Your Job is Calling...

Vocation is a term based on the Latin "vocare", meaning "to call". One's vocation should therefore be a pursuit to which one is called....  That begs the question as to whom is doing the calling - an interesting thought that I'll leave as an exercise for the reader. Instead, here are some related insights from several well known personalities. As you read this, consider where and how you invest your time and energy. As in business, it is often worth reflecting on our life's values and investments, "outsourcing" or eliminating distractions (and gratuitous busyness), and simplifying around those activities to which we have been called and have gifts.

Johnny Carson once said:
"Never continue in a job you don't enjoy. If you are happy at what you are doing, you'll have inner peace. And if you have that along with physical health, you'll have had more success than you can possibly imagine".

Personally, as an Enterprise Architect for Sun Microsystems, I am blessed with a fantastic job working for a great employer. This has been an unbelievably rewarding ten years! And I'm not talking about financial performance. [However, I'm holding on to my stock!]

We're studying a book called "The Purpose Driven Life". It directly confronts the question: "What on earth am I here for?". Your answer to that illuminates your definition or objective of success. But ask your heroes and you'll find that material accumulation and affluence don't ultimately satisfy... although during the pursuit phase, you think it might. Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller how much money was enough. "One dollar more," he replied. Power and influence, physical beauty, intelligence and wit all can stroke the flames of self-worth and pride, but are but a brief candle. Shakespeare's Macbeth laments:
"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

Solomon is considered the wisest person who ever lived. Among many works, he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. Most of this book contains Solomon’s observations as he devotes himself "to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven" (Eccl. 1:13). Solomon sums up what he finds: "Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" (vs. 8). "He took an inventory of the world, and all the best things in it. He cast up the account; and the sum total is vanity." Through human wisdom, Solomon finds no meaning in life, no rhyme nor reason to life.

It seems that to truly be satisfied, we need pursue our "vocation"... that to which we have been called and gifted. It is then that we'll truly enjoy our job and other activities, and find purpose. Clearly relationships are the center of just about any vocation, and many of us have multiple callings (eg: parenting, marriage, work, etc). For now, I'll just try to describe how you might find or validate one particular vocation or calling in your life.

A calling is a term often used by those who are considering entering the ministry. Many church leaders use a simple three-part test to help determine if someone should pursue this line of work. The "test" is actually quite useful for any (even secular) vocational consideration. Here are the questions you can ask yourself about your job or other pursuit:

  1. Do you have a strong internal call (sense of desire and urgency and passion)?
  2. Is there a pattern of others confirming your gifts and abilities to perform this role?
  3. Are opportunities being presented for you to apply your gifts and passion?

How do you measure a subjective "internal call"? You've probably seen the 1981 Academy Award winning film "Chariots of Fire", in which Olympic gold-metal runner Eric Liddell said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” You should have a sense of fulfillment in what you do. But, others should also confirm this activity. For example, you might \*think\* you are a talented singer (or consultant, or manager, or teacher, or whatever)... but if several others suggest otherwise, you probably should consider their advice and another pursuit.

Think about where you focus your time and energy. Both at work and in leisure. Ask yourself if you feel called and fulfilled, and if others confirm your gifts? As Johnny said, if you are in this place, you are indeed blessed. If not, you owe it to yourself and those around you to get there. That might mean a change in what you do, or in your perspective about what you do.

Here is an interesting story. John Coltrane is regarded by many as the greatest sax player ever. He played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, etc. After becoming a Christian in 1957 he prayed that God would grant him the ability to use his music to glorify God and bring joy and happiness to others. He wrote "A Love Supreme", regarded widely as his best. It's a spiritual work about the amazing love of Jesus (which he describes in the album's liner). One night while performing this number, he played the solo part better than he had ever played it. As he walked off stage, some overheard him mutter to himself the Latin phrase: nunc dimittis. That means, essentially: "this is the moment for which I've lived... I've accomplished my life's mission and purpose". Coltrane got this from Luke 2, where Simeon says this phrase after he sees baby Jesus in the Temple.

Don't be satisfied with mediocrity. I believe we all have a purpose, that there are opptys open to all of us at various times, that if we follow our inner call, as confirmed/validated by others, that we'll be able to say along with Liddell and Coltrane and Carson and Solomon, that we are doing what we were born to do. That might mean being a stay-at-home parent, or a traveling consultant, or a missionary, or a sanitation worker, or a weapon's designer, etc. Find your vocation and pursue it with excellence and passion.

Liddell, by the way, found his "nunc dimittis", and his eventual death, serving in the mission field in China, rather than in running. But in both activities, he followed his call and his gifts. Scotland morned his death. But I imagine Eric would tell you he had no regrets.

Caution: mid-life spontaneity is not generally a true "calling" :-) A desire to do something radical might be an indication that your current activities aren't fulfilling your purpose. Just be careful that your desire for change is not a frivolous distraction to the real source of discontent.

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