Over lunch one day a friend was telling me about Chip Conley‘s book, How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow. She was impressed with his philosophy of using the model for personal success and translating that to businesses. Taking it from one individual’s “peak experiences” and applying them to corporate transformation. Part of it was evaluating which slot one puts one’s professional enterprise in: a job, a career, or a calling.
I understand what a job is — it’s the oft-mundane 9-5 grunt work that pays the bills. It usually doesn’t involve passion, vision, or aspiration.
I think I also understand what a career is — it’s when you take off those blinkers at that job and chart a plan for your professional growth. It is a commitment to improving your opportunities, your salary, and provides some amount of satisfaction. In some cases, it defines who you are, what you stand for, and where you’re headed.
A calling … hmm … now that’s a word I don’t fully comprehend. According to various websites, dictionaries, and blog posts, it is work that gives you immense satisfaction. You wouldn’t necessarily even want to be paid for it. It defines for folks their “purpose” in life.
Bu what is our purpose in life? A friend told me yesterday, she thinks it’s something that stems from one’s beliefs. But how do you form your beliefs? Aren’t your beliefs based on the knowledge you have at any given point of time? And if that is so, shouldn’t they change as you grow, are exposed to new ideas, thoughts, people…? And if your beliefs change, then doesn’t your purpose in life also shift?
So, how do we say that a calling is something constant. That somehow you know this is the one and only thing you were born to do. Isn’t that really a way of saying that at this point of time in your life, given all you know about yourself and your surroundings, this is the best you can do with your talent, time, energy, and expertise? And because at this particular point of time you think this is the best use of your potential, that it gives you immense satisfaction? Ergo, this is your calling … for now.
Of course, this led to a whole new stream of questions about what potential is — both perceived and actual — and how we define time. But that’s another blog post.
I hear many people say that their work is their calling — they drop the word around so casually even though it supposedly carries so much weight … but here I am … not even sure what that word means.
I love writing. I always have. In my journey to becoming a writer, I explored many other options but wasn’t very good at any of those. Writing grounds me. It helps me grow as a person. It helps me connect. It satisfies me when I write for myself — like this blog. I don’t get paid for this, yet I do this every single day — so does it mean that this is my “calling”?
Does it also then imply that I have reached the highest point of my potential? That there really isn’t anything in this world besides writing that would give me the same satisfaction? That nothing else will come close to challenging me, uplifting me? That this is the end?
But there are so many things out there I haven’t even tried. Some things I don’t even know about, forget trying. Then how can I limit myself to one calling? How can I tell myself this is all I was born to do? Maybe there’s a host of other things I can do well and derive satisfaction from … how can I say just this is it?
Just like we’re moving away from the idea of having only one career in a lifetime, can’t we at least look at having more than one calling in life? Maybe there is something to that whole concept that needs a little revisiting …
What do you think “a calling” means anyways?
Also posted on Writers Rising.