What if You Don’t Know What You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
How to find your work that matters most so you can live fulfilled
I spent the good part of my adult life chasing different types of work. Not jobs, per se, but the idea of uncovering a true calling. It’s different for everyone. I’ve tried everything from real estate investing, to multiple small businesses, a practicing tattoo artist for a few years, a woodworker, a coach and consultant. And now I’ve landed. I found writing. I’m not going back.
A few days a year I’m even good at it.
There are many people who don’t care to find theirs — happy with the flow. I’m not so good with the flow. I’ve always felt there was something more — a true purpose for everyone. Work we’re wired to do.
All we’ve got to do is dig it out. Sometimes the digging is hard.
There are some shortcuts to uncovering passion. As a seeker I’ve tried them all. In this post I’ll share what worked for me and what didn’t. How I uncovered my true calling and maybe it’ll work for you too.
You don’t have to quit your day job to follow your calling.
Sure, quitting for your calling sounds awesome, but there’s a lot of quit-your-job-porn floating around too. You’ve got responsibilities and sometimes burning bridges is flat-out stupid if you don’t have a plan. The world of work is smaller than you think. You may need to collaborate with your old employer in the future. It’s best not to run down the halls with your middle-fingers raised and your pants off, just yet.
I like to define a calling as different than a passion. You may think they’re the same — cool. Tomato-potato. I say a passion is something you really want to do, but your calling is something you’re engineered to do. These aren’t always the same thing.
We’ll try to find the sweet spot.
You may be passionate about basketball, but can’t shoot. Top athletes must also possess the genetic predisposition of a top athlete. You can’t train your way to better genes. Passion versus calling.
You may be passionate about writing, but you can’t sit still long enough to tie your shoe, let-alone the daily hours it takes to flesh-out a book. Maybe you can type a mean text or fantastic email, but writing probably isn’t in the cards for you. Passion versus calling.
You may be passionate about old cars, but you don’t have the drive or creativity to turn old cars into a business that will earn you enough money to live. Passion versus calling.
I have three qualifiers I use when attempting to uncover a calling. They’re very simple, but powerful. Maybe these will help you too. Calling is not a product. It’s an umbrella (or file folder) over a host of products or services. We’re not inventing a full business here, just the type of work we want to do to get to that business or service.
I’ve got a great story about the system Jim Collins (of Good to Great fame) uses to gauge his own fulfillment. I’m practicing it myself. Here’s the story:
Slow your roll. If you start with money you’ll fail and hate your work. Never start with money. I’ve chased this idea too much for too long and nothing good will come of it. If you follow your hard-wired calling to the point where you can’t imagine doing any other work, the money will come.
There’s money in everything.
But please, don’t. ever. start. with. the. money. The money is a tool — a byproduct. Money isn’t a calling. Money is a barometer of idea and effort, but not the calling itself. People who only chase the money are never satisfied and rarely happy with themselves. No matter how much they’ve accumulated.
Don’t get me wrong, either.
I love a good income just as much as the next person. I would never disparage wealth-creation. But that is not the goal itself. The calling is the goal. The lifetime pursuit of the calling. The happiness part comes from the work and the byproduct income to follow.
As long as you have a potential tribe of adequate size before you begin your calling, the money will come as a result of your efforts. The better you serve your tribe the more you’ll make. Money comes in direct proportion to the amount of value you bring to those you serve.
Now’s the fun part. Practice your calling every day. When we do our work that matters most, even when the work is really hard, we feel more fulfilled. In turn, we make those around us feel more fulfilled too.
Practice your work daily.
I’m a writer, so I write my face off. You need to do your face-off thing every day. We focus on craft, getting one-percent better every day. We focus on those we serve instead of being self-serving. We don’t focus on the money. Instead we focus on building an audience.
This isn’t easy work. Your calling is fulfilling work.
There’s a big difference. You might spend ten minutes doing an easy job you hate and it’ll feel worse than spending sixteen consecutive hours following your calling.
We’re all wired for different work. This is a good thing. Different work provides us with abundant choices in the marketplace. However, this also means you can’t do whatever you want. You mom lied to you a little. You can’t be anything you want. Some work you’ll follow will be an uphill battle against your genetics.
The best we can do is match what we do with who we are.
Remember, your job is what you do, but your work is who you are. You can uncover what you want to be when you grow up. It doesn’t matter if your six or eighty-six. I’d rather uncover my calling eventually than die knowing I never found it.
You mind will play tricks on you.
We’ve all got cognitive biases (see article below)that work against us when we try new things. As long as you understand the fight-or-flight triggers inside us, and you learn a few of the brain tricks, you’ll catch the warning signs before you follow the wrong path.
We need you to find your calling. We want what becomes of your best work.
We’re waiting for you.
What if You Don’t Know What You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
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