Do you know what your calling is?

Po Bronson was quoted as saying, “A calling is not something you just know the moment you see it.  It’s something you grow into.” I believe it was from his book “What Should I Do With My Life?” I first read this in March of this year and even wrote it down in my journal.  I have been thinking about it ever since and have come to the conclusion that I am not sure if I agree.  I can tell you that my belief (before I read this statement) was quite different.  I believed that your calling would be something that you would know instantaneously when you first experienced it.  The challenge is trying to reconcile my thought with the fact that, sometimes, there are people who begin doing something with no intention of it being their life’s work only to have it come to be so.

I added a level of complexity to the issue the other night when I discussing strategy with a group of new MBA students.  I was asking them why they had selected to pursue an MBA and many of them could not provide me with a specific detailed plan other than they believed it would be good for their career.  I asked them because I wanted them to see that the same tools you use for developing business strategy could also be used at the micro-level for developing strategies for your life.  I told them to be sure to have a plan.  Not one that could not be altered to take advantage of opportunities but they at least needed a rough idea of where they wanted to go.  The class went well and I was on my way home when I had an epiphany.  It takes me about 40 minutes to drive home from the university and it provides me with time to reflect on the discussions and determine what worked and what did not.  This night I was struck by how my statement was, sub-consciously, a directive that would assist them in avoiding a mistake I had made.

From the time I was in junior high school, I wanted to be a lawyer.  I can remember from the moment college became a serious thought, the direction was pre-law.  Never a doubt or deviation from the goal.  Looking back, I am not even sure why but can tell you that my die had been cast and that was what I wanted to do.  Fast forward to August 1990 and my goal was about to be realized.  I was accepted to and attending Law School @ Ohio State.  Within 6 weeks, I was horribly disillusioned and decided that, in fact, I did not want to be a lawyer.  I think the reasons for this decision were many.  The main driver was that I had spent my undergrad years studying English Literature & Philosophy and very much enjoyed the discourse it required.  I found law school to be confining and mind numbingly boring.  That was it & I quit.

Since that day (19 years ago), I have done a multitude of things that I will not take the time to list here.  Suffice to say it has been an interesting path.  The part that struck me that evening on my drive home was that my decision to attend law school was the last decision I made with an end goal in mind.  Every decision since then has been a “decision of opportunity” that led to another and yet another.  I was quite shocked by this revelation and have been thinking about it since that evening.

So here are a few questions for those energetic & interested enough to share:

  1. Is our calling something we just know or something we grow into?
  2. Should we pursue things we enjoy doing or do we take the opportunity in front of us?


Filed under Looking in the mirror, Real Life

6 responses to “Do you know what your calling is?

  1. Wow, great post. I have been asking myself some similar questions lately (read my thoughts from my blog this morning).

    These are tough questions. I think I’m a little too caught up in the situation to answer them quite yet.

    You are not the first person to recommend “What I Should Do With My Life,” as a great read. It’s next on my list!

  2. Perry,

    I think what you are asking is at the heart of the question “what is the meaning of life”. I think finding a true calling is complicated and sometimes difficult. I think too many of us take the opportunities in front of us and eventually grow into something we think is our calling. When in reality we have become comfortable and good at doing it. But to me this doesn’t make it our calling or purpose in life.

    I think our calling or purpose is something we hopefully discover. It should be something that allows us to grow, to be happy and satisfied.

  3. Perry-
    I just stumbled upon your blog – but have heard your name thrown around by my friend, Nate Riggs. I’m glad the first post I read of yours involves “What should I do with my life?” because it’s actually my FAVORITE book. It taught me a lot about myself as I was reading it and really made me take a look at my life and my goals. An amazing read for anyone in any stage of life.

    As for knowing or growing into your calling, I think passionate people “know” their calling; and those who aren’t passionate will hopefully find that “calling” eventually. I think callings derive from a profound life moment where you felt overly elated or moved to the core. Everything else is just an interest.

    And as for doing things you like or taking opportunities in front of you, I say evaluate what makes you happy. Life’s too short and if you’re always chasing the next opportunity you might miss out on the happiness of here and now.

    Thanks for a profound post. -Christina (@christina_lynn)

  4. The secret of happiness is living a life consistent with what you believe. As for “calling” there must be some sort of genetic component. Everyone in my family is a writer of sorts. My uncle wrote for Time, and then was in public relations. My mother was a newspaper woman before she married. She burned her clippings back in the 1930’s as she knew that career would never be hers – she was in Eastern Washington State married to a scrap dealer. They loved each other dearly. My sister became a journalist, newspaper woman, and author. All four of her children are writers/authors with excellent credits and careers. I’m an Edgar Award winning author as well. My brother’s daughter has a PR firm, and my daughter could be a brilliant broadcast commentator (like her dad) if she decided to branch out. I was always “called” to media long before I knew of my mom and uncle’s background. I used to walk around talking into a pencil pretending I was on the air. I still do a weekly show at the age of 62.
    Find your strengths, pursue your passion. Pay no attention to your feelings. They will lie to you. Only talk about your problems when they are over.

    • Perry

      Quite the example for all of us to learn from…Thanks Burl. It does go to show you that there are those who are called to something. Whether you believe it or not, each one of us was put on earth for a specific reason. Most of our lives are spent wrestling with “life” as we try to figure it out.

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