Story of the three bricklayers

The story of the three bricklayers:  each was asked what they were doing. The first replied “I am laying bricks”.  The second said “I am building a church”.  The third said “I am building a cathedral to glorify God!”  My take?  The first person had a job, the second a career, the third a calling.

Perhaps if would be helpful to provide a few definitions of job, career and calling.  These are my simple definitions; you may have your own if you think about it.  A job is simply what sustains income.  We get our money from a job.  When the job is over, we go home and do not think about it until we show up for the job the next day.

A career sustains intellect.  A career does not end when we go home for the day.  It is something that we think about incessantly.  It keeps us up at night grappling with tough issues.  It is a pursuit of progressive professional achievement.

A calling sustains life.  It is a gift to your soul.  You cannot picture yourself doing anything else.

A colleague of mine recently shared these concepts with a client of his, Tony M.  Tony is head of a Rescue Mission and an ordained minister.  Over ten years ago he asked me to stay for a few minutes after the meeting.  When we were settled, he asked me to coach him.  I think his exact words were “God has called me to work with you.”  Who was I to say no to that?

After more than twenty years of being the living personae of the RM, a job has become a calling, and in fact, it has become Tony’s identity.  Tony is preparing to retire at some point in the future.  He is figuring out what retirement will look like when RM is no longer a part of his life.  During the conversation, he asked me the most insightful question I think I have ever been asked.  He asked: “How do I divorce identity from calling?”

I see it all the time in my practice.  It starts with a founder.  Like a child, the business grows, thrives, and sustains the family.  The founder has a kid who gets into the business, and at some point, wants to run the business.  Since the founder’s identity and calling are so deeply intertwined, there is an inevitable fight over the business.  Best case, the business is transferred in an orderly fashion.  Worst case, the child is no longer welcome at Thanksgiving dinner.   I have sometimes coached the founder, sometimes the next generation.  Neither is without angst or challenge.

I am sure a calling that just happens is for some people.  If that is the way it happens for you, great.  That is not the way it is for most of us.  For most of us, a calling develops over time.  It starts with the economic necessity of keeping a roof overhead and food on the plate.  It starts with a job.  Something about the job is fulfilling, so you work hard at the job, and you get better at it.  Someone notices, and you get paid more, which makes you want to get better at it.  You get better at it, and you do more of it.  And so on.  You may pause at the career stage, or you go on because it becomes your calling.  When you reach the calling stage, you cannot even consider not doing it.

A calling becomes an identity when the two become inextricably linked in your mind.  Others cannot see the difference either.  Back to Tony.  How do we leave the identity without leaving the calling?  Here are some of the things we talked about.

1.  Define your top strengths.  
What are the top two or three things that make you uniquely you? What are your gifts or blessings?  What direction do your top strengths point you?  How can you use your top strengths to be of service?

2.  Define the things you are weak at or hate to do.  
Ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?”  Is there someone else that can it for you? Perhaps you can pay someone to do it.

3.  Define your purpose.
Define it by completing this sentence:
“I live to ____________________ __________________”.
Resist the temptation to add more than two words. What is it you live to do?  Your purpose is most likely not running a business or organization.  It may not even be job related.

Mine is “I live to develop people”.  It is what I do from the moment I get up in the morning.  My hope is that people who interact with me will be better for the interaction. Notice, though, that it is not “I live to develop others”.  It is people, and I am a “people” too.  I must be the best I can be to help others be the best they can be.

4.  Let your purpose become your identity.  If your purpose is your identity, it cannot be taken away from you.

It is that easy, right?  If you would like to talk about letting your purpose become your identity, give me a call. You can call me at 801-560-9945. And as always, I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.

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