Can’t-not-do: I know that sounds both funky, and like a double negative, and it is. 

However, it’s also a useful way to express the concept of doing that which your DNA codes you to do; that activity that you cannot escape engaging. 

For me, writing and publishing is what my DNA codes me to do. It’s the one activity I can’t-not-do.

It’s so basic a need that, next to breathing, it’s right up there with drinking coffee.

I’m thinking about this because a friend IM’d me a few days ago and we texted back and forth about his frustration with writing and publishing, a general lack of results, and how he was going to take a break. 

I responded that writing and publishing were both something I was compelled to do each day. I further stated that these two activities aren’t driven by the results I see, but instead by the need to honor the drive inside me that compels me to create and publish.

What does your DNA wire you to do?

For writers this drive to create is often at the core of what I call our most meaningful work (MMW). It’s the work we cannot avoid if we are to be true to ourselves; it exists as a sacred calling that originates not with any deity but within our very genetic code.

I’ve known hundreds of coworkers, colleagues, and friends that rarely engage in their MMW. I find it a very sad reality that people spend their entire lives working and not enjoying the hell out of what they do all day.”

For decades I experimented with many forms of work and educated myself in many areas to find that which I couldn’t-not-do. Coming back to a realization I had at the age of nine is what finally got my attention.

The state of flow and  timelessness I experienced writing at age nine was the first time I knew what it was.

I then spent decades covering it up with careers in medicine and higher education only rarely touching on it. I’d experience glimpses into my MMW so-to-speak at times but the job, responsibilities of family, and economic realities dictated that I didn’t make changes.


Find something you care about and care deeply.

This is the only career advice I’ve ever given my four adult children: 

“Find an activity that you’d do for free over and over and pursue it with every bit of your waking energy. It’s the only path that will guide you to what you can’t-not-do.”

If you’re a writer, does your writing allow you to express who you are? Does it feed your soul the way oxygen feeds your lungs? Does it touch on those visceral needs to make a contribution to others? Is it something you’d do for free over and over?

What is it that you can’t-not-do? 


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