Finding your calling – vocations vs jobs

May 6, 2016

by Ravi Raman

On my mind right now is the documentary I watched last night called “Valley Uprising”. It’s a scenic film about dirtbag climbers (their words) in Yosemite Valley. These were people who pioneered the sport of climbing. They did so by not making climbing a job. Instead, considering it a vocation. The sport eventually emerged. The difference between a job and vocation is stark and important to understand.

A vocation is something you are called to do. A job is something you have to do. I wrote about this in my previous post. David Brooks does a masterful job describing the distinction in, The Road To Character.

I feel like, for the first time in a long time, I’ve found my vocation. I am a coach. No one told me to become a coach. I definitely didn’t have to become a coach. After quitting my corporate job (voluntarily!) and backpacking for well over a year, I had the dubious problem of having too many options for what I could do for a job. One of those options was having no job for a while.

I felt a calling to coach. I knew too many people stuck in dead-end lifestyles without a way out. I saw some who were burning out before their prime, thinking that hard work would get them unstuck. It doesn’t. I knew this based on what people confided in me, and what I saw with my own eyes.

It’s not like my close or friends or family were supportive of my vocational choice either. To them, it seemed like I was throwing away a perfectly good career, hefty paycheck and skill-set. I had no shortage of people warning me of how hard it would be to run my own business. I had other friends nudging me back towards jobs at tech companies, enticing me with stories of “how good it is now that the management has changed” or “how cool a certain startup was”.

The crazy thing is, everyone meant well and wanted the best for me. They just didn’t want to see me change! This taught me an important truth:

The people who care about you the most are often very people who don’t want to see you change.

Therefore, I didn’t look for external confirmation of my decision. I focused on what I knew was best for myself. I even hired a coach to help me navigate the process. This was a crucial step that reinforced in me the value coaches provide.

Yesterday I met up with a new friend, someone who is at the crossroads of his successful career in the tech industry. In speaking with him about my decision to be a coach, I shared that it was the right decision based on my answers to two questions. I’ll share them with you now. Perhaps they will help you navigate your own career decision:

If I wasn’t doing what I was doing now, would I “opt-in” to it?

 

If I would make the same amount of money doing any job, would I do what I’m doing right now?

For me, the answer to both of these is a resounding YES.

Most importantly, I’m happy and content.

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