Discern. Develop. Do. Persist. Repeat.
The 5-step process to pursue your passion career.
Last week on Instagram Live, I interviewed Benjamin Hewitt to ask him if he ever felt like "I'm not where I thought I'd be." Not only is Benjamin a highly talented photographer, but he also happened to be my wedding photog so I know he's both hard-working and a great guy to work with. Judge his talent for yourself, but I'm telling you the guy is legendary:
You might could look at his work and think, "Wow, that guy was born talented", but you'd be wrong! Ben revealed that he actually bought his first camera TEN YEARS before he turned it into a full-time business.
And what's more impressive? He made the leap of faith from steady paycheck in a corporate job he disliked to professional photographer all while supporting his young family!
Ben revealed how he cultivated his photography skills for 10 years while waiting for the time when God would show him how to make a reality out of the dreams in his heart.
That's telling, you know? He didn't just sit and wait, he worked. But he also didn't force things to happen in his own timeline, he prayed and grew cognizant of the Lord's timing.
Talk vs. Action
It's so common to dream of doing something else, something greater with your life. And it's far too common to talk about dreams. It's not so common to actually take action on those dreams. Which is why I'd like to spell out the 5-step process I've created from interviewing people I look up to, observing framily members who have lived a while longer than I have, and from talking with God about going after my own dreams.
I'm hoping this is challenging and inspirational for the both of us.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public and private reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 4
The Start Line
Since here’s a plethora of literature about figuring out your life's calling, your passions, your gifts and talents...it would be so easy to believe that once you "figure it out", well...
Hunny, I've ariiiiiived!
But I doubt anything could be further from the truth. This line of logic is so similar to the marriage engagement season, when so much works goes toward the wedding, as if that's the point of all of it. It's not! The wedding is the start line for a marriage, and "til death parts us" is the finish line. Similarly, figuring out your life's calling and unique giftings is just the start line.
Rather than spending our lifetimes figure out our calling, we need to seek our calling with the same perseverance we would pursue the start line of a marathon. You train for it, but you don't wear yourself out before you even start, right??
If you’ll keep that perspective of the start and finish lines, you'll work smarter over the course of your passion career. The finish line is when you hang up your hat, and you don't want to reach the end of your career prematurely due to burn out such as mental, emotional or physical exhaustion.
With that in mind, it gets really exciting when you begin developing your gifts to create things that change people's lives!!
For those of you who think I'm a decent writer -- Thanks!!! I've been writing for 18 years. It started off as prayer journaling, and then writing really meaningful greeting cards to my framily, and then micro-blogging on FaceBook. And now I'm a full-fledged blogger...and totally open to paid writing gigs ;) ;) But this writing thing didn't just pop up on that day I quit my corporate job in August. I've been cultivating this craft for 18 years.
As promised, I'd like to share with you the 5-step process I currently am working on with my passion career of writing. Now, it will change as I learn more, but there's such a void of this idea in the thoughtmosphere, so I'd thought I'd chime in even before I perfect it. I'd love to hear your feedback on it, too!
Step 1: Discern
There is so much talk and information about "how to know your purpose". Basically, we're all trying to figure out WHY we're here, WHY we're good at certain things, WHY we feel like there's more to life than our crappy 9-5's. We're trying to figure out our: passions, gifts, talents, skills, and individual purposes in life.
But what are you gonna do with those after you've figured them out? If you've expended all your thoughtspace into the false ideology of "When I figure it out, I've arrived", then you're wasting too much brain space trying to nail it on the head, that you'll be too exhausted to pursue it. Would you pay for a college degree if once you graduated, you disliked your field of study so much that you couldn't use the degree? (Well, I mean I did and I have the student loans to show for it...but that was foolish.)
I have this intuition, and I'm still working to prove it. What if our passions and gifts and all that is something that's vague until developed? Sit in that thought with me.
What if I don't figure out that I'm called to write XYZ book until the season in which that is the right book to write? Maybe in the meantime, I can just develop writing a certain other thing, like my blog. Or another book?
I'd like to use the example of a great faith giant from Scripture, Moses. God didn't call Moses to be "The Great Giant of Faith Moses", but to simply obey Him everyday and lead the people into whatever place they were in. It's only in hindsight that we can list his greatest accomplishments. The same will be true of our lives. We aren't called to our greatest accomplishments as greatly as we are called to walk with God and be faithful with the gifts we have today. I'm talking time, money, level of faith, and yes, your spiritual gifts. (Mine are wisdom, discernment and teaching, for example.)
God isn't calling you right now to something that is so far off in the future. He's calling you right now to walk faithfully with Him, to work on what's in front of you, and to keep your eyes fixed on Him for His leadership over your passion career.
Step 2: Develop
Honestly, you might have to skip Step 1 -- Discern -- but not to worry, we go back to it. It might just be you have no freakin clue what it is you're good at, what brings joy to your life, what it is that God is calling for you to do over your career and lifetime. Here are some things you can do in the meanwhile:
Develop multiple interests. Photography, writing, finance, health and fitness, business development, hair and makeup, video editing, travel/global interests, politics, childhood education, playing an instrument, electronics, social media. Literally just Google search how to learn something about these topics. All of my photography and photo editing knowledge has come from YouTube over the last 3 months. And people are already telling me how much I've improved! Imagine in a year how much better I'll be! The same is true for you. Develop a few interests, and take inventory of how you feel doing them. Are you excited by the challenge? Do you catch yourself staying up late to keep learning and developing a particular interest?
I once heard it said that the thing you do when you should be taking care of other responsibilities is probably a good indicator of your interests. I remember curating my wedding photo album. I began the project at 3 PM and stayed up til 6 AM to finish it. There was no deadline, and I was tired from a long work week, but something about it made me come alive!
Find those life-giving things for you. They'll be different from other people, but that's exactly what you want: your unique calling from the God who hand-crafted you.
Step 3: Do
So you've figured out your interest. Or at least developed a few interests. This is where an even larger percentage of drop-outs occur. Now you heed Nike's advice and "Just do it".
If you're a painter, paint.
If you're a blogger, blog.
If you're an exercise chick, exercise.
If you're a teacher, teach.
If you're a photographer, take photos.
If you're a chemist, formulate!
Keep doing the very thing you've been called to do. Don't stop. Don't take an extended, undefined break. Keep doing it.
Step 4: Persist
persist - to continue steadily and firmly in the pursuit of any business or course commenced; to persevere
Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary
Persistence goes beyond doing. Persist through the dry spells of creativity. Persist when you aren't sure if you're making a difference. Persist when you have to choose between a luxury vacation and putting money into your business. Persist when the naysayers naysay. Persist when everyone who should be supporting you tells you you're crazy. Persist when you're so tired and tempted to give up. Persist when you're way past your current skill level. Persist when you don't see anyone persisting alongside you.
Persist until you can bring people alongside you. Persist until you've taught your children to persist. Persist until you are The Expert in your field. Persist until God says to stop.
Step 5: Repeat
After all of this, you're going to repeat this process. Begin again in discerning your calling, passions, gifts and talents. Things have changed since you started this. God will honor your persistence with increasing your gifts, and re-discerning them will encourage you as you look back at how far you've come!
Another change you'll notice is that some interests you were developing are no longer worthy of your time. I played basketball for 10 years. I played violin for 6 years. Neither of those things are worthy of my time anymore, because I wasn't going to take them as far as my writing career.
I'd like to pick up musicality again one day, but I distinctly remember the time that God told me I've fulfilled what I've needed to. I learned that I could develop a talent, but that talent was not a divinely-appointed spiritual gift. And what I want to focus the energy of my life on is developing those spiritual gifts.
Repeat, and repeat. Never stop repeating this process.
What does it look like when you've repeated this process, honing in on your spiritual gifts, cultivating the craft that God placed deep into your heart?
To me, it looks like confidence.
If you know me, you know that I am confident of God's existence and His divine plan for my life. I am confident that He hand-crafted me to fulfill a very specific calling: a global teaching ministry. I am confident that I play a part in it -- it can either take me 50 years to get there or 10. I am confident that working within His grace to set the pace is far better than worldly hustle and my own timeline.
If you know me, you know that I'm fiery about each person's specific calling in life. Not the over-arching purpose of glorifying God, but the individual unique purpose of filling the void that God created each of us to fill. But I didn't get this way by letting that seedling thought remain uncultivated. I've discerned, developed, done, persisted and repeated this process over and over again in my life.
My confidence comes from a developed process that has given me greater clarity than any amount of schooling ever did.
God wants the same for you. He doesn't desire for you to be 60 years old wondering what your career really amounted to, wondering if there's time to maybe make the impact he told you about when you were 20 years old. He wants your confidence in His plan for your life.
But lemme tell ya, that confidence will only come after you do this a little while. The first decade of my writing, you could have told me I wasn't meant to be a writer, and I would have listened to you. I was ill-confident. I wasn't looking at the Lord while I developed my spiritual gift. I just was doing what I felt in my heart to do.
But now? You couldn't convince me that I'm not born to be a writer any more than you could convince me that Florida is an arctic tundra.
You can get to that confidence in your passion career, too!
Keep discerning, developing, doing, persisting and repeating. Keep your eyes fixated on God to tell you who you are and where you're headed. And keep going!