Its source, Its power (the title and sub-title from an essay by Joan Didion)

Learn Through Stories
Learn Through Stories

I’ve lived my life by the belief that respect is the greatest gift you can give to a fellow human being.

But recently, I’ve been questioning whether I’ve given myself that same gift of respect – the gift of self-respect.

You see, when Covid hit, I developed a bad habit of working non-stop. I’d published my first book and accompanying workbook – Your WorkLife Your Way, just before the pandemic. My intention was to give the books to clients as an additional resource for the group workshops I’d planned. The programme I’d developed was designed to help people live their best WorkLife by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique stories. 

The workshops that subsequently had to be cancelled in the wake of the first lockdown.

As a self-employed freelance educator, no workshops meant no income. And so I threw myself into working – into writing to be precise. 

I developed each of the chapters of the original book into individual e-books, which formed The School Of WorkLife book series. The idea behind the series was to help people to continuously fine-tune their learning, development and growth by going deeper into the areas that are most important to them. 

Then I had to figure out how to raise awareness to the books. This led me to the idea of content marketing. My thinking for this was two-fold: 

  1. It made sense to draw attention to my writing through more writing. 
  2. I wanted and needed to develop my ability as a writer. Because, although I’d written stories in the form of blog posts for many years, I’d never thought of myself as a writer until I published my books. I knew I still had much to learn, and I also knew that ‘learning by doing’ was, as it always has been for me, the best approach to take.

I called my blog: WorkLife Book Wisdom – I shared stories of real-life WorkLife challenges and how the power of book wisdom helped the protagonist in the story navigate through their difficult situation. 

Again, my thinking behind this was two-fold:

  1. Reading has always been my go-to place to learn. I figured I could share this learning.
  2. Stephen King, whose work I admire and respect, said: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

So, once again, I was following my approach of learning by doing.

From the very first blog post I wrote, close to twenty years ago, I established a criterion that has guided my work ever since – that everything I write must be: helpful, inspiring and insightful. And so, once again, these three principles became my driving force in this next step of my “learning by doing” approach. 

Then, the editor who had helped me in self-publishing my books – proofreading, layout, editing etc. read my blog and suggested we work together on turning the blog posts into a book. 

That took me along a new pathway of “learning by doing” because once again, I applied this approach in learning how to write my next book: WorkLife Book Club, which will be published in 2022.

While all the time, continuing to write content for my blog.

And so, for close to two years now, I’ve thrown myself into writing. Writing and learning to be precise. Because I had a lot to learn (and still have) to become a better writer. 

I was, in fact, doing little else other than writing, learning and watching some tv at the end of the day – simply as a way to unwind and also because I didn’t have the energy or motivation to do anything else.

It was in watching a documentary about the great writer, Joan Didion, whom I admire and respect greatly, that led me to question whether I’ve given myself the gift of self-respect that I’ve always given to others.

Self Respect 

Its source, Its power 

Was the first essay Joan Didion wrote for Vogue in August 1961. In it, she said:

“People with self respect have a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve. They display what was once called character. A quality which although approved in abstract, sometimes loses ground to other more instantly negotiable virtues. Character, the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs. 

However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourself, whether or not we sleep in it, depends of course on whether or not we respect ourself.”

The self-questioning on the subject of self-respect led me to a wake-up call of sorts.

You see, in working nonstop, albeit for a worthy reason – to create the next chapter of my WorkLife by establishing myself as a writer – to earn respect as a writer, I was in a sense disrespecting myself by not showing myself the self-respect that I so wanted from others. 

Because this ongoing nonstop work took a toll on my physical and mental wellbeing.

I’d known this for some time, but I’d chosen to ignore it.

But perhaps the timing of watching the documentary about Joan Didion and then reading the words she wrote about self-respect coinciding with approaching a new year and thinking about what I wanted my next year to be – healthier in body and mind, led me to make the decision that I needed to change my routine. 

I’ve now made it that three hours of the day, have to be focused on doing things physically and mentally that bring me to life. 

For me, that means getting back into walking and beginning to practice yoga. I also want to get back to language learning and listening to more podcasts – I can combine some of these activities. And I want to get back to an early morning ritual that I’ve enjoyed in the past that has fallen by the wayside of late. That’s to sit and read for one hour at the beginning of each day over my first cup/s of coffee. 

I will, of course, continue to write, because as a friend of Joan Didion’s said in the documentary, “she writes to understand what she thinks and feels – it helps to clarify it in some way.” 

And those words are, I believe, words of wisdom that will serve my “learning by doing” approach in good stead. 

You can read Joan Didion’s full essay here: On Self-Respect


If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.


Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I'm Carmel O’ Reilly. I'm a writer and learning practitioner. My books and learning resources are designed to help you self-direct your WorkLife learning. As founder of School of WorkLife, my guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.