Finding your calling – vocations vs jobs

May 6, 2016

by Ravi Raman

I wonder when the ideas will slow or stop.

Writing these morning pages, as I’ve been doing for the past week, has been a great exercise. Putting a brain dump on paper first thing in the morning. I’m posting these to my blog (and Medium) for your viewing pleasure, with minimal edits.

I just put my pen to paper with zero pre-meditation and hope that something moderately interesting will emerge. So far, something always has.

On my mind right now is the documentary I watched last night “Valley Uprising,” a 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 sport or a job, but 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 his book, The Road To Character, which I read last month.

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 resigning on good terms, I didn’t flip any desks on the way out!) and backpacking / traveling 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 who stuck in dead-end lifestyles and didn’t know a way out of it. I also 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 and ears. I experienced all this myself making it all to real.

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 experience 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 and I should check it out”.

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

The people who know you best are the same 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 my own coach to help me navigate the process (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:

  1. If I wasn’t doing what I was doing now, would I “opt-in” to this vocation and the lifestyle it affords?
  2. If I would make the same amount of money doing any job I could dream of, would I do what I’m doing right now?

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

I love what I do. I have also found even greater fascination in what I do as I witness clients getting results and dive deeper in the coaching field. As an added bonus, I love simple things (hiking, running trails, camping, exploring new places and fresh organic food) and my vocation earns enough to pay for the lifestyle I want.

Most importantly, I’m super happy.

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