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Author Topic: Have you found your true calling?  (Read 1195 times)
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Gratch
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« on: May 16, 2009, 04:28:14 PM »

**Warning:  self-pitying post ahead in the hopes that venting to semi-anonymous people will be somewhat cathartic**

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.  Maybe it's the birth of my daughter, maybe it's that work sucks, or maybe it's because I'm closing in on 40 a little quicker than I'd like.  I find myself very envious of those people who have something they're good at, found something they are passionate about, and are actively involved in doing it.   Doesn't matter what it is - doctor, lawyer, programmer, salesman, firefighter, whatever - but I truly envy someone who knows exactly what they want to be doing.

I, on the other hand, find myself doing nothing but floating lately.  I started a full-time sales job back in September because it would be a good career move.  It was also the only move available at my company, so I had to jump on it to stay employed.  Turns out that a) I'm not a very good salesman, and b) I don't enjoy it at all.  I hate feeling like I'm nothing but an interruption in someone's day.  I despise cold-calling and am pretty awkward at it.  I wasn't blessed with the "bullshit" gene that allows me to small-talk and do a lot of networking.  I don't do well at all with the stress of a commission job, and feel like I constantly have the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.  Frankly, I don't think sales is really my calling.  I've done a decent job this year (I'm way over my goal, so there's no risk of me losing my job), but there's no way I see myself doing this over the long term.  Problem is, there's nothing else that really excites me.  Nothing that I look at and can with conviction say, "that is what I want to be doing".   I've tried doing all sorts of goal-setting and mission statement-type exercises, and keep coming up totally empty.  I spent the first 10 years of my career being a jack-of-all-trades for a small company, which now means I'm semi-decent at a whole bunch of things, but don't really have any particular skill or talent that really sets me apart.  I started poking around at some possible new jobs, and was forcefully struck with the reality that I have no clue what it is that I want to do with the rest of my life.  That's not a bad thing when you're fresh out of college at 21, but when you're 35 and married with a kid and a mortgage, it becomes far more daunting. 

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who feels this way.  Seems like everyone around me has settled into nice careers and have either developed or are developing skills that lead them towards a specific goal.  My brother is a doctor.  My mom is a speech-language pathologist.  One best friend is an accountant, the other is a personal trainer.  I keep waiting for "it" - whatever "it" is - to hit me over the head and tell me "it" is what I need to focus on.  I'm trying to figure out how to break out of this f-ing slump and get back on track, but can't seem to do it.  Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later, 'cause this floaty feeling isn't much fun at all.

I'm not even sure why I posted all this, other than to maybe hear how some of you found out what your true calling is.  Who knows, maybe it'll kick start some ideas for me.
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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2009, 05:22:16 PM »

I know how you feel. My wife is one of those inner-directed people who has known since childhood what she wanted to do with her life, and went on to do it, more or less. I've never had any clear direction. I have never felt fulfilled for long in any job or career -- including my current one -- and I've had quite a few. 

I gradually learned that I am not work-oriented, and stopped looking for satisfaction there. Instead I try to minimize the time and attention that I have to put into earning money. I don't like trading lifespan for money, and I'm not good at it anyway. My satisfaction comes from my hobbies and leisure pursuits -- gardening, cooking, watching movies, gaming, hiking, etc. From which I conclude that I really have found my true calling: Retirement! If only I didn't have to slog through another 15 years of earning money to get there, I'd be all set.

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Moliere
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« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2009, 05:33:35 PM »

Quote from: Gratch on May 16, 2009, 04:28:14 PM

Turns out that a) I'm not a very good salesman, and b) I don't enjoy it at all.  I hate feeling like I'm nothing but an interruption in someone's day.  I despise cold-calling and am pretty awkward at it.  I wasn't blessed with the "bullshit" gene that allows me to small-talk and do a lot of networking.  I don't do well at all with the stress of a commission job, and feel like I constantly have the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.  Frankly, I don't think sales is really my calling.  I've done a decent job this year (I'm way over my goal, so there's no risk of me losing my job), but there's no way I see myself doing this over the long term.
If you're doing a "decent job" and you're way over the goal/quota then you must be better at it than your first statement implies. However, that doesn't change the second part of the statement about not enjoying the job. As you pointed out, it takes a certain kind of person to deal with all the rejection, cold calling, smoozing customers, small talk and being able to handle that constantly increasing quota. Like you I went through a similar experience of going into sales as a career move. I did really well until I eventually decided driving all the miles taking the constant pressure wasn't worth it. I found myself back in a Support and Marketing roles.

Quote from: Gratch on May 16, 2009, 04:28:14 PM

Problem is, there's nothing else that really excites me.  Nothing that I look at and can with conviction say, "that is what I want to be doing".   I've tried doing all sorts of goal-setting and mission statement-type exercises, and keep coming up totally empty.  I spent the first 10 years of my career being a jack-of-all-trades for a small company, which now means I'm semi-decent at a whole bunch of things, but don't really have any particular skill or talent that really sets me apart.  I started poking around at some possible new jobs, and was forcefully struck with the reality that I have no clue what it is that I want to do with the rest of my life.  That's not a bad thing when you're fresh out of college at 21, but when you're 35 and married with a kid and a mortgage, it becomes far more daunting. 
Don't get caught up on your age. It's irrelevant. This isn't the Middle Ages where you're stuck being a Taylor because your Dad and Grandpa were Taylors. Being married with a kid and a mortgage are circumstances. They're not deal breakers. I was laid off last July. Since that time I went to Europe for the first time and then in January I went back to college to finish my Undergraduate degree. I chose a major that sounded interesting instead of one that was tied to a specific career. I don't know exactly what job I will get when I'm done, but it was important for me not to compromise the second time around. Check out your local community college or University. Maybe you can dabble in a couple of online courses to see if anything sparks your interest. Find a hobby that you can turn into a business or career.

Quote from: Gratch on May 16, 2009, 04:28:14 PM

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who feels this way.  Seems like everyone around me has settled into nice careers and have either developed or are developing skills that lead them towards a specific goal.  My brother is a doctor.  My mom is a speech-language pathologist.  One best friend is an accountant, the other is a personal trainer.  I keep waiting for "it" - whatever "it" is - to hit me over the head and tell me "it" is what I need to focus on.  I'm trying to figure out how to break out of this f-ing slump and get back on track, but can't seem to do it.  Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later, 'cause this floaty feeling isn't much fun at all.
I think almost everyone secretly feels this way. Most people started their career because someone pushed them in that direction, whether it was a relative, councilor, or financial circumstances. A job is usually a way to make money so that you can do the other things you actually want to do.

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Find out what will put you in a state of human flourishing. For me that is going to college. I enjoy the academic environment, classes, essays, term papers and discussions. It's fun and challenging. What will do that for you?
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« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2009, 05:42:12 PM »

I pray every day that what I do now isn't my true calling.
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« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2009, 06:11:19 PM »

I've been a business executive or IT manager at my last three jobs. I was reasonably good at most of it, though managing people was definitely my weakest area. I made great money, consistently achieved my objectives, put in long hours and, at one job, was traveling over half the time. It took a while, but I eventually figured out that I was miserable and just hadn't slowed down long enough to realize it. I ate like crap; I got to choose between playing politics (to ensure my career progress and get what I needed to succeed at my job) or not playing politics (and being back-stabbed, losing credibility, and failing to get what I needed when I needed it); I had a nearly continuous tension headache; I slept badly, often unable to get to sleep for hours, then being miserable all the next day; I didn't see my family enough and when I did see them I was tired and grumpy; and I lived each work-day just praying for it to end so I could go home.

In March of this year, I opted out. I don't have a job. I'm happier than I've been in... forever. I spend all day with my youngest son (who I barely knew at all in many ways) and in the summer I'll be with all three of my kids. I spend my time cooking, cleaning, and doing chores that previously my wife (who, luckily, has a decent job that she actually enjoys) had mostly done because I was always working (or stressed out about working or too tired from working, etc.). I am carving out a decent-sized garden in my back yard and will spend time tending to that this summer. I do the grocery shopping, I make sure my kids get their homework and chores done. I'm going to be taking guitar lessons with my middle son and spending time with him on that. We'll be regulars at the zoo, the library, etc., and I'll be getting the kids to their swimming lessons and such with no hassle at all.

We make a LOT less money than when I was working, but for me the quality of life change has been amazing.

Moreover, when the kids return to school in the fall (all three of them this time, as the youngest is entering Kindergarten), I plan to try my hand at writing. I've got some background for it, but never had the courage to make it my profession before. My wife told me she thought I was nuts not to try it, so I'm going to. If it works out well enough to pay some bills, it may be my new career. If it doesn't, at least I'll have tried it and I won't go to my grave wondering if I had some kind of awesome writer locked away inside me. Eventually I'll need to do something to earn some money or we'll need to restructure our spending more than we already have, but I have a hard time picturing myself back in the cube-farms and meeting rooms that have been the scenes of my livelihood for the last 11 years.

I've been unintentionally unemployed and I have a lot of sympathy for anybody in the position of wanting/needing a job and not being able to find it. But I also empathize with those who have a job - possibly even one that leaves them feeling trapped by the money or other circumstances - but dread doing it and hate the impact that it's having on the other parts of their lives. Of the two, I'm not sure which is worse, but they're both miserable experiences that I wouldn't wish on anybody.
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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2009, 06:15:10 PM »

I don't think there necessarily has to be a correlation between what you do for a living and your true calling.

I'm lucky that I have a good job but that's not my calling (thank God).  My job does give me the flexibility to do what I love, though.  It's flexible enough that I can coach a high school speech and debate team - and I've done that for about 15 years.  Working with those kids, making a positive impact in their lives, feels like my calling.

What I do for 40 hours a week is just a means to that end.
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2009, 06:50:01 PM »

Quote from: Sith Lord on May 16, 2009, 06:11:19 PM

I spend all day with my youngest son (who I barely knew at all in many ways) and in the summer I'll be with all three of my kids. I spend my time cooking, cleaning, and doing chores that previously my wife (who, luckily, has a decent job that she actually enjoys) had mostly done because I was always working (or stressed out about working or too tired from working, etc.). I am carving out a decent-sized garden in my back yard and will spend time tending to that this summer. I do the grocery shopping, I make sure my kids get their homework and chores done. I'm going to be taking guitar lessons with my middle son and spending time with him on that. We'll be regulars at the zoo, the library, etc., and I'll be getting the kids to their swimming lessons and such with no hassle at all.
Someone should create a YouTube clip about a Sith Lord playing the Mr. Mom role.  icon_wink

Quote from: Sith Lord on May 16, 2009, 06:11:19 PM

I plan to try my hand at writing. I've got some background for it, but never had the courage to make it my profession before. My wife told me she thought I was nuts not to try it, so I'm going to. If it works out well enough to pay some bills, it may be my new career. If it doesn't, at least I'll have tried it and I won't go to my grave wondering if I had some kind of awesome writer locked away inside me.
Have you read Stephen King's book "On Writing"? I found it to be a fascinating mini autobiography of King talking about his own writing career with the other half of the book about how to become a better writer.
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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2009, 06:58:15 PM »

Quote from: Moliere on May 16, 2009, 06:50:01 PM

Have you read Stephen King's book "On Writing"? I found it to be a fascinating mini autobiography of King talking about his own writing career with the other half of the book about how to become a better writer.

Yep, currently reading it. I've also pulled out some other books I had on writing and some novels that I wanted to re-read with more of an eye for mechanics than for just enjoying the story. I know that I've got some work to do if I want to really understand the craft and the business that supports it and be as good as I can be. I'm sure I'll learn a lot once I really get started on it, too.
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2009, 07:09:25 PM »

yes, and it slapped me with a restraining order  icon_wink
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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2009, 07:10:07 PM »

While your job doesn't have to be your true calling, I'd hope it's at least something you enjoy.  We spend so much of our life at work that you should have some fun while youíre there.  Switching jobs during a recession might not be possible, but at least look around at whatís out there.  See if thereís at least one career that sparks your interest that you hadn't thought of before.  What are your hobbies?  Is there some career that would involve something similar? While you have to be careful about making a hobby into a job (you donít want work pressures to ruin the one thing you really enjoy), it can at least give you a good stepping off point.

I've been very fortunate in my policing career.  I didn't know if I'd like it going in, but I knew I wanted to give the job a try.  Now that I'm in, I'm hooked.  I've worked office type jobs, and the repetition drove me nuts.  I like being outside and all the variety and excitement that goes with my job.  While I still enjoy days off and my personal hobbies, itís also a great feeling being able to look forward to work.

Just be open and keep looking at whatís out there.  You never know when or where a job opportunity may present itself.
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2009, 08:33:32 PM »

To the OP: read "How to Master the Art of Selling" by Tom Hopkins. Alternatively he wrote a "Selling for Dummies" book too smile A big portion of my job is recruiting (which is basically selling). I was really not enjoying recruiting. I was also not doing so great at it. Reading that book changed everything for me!
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2009, 10:14:46 PM »

I can share some sympathy for you Gratch. I am in sales too, pretty much hate it, but I am good at it and with little effort too. Which is why I don't like it. There is no fulfillment in it. On top of that, the extra stuff that I have to do to become better doesn't inspire me either. However, it will be a means to an end. I just recently discovered what I really love, and that's the financial markets. I've also had a liking for Accounting so I am going to go back to school for my Accounting Post Baccalaureate Certificate, then my CPA, and finally use the CPA as a means to sit on the Certified Financial Planners exam without having to pay $6000 for those classes. Kill two birds with one stone.

I started feeling the same way you do now about 2 years ago. I was 27 heading to 30 and had felt like I was going nowhere fast. I think you have plenty of time to find something that drives you. You don't necessarily have to make a career out of it either, and in fact a hobby or activity that takes up a lot of your time can provide that sense of fulfillment.

For example, I have a customer that still paints after 25 plus years even though he is a millionaire. Yes he is a millionaire, but he gets fulfillment out of painting houses. He also charges a premium to make it worth his time. He mainly plays the markets. He told me that money was just a way to keep score, what he liked was the thrill of finding a winner and going on the ride of buying and selling it. The painting just became a means to an end. At one time he had 15 employees and let them all go because he got tired of all the crap involved with managing 15 people.

I don't quite know where I was going with this other than to tell you that A; your job can just be a means to an end, B; you are not the only one not getting that sense of accomplishment or fulfillment from work, and C; just about anything can fill that void. If you like concerts or a certain band why not set a goal of seeing 6 or 7 of their shows this year. It'll give you a reason to work towards.
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2009, 10:53:25 PM »

I knew all along and although I didn't start off right, I now do my true calling as my job. It isn't always as great as it sounds, but at the same time, I don't want to go back to hating my job either.
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« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2009, 11:27:37 PM »

Thanks all, hearing I'm not the only one thinking this is somewhat reassuring.   I still wish I knew what it was that I should be doing, since I don't think my hobby of playing Rock Band professionally is going to earn me much.  slywink  I think I might be able to be good at the whole sales thing if I really applied myself to it (there's something to be said for persistent practice), but I have a hard time really digging into something that I don't enjoy.  I'm not sure I've really given it a chance yet, since the whole thing started off rather negatively.  Part of it is due to a shitty compensation plan, but probably the biggest frustration - and I'm sure it's not unique to my company - is that nothing is ever good enough as a salesman.  For example, I'm already sitting at around 175% of my yearly quota with 3 months to go, and my boss spent most of last week grilling me on what I was going to do to get to 200% by the end of next month and got pretty pissed when I told him it wasn't likely to happen.  I've also probably shot myself in the foot by doing so well this year, since my quota will at least double for next year and I don't have nearly the prospects lined up.  I have a hard time with the constant "that's great, but now do more more more more more more more more" attitude, but I suppose it's just something I'll need to get accustomed to.  It'd be nice if they slowed down long enough to actually acknowledge the fact that we're doing good work in a tough as hell environment.

I'll definitely check out Crux's book (thanks for the suggestion) and see where it goes.  Will likely start looking elsewhere a bit more aggressively as well...just need to figure out what I'm looking for.  smile 
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« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2009, 12:24:59 AM »

I have not found it. I am reasonably good at what I do, better than most, and I have not killed anyone yet. So I might as well stick at it until the morning I wake up and say "Fuck it", quit and start delivering pizzas.
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« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2009, 03:44:22 AM »

I'm in the odd circumstance of having ended up in my career entirely by accident and happenstance - while I don't have a burning passion for it, and I'm not thinking about it every day, I also don't mind the occasional crazy hours or travel that come with it now that I've adjusted.  I work for a great small company that sees a ton of value with me, and I like the way we do business, and I'm regarded within the company as one of the go-to guys in my specialty.  I've also managed to come up with a couple of minor breakthroughs in the way we use our software, which was a tremendously fulfilling feeling, and I really get a good feeling from it every time I see one of our people at another client come up with another expansion or improvement on what I did - it makes me feel good to know I made it possible to add a TON of extra value to our software (I say "our", but it belongs to MS now).

Even though I know that's going to go away when the next version comes out late next year, I did some good work in the meantime, and I've learned a ton of the business side of what we do, so by that time I'll be way less dependent on technical wizardry and a way more complete consultant.

I wouldn't say I've found my true calling, but I've definitely found a comfortable niche with potential for a lot of growth.
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« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2009, 05:22:49 AM »

I'm in the same boat as Gratch.  Unfortunately, I lack the backbone right now to make a change, plus the pay is decent enough.  Hopefully someday I'll have an epiphany and change up my life.  Until then I'll just try and look at things in a zen like manner. 
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« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2009, 04:32:37 PM »

Based on personal experience, I'd just like to say that even when you get what you think is your "dream job" in your "dream field" that doesn't mean it will be all cake and rainbows.  There are still often going to be poor management decisions and direction, coworkers who don't pull their weight, some thankless tasks, and other sorts of things you get in any job. 

Having that job can make going to work a bit easier in the morning, but there are still days that challenge me to rise above the normal frustrations and annoyances.
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« Reply #18 on: May 23, 2009, 02:07:55 AM »

check out www.fourhourworkweek.com and the accompanying book. It's actually not as the title implies as much is it is about a lifestyle change and ways to find your calling/what you want to do, be, go and changing your life to make that possible now in patches around working.
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« Reply #19 on: May 23, 2009, 02:12:00 AM »

I think I've said this before, I really can't think of any job I'd consider to be my 'true calling' when I know for an absolute fact that if I didn't have to work tomorrow, I wouldn't.  My true calling has nothing to do with my career.  My career is simply a vehicle that provides the resources necessary for me to do the things I actually enjoy.  The day I realized that in my life was the day I instantly became much happier.

Now that being said, I don't hate my job.  I actually even like it most of the time and love it every now and then.  But it's not what I want to do forever - I just wouldn't mind if I had to.

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« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2009, 02:16:12 AM »

Quote from: Tebunker on May 23, 2009, 02:07:55 AM

check out www.fourhourworkweek.com and the accompanying book. It's actually not as the title implies as much is it is about a lifestyle change and ways to find your calling/what you want to do, be, go and changing your life to make that possible now in patches around working.

I read the book last year. It's great for people with white collar jobs that are portable and people wanting to start an online business.
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« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2009, 04:27:10 AM »

I knew I wanted to be in the military since I was probably 10.  I had always had an interest in military history and had the good fortune of spending part of my childhood in Virginia.  I visited historic sites such as Yorktown, Manassas, Appomattox, and various other battlefields and sites in the area.  I eagerly joined JROTC in high school, and briefly was in college ROTC before I chose to enlist in the Air Force.

I likely missed out on much larger paychecks and other significant benefits by enlisting, but I've always had a steady paycheck, a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies.  I've never wondered if I'd be laid off or fired and in this current financial environment, that is beyond priceless.

I have been mocked on several occassions for staying in the military over the years.  At least I've still got a job today...I wonder if those detractors can say the same?   Roll Eyes
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