Do you have a calling? Maybe ‘calling’ is too heavy a word and you can’t relate to it. Do you have a purpose? Or maybe a better question is, do you know your purpose? If you’re not sure yet then do you have any idea how to find it — or are you simply adrift in life hoping that one day you smack into the wall that is your purpose?
I can answer the first two questions for you. Yes you do have a purpose and a calling. But only you can answer the remaining question, and that answer will be specific to you.
In The Art of Work, Jeff Goins, tries to walk readers down the road to finding their purpose.
This is not a book about miracles. It is a book about finding your calling, about how you discover what you were born to do.
Jeff is a great storyteller and pulls us into the exploration of purpose and how to find it by using a number of stories of real life people who have found their calling. Throughout the book he uses the struggles and successes of those people to illustrate his points.
Arranged around these stories of people the book is split into themes based around Awareness, Apprenticeship, Practice, Discovery, Profession, Mastery and Legacy.
The real-life examples serve as powerful illustrations to drive home the points in Jeff’s book. From a young lady, unwed and pregnant, living in a country where she’s stigmatized, to a successful business person, now retired, who works with drug addicts because he just can’t let them suffer more. These are real people living their passion.
When “real life” began, you gave up, but called it growing up instead and abandoned the dream altogether.
Are you even listening?
The first step on the journey to finding your purpose is to start looking for it, so it’s fitting that this is where the book starts. While you may think you are looking for your purpose, the truth is, most people are simply waiting for their purpose to find them. They are putting no real effort into finding it because it’s easier to sit back and wait. You can’t fail at waiting you can only fail if you start taking action and something doesn’t quite pan out.
Most people waste the best years of their life waiting for an adventure to come to them instead of going around and finding one.
While it’s great to take courses and follow plans to help you find your path, Jeff contends that one of the things we often skip is simply being silent with ourselves and taking the time to listen. When you look back at your life and let the events that are meaningful speak to you, what are the common threads? It’s in these threads Goins feels we can discover our purpose.
For many this can be a scary experience because it means shutting off all the outside stimuli and possibly finding out that whatever you’re currently doing is far from your true purpose. Instead of fear, you should be feeling excited. You’re not going to be wasting time anymore on things that don’t matter. Once you discover you’re on the right track you can finally course correct to start pushing towards the purpose you’ve discovered.
Before you know what your calling is, you must believe you are called to something
Wither the apprentice
Generations ago we had this amazing way of learning a trade, we called them apprenticeships. A young person would start working with a master around the age of 12-15 and would spend years learning the trade. In many instances they’d even live with the family. During this time all the work the apprentice did was put forward as the master’s work.
From there, the apprentice would become a journeyman and would actually journey around doing their trade under various masters while getting paid to do it. They’d often get their name on the work as well but under the master’s name.
Only once they’d been doing this for a few more years could they take their work to a guild and have it judged to see if it was up to the quality of a master. If it was, the journeyman could now call themselves a master and start the apprenticeship cycle again.
Goins uses this fact of work to analyze how we learn things today. We simply don’t have formal apprenticeships like they had in years gone by. In many fields you can even just train yourself and hang up your shingle and start charging for your work. While this is amazing in so many ways it also is sad as we have to watch the next generation of business owners make ludicrous mistakes due to simply not having the knowledge required to avoid them. Money is lost and clients are angry because the beginning business owner had no one with years of experience to watch their backs.
Sometimes the route to our purpose is a chaotic experience, and how we respond matters more than what happens.
Since we don’t have this formal mentorship in most professions, and never had them in the online world, what is someone to do? Jeff gives us lots of tips on how to watch for those mentors that will crop up in our life for a period of time and how to use them to give us a proper mentorship as we walk towards our calling.
The mentors are there; it’s really just up to you to take advantage of the opportunities that life provides for mentorship.
A second big point about apprenticeships is that they took 10 years — or the fabled 10,000 hours. You started the journey and then stuck to it for at least this time then you finally could go practice your craft on your own.
In our world today, we have a commitment problem. Everywhere you look, it seems you can find a lack of commitment or follow-through. Leaders shirk responsibilities. Politicians blame the “other party.” And many drift from one job to the next, never fully committing to any of them.
With the world highlighting the supremely rare true overnight success we end up comparing our every day toil to them. In truth most overnight successes have invested 10 or 20 years in related fields as they meandered their way to the calling they are now known for.
We never saw them struggle, but they did. We never saw them fail, but they did. We need to take advantage of the opportunities these people bring into our lives and stop comparing our every day life to their social media highlight reel.
It’s about the work but not just about the work
We’ve been conditioned to think of work as drudgery, a chore you endure in exchange for a paycheck. And this is a problem.
“So glad it’s Friday”
Both of those are a typical refrain in workplaces around the world. Even among those that run their own businesses the sentiment is often the same. Work is something necessary to pay bills, not something done for the sheer enjoyment of what we accomplish while we work.
Here is the problem with finding your calling, according to Goins, and then working into a place where you can do it as your income generator. You’ve been taught for your life through those around you that work is drudgery not that it’s something to get enjoyment out of.
Once you’ve found your calling it’s time to learn something new about work — it’s supposed to be fulfilling. It’s something you should look forward to. When you find your purpose, work simply won’t feel like drudgery because you can think of doing nothing but that which you are currently doing.
Life is not a support system for your work; your work is a support system for your life.
The Portfolio Life
Do you view your work a single pillar in your life or a complex legacy of interconnected interests and skills that you weave together to generate the life you want to live?
The Art of Work proposes four aspects of the portfolio life. These four pillars are what make up the life you want to live.
- Work. This is the part that we call a job.
- Home. Outside your work, with the people that matter to you.
- Play. Much like children do, we all need to have lots of play in our lives. Adults are just terrible at it.
- Purpose. This is the big thing that influences the choices you make and really the reason you work at all…to accomplish your purpose.
These four aspects make up the portfolio life, according to Goins. They’re not so much different phases, but pillars that hold you up, and neglecting one will affect the others. Putting them all together you should see your purpose flowing through each part.
At the same time we must hold these in tension, not balance. Balance is weak and just waiting for one small puff of breeze to shift the balance and push everything into a fall.
Tension is strong, like the lines supporting a telecommunications tower. Each line is under tension pulling against the others and thus in concert they keep this tower upright and strong as it weathers storms.
Looking through the lens of your calling at your portfolio life you should see the threads of your purpose coming through. It should permeate that which you do.
Here are my key takeaways from The Art of Work
- You have a calling and need to put effort into finding it
- Look for mentors in your journey and take advantage of the opportunities they provide
- Your vocation (work) should be fun
- Build a work that suits the life you want to live; don’t put living that life off until ‘later’ because it won’t come and you may have broken the things you want to have by then
- Your income will likely come from many spots and this is good since it insulates you from a single point of income failure
- Put some thought into your legacy and make sure that you look for opportunities to be a mentor
To read or not?
The Art of Work is a great read that weaves a series of stories into a coherent book on finding your purpose. It’s more than just a feel-good book to help find your purpose — it gives you some great tips on how to work your way towards fulfilling that purpose in your life.
This is a great book to read as you walk down the path to your calling and implementing it in your life and work.