In the late 1800s, two ships were wrecked at opposite ends of the sub-Antarctic Auckland Island, within a few months of each other. Neither crew knew the other was there.
The island has a rocky, unforgiving coastline, and a year-round perishing climate of freezing rain and howling winds. Their chances of survival were grim. One crew fell apart under poor leadership, descending into starvation and cannibalism. Most were lost.
The other banded together and with incredible resourcefulness, survived for almost two years. They made soap, clothes, shoes and tools for trapping seals and birds. They figured out how to make cement and built a cabin complete with a fireplace and chimney. They made a forge and formed tools and nails by hand, crafting a boat from the wreck of the ship and eventually escaping hundreds of kilometres over treacherous seas to Stewart Island.
A few summers ago, my husband read Joan Druett’s remarkable book about this true story. As he excitedly read aloud jaw-dropping snippets of the men’s achievements, we were both struck by the notion that if you were ever shipwrecked, you’d want your fellow passengers to be handy.
Engineers, builders, boat builders and plumbers were top of our list, along with keen gardeners or hunters, a nurse or doctor and a navigator. Plenty of our friends made the cut.
But a numbers guy and a lawyer-turned-writer? Pah!
Contribution is one of my core values, and with so many pressing global problems, there have been times I’ve wondered what I’m really giving to the world. Writing can feel like such a selfish pursuit.
Then I look at the ways my words have been of service to others.
I’ve assisted friends with CVs and job applications, helping rebuild their confidence to get back into the workforce after a tough experience, or to branch out into something new.
I’ve written biographies that have opened people’s eyes to their own genius, allowing them to see for the first time how amazing their achievements really are and how far they have come.
I’ve advocated for others, and obtained grants and donations for worthy causes.
I’ve written wedding speeches, eulogies and tributes to the living and the dead. Some I delivered myself, others were for people close to me, helping them to honour those they love.
I’ve helped others with the healing and liberating process of finding telling their stories. I’ve written books that have brought joy and inspiration to others.
I’ve crafted words that have helped emerging business owners finally articulate their idea in a concept they can share.
I’ve helped others illuminate the message at the heart of their work, stand up boldly and share it with the world.
I may not know how to build a house, mend a broken body, or navigate by the stars.
I may be irrationally afraid of spiders and utterly useless when faced with a rat.
But I can put my words to work to help others shine, take their ideas to the world and make meaning from this thing we call life.
If you ever doubt the value or purpose of what you do, take ten minutes with your journal today to reflect on all the ways – big and small – that your gifts have served others.
It’s easy to take your own genius for granted, simply because it comes naturally to you. But the value you bring to others and the contribution you make when you shine your light, are greater than you know.
Learning how to articulate your genius, and finally own the power and value in your work are cornerstones of my upcoming Illuminate Messaging Lab.
I’d love to have you join us, so if you’re keen to learn more, enter your name and email below.
In the meantime I’d love to know: how does your work serve the world? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[grwebform url=”https://app.getresponse.com/view_webform_v2.js?u=BK0VN&webforms_id=23010301″ css=”on” center=”off” center_margin=”200″/]