Posts Tagged ‘ calling ’

Editing my life.

Don Miller wrote about this in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. He was approached by some folks who wanted to make a movie out of his last famous book, Blue Like Jazz, and he wrote about the experience and the different things he learned along the way.

This has been something of the journey I’ve taken over the last year – taking a step back to rethink where my life is going and looking at different options. Learning to be more intentional about what I choose to be involved in. Reading and hearing about what it means to be a leader, even if it might be a little premature.

I’ve thought about many different options during this time, but made moves mostly in two directions – back to accounting/finance and toward vocational ministry. I’m praying for guidance and letting God take over from there.

What I’d really like to try is working at a restaurant or a cafe somewhere, but that wouldn’t be a good look on my resume. And hey, if the hours aren’t too bad where I end up, I may try doing that part-time.

But maybe this is all just a part of growing up – deciding what paths to close the door on and what paths to continue on.



What’s your story?

I wrote before about “what are you working on?” being a better question than “what do you do?” but this one takes it a step further. This question opens up the conversation to whatever the person wants to share and talk about. It lets someone tell you who he/she is – no limits, no expectations, no rules. It gives you an opportunity to possibly gain insight into the person you’re talking to beyond the day-to-day.

But even if you ask this question, people may still limit their answer to the question they’re used to hearing or thought they heard. Not much you can do about that, necessarily.

But what if someone asked you?

What’s your story?

How do you answer that question?

I’m still figuring that out, but I do think that the first step is to live a story worth telling. Some resources that can help you with that (affiliate links where applicable):

What part is the grass?

It’s been said that the grass is always greener on the other side, but what part of the experience is the grass? What’s the part that looks better but is actually the same? Maybe it differs depending on the situation.

Some things that may be grass:

  • People
  • Routines
  • Responsibilities
  • Daily tasks
  • Freedom

But there are things that can actually be better:

  • People to learn from
  • Experiences to benefit from
  • Projects to be a part of
  • Vision to move forward with
  • Risks to take

At the end of it, though, maybe the only way to tell is to  go to the other side and see. Maybe stepping into uncertainty isn’t such a bad thing.

Things I wish I knew in college…

Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with a bunch of college students. Many of them attend my alma mater, where I volunteer with a campus ministry they’re involved with. Others I met through an Epic conference in January. Still others I’ve met through other means.

Students, this post is for you. It’s a list of things I wish I had known when I was in college. Hopefully it will be helpful for you.

  • Evernote is probably the best all-around software for taking notes and remembering things. Of course, Evernote may not have been around when I was in college, but go check it out! I’ve also written a Squidoo lens about why Evernote rocks.
  • Google Calendar is so key. Especially being able to share it with others.
  • Gmail is awesome, especially with the new Priority Inbox function, but to really hack your e-mail, play the E-mail Game.
  • Blogging is underrated. Maintaining a blog can be a great way to share insights with people, build community online and practice writing. Platform-wise, I think WordPress is great for customization, but Tumblr is great if you want to just get started with the basics. If you have some real value to share and are interested in making money from your writing, though, Squidoo is awesome for that.
  • Mac is great.
  • Reading the Bible consistently is challenging but very beneficial. Sign up for YouVersion to get on a plan and stay on it.
  • Consuming media is fun but often distracts you from what is much better.
  • Figuring out what you’re naturally good at is a challenging but worthy pursuit. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to do but one of the most important. Sadly, many don’t care to investigate this, and many of them don’t want you to either.
  • You become like the people you hang out with most. This is not meant to condemn. It’s just something you need to realize.
  • Mediocrity can get you by, but it will never get you where you want to go. I used to take pride in my mediocrity. That was unbelievably stupid.
  • Stop complaining. Hustle instead. You’ll grow and learn far, far more.
  • One of the hardest questions to ask yourself is, “What do I want?” Many don’t want to answer that question because they know they’re not doing anything to get there. Ask it. Answer it. Go get it.
  • If you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll end up with what everyone else has.
  • Choose a major that will enhance and utilize your natural strengths, not one that will “guarantee” you a job (it won’t).
  • Find ways to get both inspiration and wisdom, and keep going back for more. Proverbs says this more eloquently. I will post a resource list soon and link it here.
  • Read this and share it with everyone you know who’s in school or working at a school.

What are you chasing?

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon when it comes to business. It’s been documented in research, I see other evidences of it, and I find myself agreeing.

Businesses with great results aren’t chasing profits.

Jim Collins goes over this in Good to Great (really good book – review to come), I see it in many of my favorite companies, and on a personal level, I more easily trust someone I know isn’t just after the sale.

Ironically, those who chase money don’t end up with much of it. Those who don’t, do. I won’t go into examples; you can read the book for that. But I think this is more than an interesting business phenomenon.

Matthew 6:33 says to first seek God’s kingdom; then all the other things will be added. We can say that in church and ponder it over, but are we really living it?

What are we planning in our futures? What are our long-term goals? What are our short-term goals? What are we spending our time on, and who are we spending our time with? What skills are we working on?

And to follow up on all of those questions – why?

According to the research done by Jim Collins and his team, it didn’t matter what a company’s values were. As long as it had values and stuck to them, it was able to achieve sustained great results.

In the same way, we see people rise to fame and notoriety based on different values or reasons for being. When a person gives him/herself to something bigger, a legacy is left. Sometimes good, sometimes not, but nonetheless, a legacy remains.

And we see this principle that Collins found in other areas of life. When we chase the higher thing, we often get more than we were after. When we pursue God, we become like Him, and we can receive honor as a result. When we build God’s kingdom, our own lives are enriched. When we honor God with our money and give Him the full tithe, He blesses us financially.

So where are you focusing your efforts? What are you working toward? Is it something that will last?

And most importantly, what’s your why?

Figure that out, and there it is – your brand.

Having trouble figuring it out? Let’s talk. Reply in the comments.

The Element, by Sir Ken Robinson

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

I heard about Sir Ken Robinson through Catalyst, but as I understand it, he’s also been a speaker at TED. Very intelligent man who has spent much of his life studying people and the great things they do… when they’re in their Element.

Defining the Element

The “Element” as it is used in the book refers to that intersection of talent, passion, and opportunity that when people reach it, those around them are in awe. This can refer to athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, non-profits, or pretty much anyone who does great things.

Specifically, there are three main criteria that Robinson points at as being essential to the Element, but I only remember two – being good at it and enjoying it. There are many people who are good at things for which they have no passion, but that is not the Element.

Why the Element is important

The Element is the difference between good enough and great, between compliance and agreement, between acknowledgment and enthusiasm.

When we’re not operating in our Element, we may not articulate it, but we know it, and it can slowly eat us alive. We know that we’re not doing the best we can and not operating in our arena of greatest strength, and it drains us of energy and vigor. Unfortunately, I know all too well what that’s like.

Operating in our Element, though, makes us feel alive and energized. Even if we get physically fatigued, we’re in the zone and kicking butt.

The Element in action

Sir Ken goes through a bunch of different examples of people who have achieved great results by finding and operating in their Element, some of them more renowned than others.

One thing I remember that he emphasized was the extent to which some of them had to break away from what they had previously known in order to tap into that Element power. Some became estranged from family and friends for a time being. That’s the one that sticks in my mind, because that’s the one that would be hardest for me to do – cut ties from people who I love and care about, but who could be holding me back.

What we can do

Sir Ken’s “call to action” is pretty much to question the systems we’ve built for ourselves – in education, in the workplace, anywhere we are finding ourselves stuck and not moving in a direction we are passionate about.

The biggest thing I remember about this call to action is the emphasis on early education, and I think he has a good point. We put so much importance on doing well all-around, sometimes to the detriment of what children are truly good at and passionate about. By emphasizing the importance of well-roundedness (which more and more, I don’t get, but more on that in another post), we can dull their senses to what they care about and want to pursue. And they can end up like us – coasting to retirement.

Sir Ken suggests, and I agree, that we can do better than that. But, it will require sacrifice. We’ll just need to decide what’s more important.

What’s missing

I picked up this book because the premise of it sounded fascinating to me, and I wanted to apply it to my life and where I’m currently at. What I found, though, was a very interesting book about this phenomenon at work. It kind of reminded me of a Malcolm Gladwell book. I will explain why.

I have a love-hate relationship with Malcolm Gladwell. He writes these great books about these really interesting psychological topics and how they are embodied in our everyday lives, and I love reading his studies and the examples that he’s found of these different phenomena. But, the way he concludes his books irks me a little bit.

At the end of each book, I feel like he’s just saying, “There, I’ve told you about this concept. Go think about it for a while.” That’s fine for some people, I guess, but I’d like to tap into that myself. To be fair, he does offer some guidance in that arena, but it’s not exactly a call to action.

In Outliers, one of his big emphases is that to achieve what we consider excellence, about 10,000 hours of practice is required. The combination of talent plus practice brings people into the arena of the excellent. Definitely a great insight.

But the takeaway I got from it (and to be fair, it’s been a few years since I read it) was, “Go get 10,000 hours of practice. Then we’ll talk.” And in another sense, since most of his examples were people who had started at an early age, I was almost hearing, “It’s too late. You’ve squandered your life instead of getting 10,000 hours of practice in a worthy discipline. All you can do now is watch.”

I’m completely certain that was not Gladwell’s intention, but without a clear call to action for one’s personal life, that’s what I essentially got out of it.

In the same way, and I realize this is a long digression, Sir Ken doesn’t exactly give us much in the way of guidelines to figuring out our own Elements. He brings up some great examples and tells great stories about what they’ve done, but at the end of it, I’m still at a loss.

Buy, borrow, or bypass?

Despite my complaints above, I still think this is a great book to read about what it looks like to pursue one’s passion, and the benefits of doing so. I also like that Sir Ken points out the sacrifices that people have made in this pursuit, but shows that at least to that person, it was worth it. I do wonder about people who may have gone a similar path but who have not met with success, but it wasn’t Sir Ken’s responsibility to look for every single person who’s had a dream.

So yes, certainly not a bypass. But is it a buy? I don’t intend to. It’s a great book, but it’s not a book that I’ll really need to crack open again. Unless I’m doing research, I won’t really be referring to it so much, so I don’t intend to buy.

So if you’re like me and are trying to de-clutter, I would say borrow, don’t buy, this book. You can certainly buy if you prefer, but it will likely stay on your shelf after you’ve read it, and maybe one day get donated to… a library!

If you still want to buy, though, click on the picture of the book cover to link to Amazon (not an affiliate link). I tried.

“I miss unemployment”

That’s the response I got from a friend recently when I asked him how he was doing. And unfortunately, I’m afraid he’s not the only one.

A bunch of folks in my generation have found themselves in a crummy position. Some of us are out of work and striving to get by. Others are employed, but in less-than-ideal conditions that cause just enough pain to notice but provide just enough comfort to keep us there.

But this isn’t true of all the people in our generation. Others have seen the tough conditions as opportunities to shine and thrive, and are kicking butt doing jobs the rest of us wish we knew how to get. What’s the secret?

But first, perhaps we ought to examine the attitudes my friend and others like him seem to have adopted. Missing unemployment. Missing not having a job title and description. Missing being free, albeit possibly broke.

When we were students, right or wrong, we were defined by our majors; as adults, then, we feel defined by our jobs. Our day jobs.

But although it’s second nature, the whole idea of defining a person by his/her degree or job description is the factory mindset at work. We’re all replaceable cogs in the big corporate machine.

You belong in this part of the machine, nowhere else. If you don’t like it, no problem – we’ll replace you with a different cog. And you can go find a different machine to be a cog in.

I think this mentality is killing us. It’s destroying our individuality. It’s stifling our creativity, our humanity. It’s making us hate work, which when you think about it, is kind of preposterous.

Work is the essence of the human experience. It’s what makes things happen. It’s what changes the world around us. Without work, we’d be like animals. But that’s not what we think about when we drive into the office.

The fact is, many of us still operate like parts of a machine. We learn to do a set of tasks, then we do them over and over again. We start to see our contribution as being a body in a seat rather than a participant in a mission.

Stop. Stop being a cog and start being human. If you don’t like where you’re headed, make a plan and change course. Find what makes you come alive and start working on that.

If you’re not sure where to start, let’s talk.