Your Best Work
Two years ago, while scanning the local entertainment scene for something different to do on my husband's birthday, I found just the kind of event I had in mind at the MIM Music Theater in Phoenix. While unfamiliar with the artist, I was intrigued by the concert description. I liked her attitude. I liked her leather jacket. I liked her story of being rediscovered late in her career. And when I watched Bettye LaVette's performance of the Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" at the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors, I clicked "buy tickets."
At the concert, LaVette introduced herself as a 50-year overnight success. Her artistry is as a song stylist and she’s been called a master of interpretation. Clearly, it’s just her fame that’s new, not her devotion to the work. Here’s how LaVette explained it in a 2009 interview with the Colorado Springs Independent:
"I didn't expect any of the things that have happened, especially in the last two years. But the reason that I continued to do this and keep my voice strong and stay fitting into a size 6 is that I wanted it to happen. And I was constantly putting myself in positions to make it happen. It just wasn't working."2
As the interviewer in that article concluded: It's working now.
Don't Write Yourself Off Just Yet
Bettye LaVette’s story got me thinking about how life can surprise you. Despite the ups and downs of her career, she stayed plugged in to possibility. What would have happened if she had written herself off?
If you’re like most people, there will be times over the course of your career when you’ll feel as if you’ve missed the boat, should have achieved it by now, or that it’s too late to fulfill a dream. Age doesn’t discriminate because these thoughts can pop up in every decade, starting as early as your 20’s right through your 60’s and beyond. When you sort through these uneasy feelings, what they’re actually bringing up is the desire to have your best work come forth.
When Will It Come Forth?
Entertain this thought: Maybe your best work is in front of you. Of course you can’t know that for sure but for a moment, just imagine the possibility that your best work, greatest contribution, or fullest expression is yet to unfold.
What does that open up for you? Some of you reading this today might say that what opens up is persistence, feeling that it’s okay to keep working at something, and as Bettye LaVette did, to continue mastering your craft and positioning yourself for opportunity. For others, what opens up might be the inner knowledge that it’s okay to take a risk, step out, or try something completely new.
This Week’s Call To Action:
- Think of your formal career as well as other aspects of life: family, volunteer activities, creative endeavors, or other interests. What are some examples of your best work?
- What is the work to which you devote yourself, regardless of whether you receive “critical acclaim” for it?
- What are your favorite examples of people who have accomplished great things later in their careers or lives?
Identify and be proud of what your best work has been thus far in your life. Stay open to accomplishing even greater things. Who knows what the pinnacle of your life’s work will be!
See you in the current,
1Photo Credit: Layette, live at Massey Hall in Toronto:"Bettye lavette" by Piedmontstyle (talk) (Uploads) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia
2Bill Forman, “The resurrection of Bettye LaVette,” (July 23, 2009).
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