Tag Archives: calling

That sweet spot of “nailed it”

Someone somewhere defined a way to identify a good career fit; unfortunately I can’t remember where I read this.

Ask yourself, When do I feel strong and powerful?

You’re probably looking at a good career fit if your talents and gifts shine when you’re doing a particular task. Your inner self will know, too, and you’ll feel the strength and confidence – at least you’ll get glimpses of it.

For me, that sparkle hits whenever I’m talking with someone who has a problem they’re trying to solve, especially at work or within some kind of organizational structure or work process.

The other day at work, I enjoyed a double-shot of this joy: I had two conversations with separate colleagues about problem areas, trying to identify the cause of the issue and sketch out potential solutions.

At one point I asked, “But what problem is this initiative trying to solve?” Because that wasn’t clear — neither when the initiative was launched, nor throughout its implementation. So often we leap to implement a solution, often the first workable one that came to light, before we’ve taken time to understand why the problem is happening in the first place.

In this particular instance, someone imposed a workflow on five separate teams of employees in an attempt to gather data on the effectiveness of a particular organizational practice. The workflow itself isn’t terrible, but it’s not efficient for the employees implementing it. I’m sure a few workers were consulted, but none of them asked the right question — what problem are you trying to solve? Because the workflow bears all the marks of a fuzzy and vague goal rather than a laser-focus on testing a precise solution to a clearly defined problem.

I ended up working about 90 minutes past my usual cutoff time one day last week, but it felt so good. I was going something I’m particularly gifted to do: ask questions that get to the heart of the matter, and help others see that focus area more clearly, so they can go off and build better solutions.

I don’t know how to make the leap into my perfect job. One  where this is what I would do all day:
– Go around and visit various people in the organization.
– Ask them how their job is going and what’s working/not working
– Listen hard to what they say, work to understand the problems.
– Clarify the problem and pitch ideas for a solution. Connect people and ideas. Cross-pollinate.
– Move on to the next person. Remember everything I’ve heard so far. Cross-pollinate even better.

This is my gift. How do I turn it into a lifestyle? lol

One man’s rant through career, calling, and creative work

A great little read through one creative’s useful ramble about making a career in creative work, even if your passion isn’t your day job. It starts out sounding like a business manifesto but really this is a piece about working out your calling when it’s hard to make that fit the job market.

Part of understanding the creative urge is understanding that itʼs primal. Wanting to change the world is not a noble calling; itʼs a primal calling.

6.HowToBeCreative (opens PDF) which was hosted at ChangeThis

(I couldn’t get the link to the PDF to work, so I’ve attached the PDF to make your life easier….but I want to make sure you see the ChangeThis attribution since this PDF isn’t mine.)

Good read: The Small, Happy Life – NYTimes.com

A a delightful read on vocation and calling that focuses on the small bits of life. Satisfaction emerges from small acts of love and meaning.

“Perhaps,” she concludes, “the mission is not a mission at all. … Everywhere there are tiny, seemingly inconsequential circumstances that, if explored, provide meaning” and chances to be generous and kind. Spiritual and emotional growth happens in microscopic increments.

via The Small, Happy Life – NYTimes.com.

To my students, upon their graduation from high school, May 2015

Script for the commencement address at New Covenant School,
May 22, 2015

Friends, parents, students, and—most importantly—NCS Class of 2015:

It is with deep gratitude that I take the podium tonight to celebrate your completion of a very long race. I am honored that you asked me to speak at your commencement, and as a return favor, I promise to keep my thoughts short and to the point. It’s no light calling to stand in front of talented, bright young people and say anything that might be considered ‘wisdom.’  Even a fool, when he keeps his peace, is considered wise—so Solomon tells us—so I will keep my words few.

To return to the school where I spent a decade of my life teaching is an emotional experience this evening. I taught many of you as far back as that awkward junior high phase, when all of your friendships were messy and the boys were still playing with plastic Army men while the girls, having grown a foot taller and discovered “real men,” whispered in the corner about all the hott guys in the movies.

Therefore, we share some of the same fond memories from the years when I taught you Shakespeare and Dante and Greek mythology, or dragged you kicking and screaming into a new Latin conjugation, or taught you how to survive “Honey If You Love Me Smile” without cracking up in drama class.

Several of you were in the 7th grade class who performed that Sherlock Holmes play that was just a bit outside your reach for performance—but I was so proud of you for trying.

DSC01822You dressed up as cave men for Barbarian Day that year too and, if I remember correctly, recorded an adorable video of Beyonce’s “All The Single Ladies,” rewritten as “All You Cave Ladies.”  I’m pretty sure I’ve still got that video footage tucked away on YouTube, for bribery. Just in case.

And although I wasn’t here to take you all the way to the end of your high school journey, I can see that you’ve grown into a fine group of young adults, capable of tackling the challenges you will soon face in “the real world.”  I imagine it feels like you’ve learned all the things, taken all the tests, survived all the projects, and swum through all the drama. Drama in the interpersonal sense, not the cooler “on stage” sense, though you’ve done that too.

Now you’re sitting here in these seats at NCS for the last time, on the cusp of the biggest transition you’ve ever faced—to this point at least.

What I want you to remember, above everything else you will hear this graduation season about your accomplishments and your future and your potential, is this:  Your life is not for you.

Did you hear me?

Your life is not your own.

This simple idea flies in the face of everything the world is telling you. Around every corner you will hear people telling you to follow your passions (a good idea, really) and to pursue your dreams (sure) and to make sure you select a major in college that will make you a lot of money (a riskier gamble, in my opinion).

I’m here to tell you what is a much less popular idea, but very true.  Your life decisions affect more than just you. They affect everyone around you.  And that’s important.  If you’re going to accomplish anything in this life, you’ve got to recognize that you cannot do it alone. And you cannot do it for yourself alone.

The Apostle John records Jesus’ words:  “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (Jn 12:24).  And in case we missed the point, Matthew tells us,  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 16:24-25).

You’re not living your life for you.  You’re not picking a career just for your benefit, though your life’s work will bring rich benefits to your life and your family and your community.  You aren’t on this planet to make yourself happy, though a life lived in the Grace of God and for the Kingdom of God will most likely be a life of Joy, for God is a Father who loves His children.

You’re here to love.

Jesus, when asked to name the “greatest commandment” that we all should ‘focus on,’ replied with an answer that you know by heart:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. On these hang all the Law and Prophets.”

You weren’t put here to love yourself.  You were put here to love God as hard as you can with everything you have all the time, and to love other people.

It’s easy to make this mandate complicated than it is. We can get all caught up in arguing over who we’re supposed to love and whether we think they “deserve it.” (Not that any of us deserve the Grace that God pours out on us every single day; He sacrificed Himself to absolve our sin and loves us fully and completely when we were absolutely unlovable.)

We can argue over “who is my neighbor,” when really the answer is simply to love the person in front of you, the people around you, the people in your way, the people you’d rather not have to deal with.

If you invest your life in other people, if you focus your career goals not on money or fame or power but on bringing the most good to the people you’re supposed to love, then you will find what you really want out of life: fulfillment. Meaning.  Joy.

If you came to NCS when Coart and I taught here alongside Jack Knipe and Joey Thames and Debbie Smith and so many others, you might remember some of the “catch phrases” that peppered our conversations in class and at recess and as we sat around the lunch tables.

Remember this?  The “good kid” isn’t the one who stays out of trouble. The good kid is the one who does good.

Goodness—righteousness—in the biblical sense is active. It’s not passive. It’s not wimpy. It’s not sitting back and allowing other people to assume all the risks or finding a way to get what you want without getting caught. It’s impossible to separate being good from doing good.

Your highest calling, dear ones, is not to “achieve greatness.”  It is to walk the path that your Savior already walked, the path of the Cross, the path of sacrifice and hard work and sometimes tears in pursuit of loving God and loving others.

It is your choice. But the call—the vocation—I set before you today is the call to live a life centered on the love of God in your life poured out into the lives of others.  It’s ok if you don’t know what that means. It’s ok if you aren’t settled yet on who God is or how He fits into your life. If there’s one thing God is very good at, it’s making Himself known to you at exactly the right time. He will find you.

Pursue a life calling that matches your talents (what you’re good at) with a deep and difficult problem in the world that you’d like to help solve.

Start now. Don’t wait until you’ve gotten your college degree or “know enough” or have earned enough money to be “stable” or figured out what you’re supposed to do with your life. I’m 20 years older than you and I’m still “figuring out what I’m supposed to do with my life.” But I do know that whatever my job title may be, whatever your job title may be (and remember, your job might not have even been invented yet), our mutual calling is to Love God and Love Others.

Because the incredible thing about Love is, the more you pour out, the more you have to give.

God bless you as you walk your journey. I cannot wait to see where you go and what you do in the power of the God who is over all and through all and in all (Eph 4:6). Thank you.

LINK: Pulling Together: Marriage, Ministry, and Calling – Sometimes a Light

Good post from Hannah about a better way to see marriage, calling, Kingdom work, and the balance among them.

Of all the neighbors you are called to love, your spouse is the closest one. This means that being married will naturally limit your ability to pursue other callings in the Church. But Scripture also makes it clear that the call to marry is rooted in a larger call so that even as we enter it, we remember that marriage itself is not all-consuming. It is only part of how we serve the Lord with our whole hearts and lives. This is true for men. This is true for women.

via Pulling Together: Marriage, Ministry, and Calling – Sometimes a Light.

Slow Journey toward New Paths

I realized last year that I’ve never really put any thought into “designing” my own vocational path. I’ve “fallen into” three interesting jobs thus far, and I’ve enjoyed each of them. But now I’m realizing I intentionally need to identify my strengths, decide what field deserves the next two or three decades of my attention, and lay my foundation to pursue opportunities in that field.

I don’t have a tight direction in mind, but a few more thoughts about work, calling, career have coalesced for me in these opening months of 2015.

  • I would rather work with people than things. I’m handy with organizing details and tasks, but I’m best handling ideas as they relate to people.
  • I would rather work in a team or collaboratively than alone.  While people can wear on me (it’s my introverted streak; yes, I have one) and while I get more done when I’m alone than when I’m around people, I much prefer community of work than individual achievement.  Working near people is a decent start; working with people (both as a team member and in the sense of working “on” people) is my preference.
  • I would like the opportunity to lead my own team (and build it), devise a goal based on an institution or supervisor’s overarching strategy, and develop the plan to meet that goal.  I’ve never really been interested in “management” and that’s not what I’m looking for, but I’m a little tired of being a subordinate.  In the right field (something that ties into my experience), I have the skills needed to lead an initiative and do it well.
  • To this point, I don’t have any interest in striking out on my own as an entrepreneur. Maybe an idea will grip me so forcefully that I’ll find myself trying to make it work, but that impulse doesn’t drive me.  I’m happy to jump on board with someone else’s mission (that aligns with mine) so we can be in it together.
  • I have a generalist’s mindset. It’s hard for me to narrow down my work to one task/skill type; I prefer a flow of different opportunities throughout my day, and the flexibility to switch up what I’m doing. For that reason, I’ve never really wanted to pursue a PhD (for longer than a few months).  I hoover up ideas and store that information for later use. To drink deeply of just one field hasn’t been my thing.  Now, that might have to change – in academia, a PhD is almost a baseline requirement. But PhD’s are essentially research degrees, and “doing research” isn’t the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. (But “answering questions” does….)
  • I like to provoke people and ideas (and by extension, institutions or projects) to become better versions of themselves. That’s way more fulfilling than almost anything I’ve ever done.  Short-term, I can draw great satisfaction from a project well-done (a magazine published, directing a play and seeing the performances, pulling off a big event) but the really deep well in my soul is filled by helping people grow.
  • Issues surrounding education mean the most to me. If I had to choose a primary tribe for membership, I’d go live with the educators. (Sorry, creatives, musicians, gamers, readers, calligraphers, chefs, theologians, researchers, designers, and librarians! Y’all come in a close second, though!)
  • I’m a helladetermined problem solver. (Read: Stubborn.) I hate hearing “we can’t do that….” if that means everyone is going to just give up. Obstacles are opportunities. Problems can be solved, overcome, or pushed aside if the overall goal is valuable enough to everyone involved.  There’s almost always a window open when you think the doors have slammed shut.  If it’s worth doing, it’s going to be hard. Suck it up and find a way forward.

I have more to figure out. I can’t figure out what area of education draws my interest the most. Is it professional development for faculty? Is it curriculum development to implement better active learning and engaging methodologies? And should I focus on higher ed or K-12 ed? My teaching experience is in K-12 but that arena is so locked-down right now because of Common Core and assessment-driven strategies that I can’t imagine being very effective in it. But I don’t know enough about higher education to be effective there…

Yet.

Gender and Calling: A few thoughts

Yesterday I wandered around in the not-all-that-brilliant observation that I can’t really get a grasp on my own calling (what I’m supposed to be doing on this planet, my personal mission statement, whatever you want to call it) without viewing that very question from within the complex network of relationships that surround my life.

We all draw circles of influence and relationship in our lives—often including spouse, parent, and employee (or perhaps entrepreneur).

And for me, as a woman within conservative Christianity living in America, that means I haven’t had an independent sense of my calling in life. It’s always been a calling alongside.

Let me hasten to clarify: I’m not complaining or unhappy with the alongside-ness of my calling. But I do want to pause to recognize what that means for me:

1. Because my calling has for the past couple decades been inextricably linked to my husband’s, I don’t plan clear, guiding goals for future accomplishments in my life and work (more than a year or so down the road).

I’ve never felt the pull toward the FUTURE the way Coart does.  Perhaps that’s a part of my personality – that I’m totally happy living “in the moment” – but that doesn’t match the way I view milestones at work: starting the new year, dreaming up a new project, thinking “what if we did this next year…..” is actually very energizing for me.

But I don’t seem to develop those same questions or daydreams about my work as a whole.  I don’t spend much time considering questions like “What if I started a company to ……?” “Should I be writing a book about …..?” “What big problem or need in the world would benefit from my skills and experience?”

2. Because my calling is alongside, I don’t pursue opportunities that would launch their own trajectory that could radically depart from Coart’s.

For example, I’m not pursuing any job openings right for any reason since he’s finishing a PhD within 18 months, and his future employment will make all the difference in where I end up living and working.

[Again, I’m not complaining AT ALL, especially since Coart has always been very conscious of what is best for the two of us together, not just me. And he’d be happy for me to launch something new.  And he provokes me to be a better version of myself (far better) than I would be on my own – more thoughtful, more analytic, more caring, more capable. I expect that he’s more disappointed at my vocational myopia than I am.]

3. And then there’s the really big one ….  Parenting.  Knowing that childrearing totally up-ends the apple cart of a woman’s career planning has had a profound effect on the way I “imagine” my life’s work and calling — and that has been true since the day I got married.

We don’t have kids (yet) but we both want to raise children. I assume kids will work their way into our lives sometime in the next few years.  We both want that.

I don’t plan for the future because, as a woman, I feel like I have very little control over what my future circumstances will be. 

And that plays out in a variety of ways, including this:

I know what I’m good at: provoking people to flourish as better versions of themselves (usually intellectually, sometimes spiritually).

But I can’t really tell you how that’s going to play out in the world as a whole, because I can’t lay much claim to controlling the context in which I do and will work.

And that, my friends, is kind of frustrating, honestly.