journey. Many times hopes are dashed and challenges presented. At times, she’s pushed to the point of giving up, but doesn’t. Somewhere along the way, a guide enters the picture who leads to an awakening. Our protagonist is changed, returns transformed and shares her discovery (I know, highly-simplified version for those who know the archetype).

Millions of stories have been written using the monomyth framework. We’ve all read, heard and seen this story played out so many times. So why did Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, a textbook example of the hero’s journey archetype, explode into the world’s consciousness and become one of the top 10 selling books of all time?

It wasn’t the narrative, it was the way it was told.

Just this morning, Y Combinator co-founder, Paul Graham shared a link to a project by Phillip Toledano called Days With My Father that moved me in a profound way. A beautiful photo-essay about the last 3 years in the life of one man’s father.

I knew neither. And countless stories have been told about how different people experience their final acts. Rarely have I connected with the ones I’ve seen or read or heard. Yet I was transfixed. Lost in images and words and emotion. Turning the final few pages, I broke down. I was there with them. Imagining my own relationship as a son and, someday God-willing far into the future, at the end of my time as a father and husband.

Toledano_DaysWithMyFather_Book

In 2009, Google aired a commercial during the superbowl that the exploded online and left tens of millions talking about and sharing it for days. It didn’t feature a jazzy new technology, operating system or search functionality. In fact, the only technology shown was about the oldest, most un-newsy thing Google does. Basic search.

So, why all the hubub? Because it told the story of search in a deeply personal, story-driven way. The ad, titled Parisian Love, created an emotional context, a voice, a story that had millions choked up. And talking about it around the world.

The ability to craft the container in a way that allows the consumer to connect not only with emotion, but with something deeper in themselves, with those around them and with the creator, even if that creator is an entity, is where so much of the power lies.

When I read a book, listen to music, experience art or movies, movements, products, services or ventures, I often find myself silently asking…

“Can I feel the maker’s soul through their voice?”

Because people don’t buy inventions, creations or messages. They don’t buy technology. They don’t buy products and services, archetypes or frameworks.

They buy the craft. The connection. The emotion. The promise. The essence. The soul. The voice. They buy what those things do to and for them.

They buy the yearning to feel more of what that “thing” lets them feel. And that’s not just about the nuts and bolts of what you make, but how you create the experience of connection and consumption.

So, when you’re wondering “who am I?” maybe the better question question to ask is…

How can I create an experience that allows others to feel my soul through my work? And in doing so, feel their own?

And, then…

Will I?

 

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40 responses

40 responses to “Can I Feel Your Soul Through Your Work?”

  1. Can’t wait to check out the Toledano piece. Looks incredible.

    The Alchemist is one of the most profoundly simple, yet powerful uses of the hero’s journey archetype. Years back I was struggling to write the last line of a chorus for a song about my hometown. Far too many cheesy “can’t go home again” type songs had already been written. I was stuck.

    Until I thought back to The Alchemist, and the line showed up:

    “what am i supposed to find / right here where i left it years ago?”

    Funny, but this PRECISE vibe was in my heart this morning, driving through downtown Akron, OH.

    It all comes back to us; our lens, our voice, our singular perspective. It is the common denominator in our experience, and also the unequivocal differentiator.

    Aint NO BODY do how YOU DO. (you and you and YOU). 😉

    Awesome reminders today, Professor.

    kc

  2. Susan Kuhn says:

    Beautiful post. This is how we make a beautiful culture…a world in which everyone is in touch with their soul and connecting with each other soul to soul. Every voice matters; let no soul be left out of this music.

  3. David Ross says:

    Oh, Jonathan, how you do hit the nail on the head and cut right through the crud.

    Every day for the past dozen years of running my own business I’ve uttered a [usually] silent prayer to let the true joy, the passion I feel, come through in my work. Sometimes it does, sometimes I get so caught up in the social taboo of ‘what will ‘they think of me if’ … and the passion, the heart, the juice, gets lost in translation. But, o’ sometimes I surprise myself and it shines through. Those are the moments I treasure and they make it all worth it. Damn, sometimes I’m able to let go and simply be real, to speak from the heart and let it flow.

    Thanks, again, for the reminder.

    David

  4. What a beautiful post! What each of us offers to the world is unique. There is nobody else like us on the planet who can bring what we bring. When we trust it and own it the beauty, excitement and love is palpable and we’re on mission–every time, even if it’s when we’re making a salad.

  5. I love reading your posts as they so relate to the creative process of art making-I was just working on a document that goes into 7 principles of art process this morning when your post came across my screen. I endlessly teach others about the value of being authentic in creative pursuits. With this weeks blog you have given me a refreshing new way to explain this concept. Thank you.
    Below is what I was working on when your blog came through.

    BE YOU

    • If you do not at least try to make your art then the world will not have it. It is up to you. Aren’t you curious? What will you make in this lifetime if given a chance? This is a very worthwhile question to ask yourself.

    • Only if your work feels like YOU can it then become known, valued by others and loved by you.

    • Authenticity is what creates VALUE in art.

    • Everyone wants to feel alive. People come alive when they experience newness and CHANGE. If your work is like you and not like anyone else people will want it in their lives to remind them how it feels to be alive.

    • The reason you don’t know what your art will be like in the future is because no one has made it yet. If you can clearly see your work all laid out ahead of you then most likely it is not yours. You want to make YOUR work.

  6. Perfect inspiration for me today. Thank you for walking your talk!
    -a-

  7. Thanks J for this note…
    sometimes it feels everything has already been done and what’s the point of my project. My story, my perspective I suppose is the point.
    🙂

  8. Philippe says:

    Waou .. Jonathan, you are always a great source of inspiration for me, and this post is both profound and true. And we felt your soul .. which is beautiful ! Thank you – and outrageous love to you !

  9. Owen Marcus says:

    That space in between what I do, that space of my passion and soul I so often hide because it is so precious and innocent. Yet, as you point out – that is the space others need to feel to have them be inspired to share theirs.

    In our world of bounty the scarcest commodity is what makes human.

  10. Erica Duncan says:

    Wow, this is so poignant and what I need right now. For me and for the incredible people in my life and business. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  11. Marcy says:

    This is what needs to be stirring in my mind every morning. Most of the time self-doubt starts creeping in and I find myself thinking…so many talented people are doing this better than me but then I remember not with my voice. All of our voices are essential to creating the many shades of beauty that surround us everyday. Thanks Jonathan for this beautiful post.

  12. Good question to ask yourself. This is something I’ve been thinking about recently – I’d like to create a movie that will help people re-connect with the essence of nature and share with people what experience of planting, then taking care of trees can do for them (emotionally and spiritually).

    I want to inspire others to plant trees.

    Storytelling and music could be the way to go… but should be something more than that. I don’t know yet what it is.

  13. Patty Gordon says:

    Thank you for a beautiful post, Jonathan! Soul work is the hero’s journey and we are each on our own path. I just came across this quote and your post made me appreciate it again, and more: “you can only expect a fulfilling life if you dedicate yourself to finding out who you are. To finding the ineffable, idiosyncratic seeds of possibility already planted inside.” (Stephen Cope) Thank you for being my guide.

  14. Nick Holmes says:

    Beautiful post. Its inspiring to read and really touched me. Thank you for this great article.

  15. LWE says:

    Thanks for this beautiful post. As a woman with autism, who somehow (?) works in the branding business, it made me cry — not because I didn’t understand it, but because for most of us with autism, this is the one area where we’re “broken.” People think we don’t understand feeling, or that we don’t recognize when others communicate clearly through the language of emotion. Perhaps for some that’s true, but for many of us, we do recognize that genius. Yet it’s not something we’re good at replicating. We’re often told we “have no soul” because we can’t express it in ways that move other people. I wish there was a way to teach this skill! But I think, at its very core, at least, it is innate — or it is not.

  16. Amy Volk says:

    Thank you for sharing this. You cannot imagine how my own soul needed this reminder, this calling. It’s so easy to get lost and never sure if what you’re doing matters, but indeed it does.

    I’m thankful for this today.

  17. Jasna says:

    Thank you for wonderfull post and thoughts about creation… We are talking about situations when a product of any kind, business or creation, transcedents to the “state of art”. In this state “it” (be it product, service, piece of art…) creates experience and touches other people in various profound and unexpected ways. Due to adhered experiences of other people value of “our” piece is growing and getting life of its own, out there… We must DARE and create, whatever our calling in life might be… we never know how, when and at which level it will resonate and connect us with others…

  18. You are simply AMAZING! What a powerful way to share the message of connection… which is what EVERYTHING comes down to. Have an awesome day, Jonathan!

  19. Dionne says:

    Loved this post Jonathan and your comments re Maya Angelou reminded me of my favourite ‘rise up’ poem by Audre Lorde -which goes to the same theme –

    It ends –

    “So it is better to speak
    remembering
    we were never meant to survive”

    And is about having a voice – here is the full version – soooo powerful –

    A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL
    For those of us who live at the shoreline
    standing upon the constant edges of decision
    crucial and alone
    for those of us who cannot indulge
    the passing dreams of choice
    who love in doorways coming and going
    in the hours between dawns
    looking inward and outward
    at once before and after
    seeking a now that can breed
    futures
    like bread in our children’s mouths
    so their dreams will not reflect
    the death of ours:

    For those of us
    who were imprinted with fear
    like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
    learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
    for by this weapon
    this illusion of some safety to be found
    the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
    For all of us
    this instant and this triumph
    We were never meant to survive.

    And when the sun rises we are afraid
    it might not remain
    when the sun sets we are afraid
    it might not rise in the morning
    when our stomachs are full we are afraid
    of indigestion
    when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
    we may never eat again
    when we are loved we are afraid
    love will vanish
    when we are alone we are afraid
    love will never return
    and when we speak we are afraid
    our words will not be heard
    nor welcomed
    but when we are silent
    we are still afraid

    So it is better to speak
    remembering
    we were never meant to survive

    – Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn

  20. Shelly says:

    What a great reminder to share from a soul space…that is what will connect us..that is what the reader is looking for. Not so much the content but the thread that stitches it all together.

  21. Sonia Lima Brito says:

    Hi! Only people who are able to sense deeply can write/speak to the heart of anyone. I believe you are one of them, Jonathan Fields… Not everyone is able to feel deeply touched. But those who do… are very sensitive and incisive and “heart-open” when connecting to others. And to be able to receive we need an open heart and soul!… Keep that sensitiveness in your eyes and heart and hands and you can touch every one’ hearts with your writings! GBU all!

  22. Catherine says:

    There’s a lot of inspirational writing out there in the form of email tips and stories, but this one caught me. Reading this post was like finding that elusive piece of a puzzle that I knew was there, but just couldn’t uncover. I may be one of many doing what I do, but no one else has my voice; no one does it like I do.

    Thank you, Jonathan.

  23. Ian says:

    Powerful post, Jonathan. Thank you.

  24. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, it’s inspiring how you found the connective thread from Angelou to Coelho to Toledano to Google, and the way the meanings circle and amplify in expressive resonance.

    Lovely.

  25. […] Can I Feel Your Soul Through Your Work? from Jonathan Fields. […]

  26. Wonderful blog post, Jonathon, and so true. It is the essence of us – our gifts, our authenticity, the ability to accept and love ourselves and then share ourselves with others – the helps us to matter.
    I hope to meet you at Jenny’s Sunday with Sage. xx

  27. Kimunya Mugo says:

    Wonderful post Jonathan, not only does it evoke a soulful spirit, it causes us to think of the urgency to put our heart in everything that we do. Two things stood out for me. Maya Angelou’s “I rise” and the project by Phillip Toledano “Days With My Father”.

    These are themes many of us seem to struggle with throughout our lives. They propel us forward or sink us with an anvil tied to our feet. I have found that the two have affected the soulfulness of my work and engagement with others to varying degrees. However, writing my first book “Down But Not Out: Becoming a Significant Leader at Home” helped me heal and rise. I wrote it from my soul… and boy didn’t it feel good! I hope that it will have an impact on many, as they struggle to find a foothold in the most important arena of leadership development, the home.

  28. Carol Fant says:

    I love this post. It’s been so hard for me, forever, to just speak my truth and be me. I spent too long being a chameleon and changing colors to blend in with my environment. No more. When I read content like this, it affirms I’m on the right track. Loving it. Thanks.

  29. Thank you for this deeply inspirational and powerful post, Jonathan. I believe it is one I will return to at times when my spirit flags.

  30. Steve Arensberg says:

    I was struggling with this very thing over the last few days: “What do I have to say that anyone wants to hear? I’m not some credentialed expert – who’s going to listen to me?”

    And the funny thing is, although I’ve heard similar advice from others – “It’s your particular voice that somebody needs to hear. You may say the same thing that someone else has said before, but it’s your voice that makes the difference.” – it was your voice that touched something in me today that the other messages didn’t. I was the tuning fork humming sympathetically to that clear note in your voice.

    Your words help explain the reason I want to create: to convey a truth – not a logical, scientific one, but an organic, primal, soul truth – that resonates for someone else and feeds their soul to create their own magic.

    We can learn and understand something logically, but it’s the emotion behind it, the heart of the why, that fuels us – even compels us – to bring something into the world.

    You understand this, and your words bring that essence to those of us who need it. Thank you for that.

  31. […] Sense of Place Can I Feel Your Soul Through Your Work? by Jonathan […]

  32. Christie says:

    Dearest Johnathan!

    A huge thank you. This is exactly the sentiment that has been swirling around in my heart and head these last few weeks, as I question how to create a business that adds value to the world.

    You absolutely nailed it!

    Much love and gratitude sent your way from Western Australia.

    Christie 🙂

  33. Gail Behrend says:

    Jonathan,

    I love this post! It’s a timely reminder to really express our unique essence in our lives. It’s why we’re here and what we can uniquely contribute.

    You’ve inspired me!Thank you so much!

    Blessings,
    Gail

  34. Regina says:

    What a fantastic post and so well written. Nailed it, is right. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today on something I am working on/contemplating. Thank you so much!!! Your posts and the GLP are changing my life!!!

  35. Jeff Dolan says:

    I think you just wrote your best post ever. Congrats!

  36. […] Jonathan Fields asks, Can I Feel Your Soul Through Your Work? […]

  37. […] Your job is to make the next version better. Tinker. What are you going to improve upon in the next version? Not perfect,  just better. Give yourself permission to play, try new things and explore. This will allow you to develop your craft and it will begin to resonates with others. […]

  38. Angie Dixon says:

    Jonathan,

    You had me at Maya Angelo.

    I’ve recently doubted myself, but also convinced myself that who I am is the person with this particular message.

    Thanks for reaffirming that for me.

  39. […] recently read an excellent post by Jonathan Fields titled Can I Feel Your Soul Through Your Work?  We is writing about what moves him in a world where so many entities, people, ideas, and products […]