“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
— Pablo Picasso
The ‘Vocation’ of My Life – Part 2
In my September blog, we explored the question of “how did I come to my life’s calling” and “what is my life calling me to do?” This entry will explore more of the steps of ‘intention’ and ‘attention’ that brought clarity to the organized chaos of ‘finding my way.’
The initial ‘attention’ was simply registering the things that I enjoyed doing. From my earliest days I enjoyed being outside doing physical things, being creative, alone or with other kids. It was no wonder that my early jobs involved cutting grass.
I learned from the many candy, popcorn, or whatever school fundraisers that going door to door was not my thing. This was reinforced in a big way when I took a job as Fuller Brush salesman for a summer. I lasted four days. Luckily, the church hired me.
My work with the Junior High students reinforced that I liked leading and relating to others. I liked speaking in front of groups. I liked making people laugh. I liked encouraging people. Most of my jobs through high school involved working with kids or people’s lawns. It was a good combination of inside and out.
After graduating college, I worked for the school recruiting new students. It involved travel, speaking in front of groups, working with students and their parents, giving tours on campus, interviewing and talking to prospective students about college life and possible majors. I had a great boss, and it was a great first job out of school.
I found I enjoyed writing and creating marketing material and new services in my third job as Marketing Manager. I enjoyed learning new things and applying that knowledge to solving client problems. I also found that I enjoyed connecting with people in a deep way. I found those connections enabled us to share life in a more meaningful way. I also began to understand, in a deeper way, that this was one of my gifts. It became one of the cornerstones for my decisions about future job opportunities.
By this time, I was in my early 30’s. I had enough experience to know the skills and knowledge that I enjoyed using and acquiring. I had had five jobs over the first 10 years out of college. I had learned not only about my own interests and abilities, but also about the environments that I enjoyed, and the traits I appreciated most in my bosses. During this time, I continued to refine my skills, increase my knowledge, increase my emotional intelligence, and begin to learn more effective ways to lead – through relationship.
A lot of this involved my ‘inner’ work. At the same time there seemed to be aspects of each job that ‘called to me’ in some greater way. Those ‘moments’ tended to be stories that I would tell about an encounter with a client or a fellow employee, or a boss. They tended to be moments where we connected at some deeper level, interacting and potentially encouraging each other about something we were going through. This was not unlike the types of conversations and connections with people in college.
I was blessed with an opportunity to run a company at the age of 35. It seemed to be the perfect fit of all the acquired skills and experience since college. I seemed to be ‘called’ to this position. It was there that I had the chance to impact both the results of the company, and the culture. For me, making a difference in people’s lives was as important as the results we produced for our clients. It was there that I became more familiar with the question of “what was my life’s circumstances asking of me?”
I continued to ask and respond to that question for the next 21 years. There is likely another blog entry just on what life is asking of me, but we’ll tuck that away for another time. After 21 years the path took an unexpected turn. Life began to ask me to leave my area of ‘comfort’ for a place I could focus on meaningful conversations every day. I describe it today as the place that I was built for, where my interest and ability with people required me to listen and respond in a way that would affirm who they were, and encourage a perspective of change to get more of what they wanted in life. It was not a comfortable ‘leap’ into my next career. I had to trust the ‘calling’ and have faith in what I was there to do.
Even though it took quite a while for the financial side of my ‘calling’ to gain the kind of traction I wanted, my work was a place of affirmation. Every day became about how can I help and encourage others to find the highest version of themselves – to experience greater success in their business lives, and greater satisfaction in their personal lives.
The journey goes on. When I reflect on the two ‘calling’ questions, “How did I come to my life’s calling?” and “What does life want from me?” they appear very close together. Today it appears I may have answered the second question first. The answer always seemed to be: “Do your best work, use the gifts you were given, grow them, and make your sphere of influence a better place.” By moving forward on that path, and by paying attention to what I was learning and experiencing, I was able to learn about my gifts, grow them, and then take advantage of the doors that opened.
My other observation is that when you are using your gifts, it doesn’t seem like work. It’s not that it’s effortless, but using your gifts gives you energy and that is why it doesn’t feel like work much of the time. That is why one of the first questions I will ask people that I mentor, “Is what you are doing giving you energy?”
I hope by sharing my story you are encouraged along your own journey. I also hope that you are, or will, experience what you are ‘called’ to do.
To a better you…