Saturday, December 11, 2010

From Competency to Calling

I must clearly state at the outset: I did NOT write this. Although written by Charles Lee, I claim it; I believe it; I know it; I “preach” it; and (only by God’s grace), I have now traveled a few miles toward living it, and I live to travel those which are still before me. The coup de grace for me was the realization that the risks, the stakes, were much greater by remaining in the routine that seemed to have been assigned to me,… in playing it safe,… in sleep walking through life,… and at the end of a somnambulistic stroll, to ultimately speak those horrific words: “Oh, if only I had it to do all over again, I would…”. THAT would be a discovery and acknowledgement of “calling” tragically too late. Of all the deathbed  “famous last words," no one has ever been heard to say: “If only I had spent a few more days at the office.”
And now, Charles Lee:
Competency is the quality or state of being legally qualified or adequate. It means that you are sufficient in carrying out a given responsibility or task.
Calling is a reference to one’s vocation (from the Latin word “vocare” which means “to call”). In this context, it carries a deep sense of passionate pursuit of what one was designed to be.
There is a world of difference between competency and calling. One could be competent at a task and not carry a calling. Many people around the world work professionally in areas that they are competent in and yet don’t feel they are living out their calling. This is bound to lead to frustration and despair in the long run.
The human spirit was designed to pursue life to the fullest. A part of this is most realized when one finds his/her sense of calling in life. What was I created for? What gives me the greatest sense of being alive?
The jump to go from competency to calling is not an easy one. It often requires risk, trust, and sacrifice.
My advice: Go for it anyway.
I say this because not pursuing or exploring our “call” is much more riskier in the long run. Life has never been about safety and calculated steps. It is an ever-evolving journey of exploration and adventure. It doesn’t matter if you’re personality says otherwise. There’s something in you that you must pursue in order to be more YOU.
If you don’t live like this, consider taking some baby steps:
            Answer this question: If my current financial restraints were not an issue, what would I like to do?
            Talk to someone who is living out the kind of life you desire.
            Write your thoughts down on paper. Revisit it regularly to refine what it is you would like to see.
            Educate yourself but more importantly, create time to venture into your calling. Time is available. We make time for things we ultimately value.
            Tell someone about your passion (i.e., after you’ve spent some time developing the initial concepts). Start writing about it publicly and engage conversation with those who may be interested.
            Create a timeline to “get there”.
            Find a community of friends who will hold you accountable and are committed to helping you get there. It may take months if not years, but won’t it be worth it in the end?
            Relax. Wisdom will come as you move forward. Don’t expect all the answers before you start.
Is there safety, predictability, and control in competency? Most definitely (for now). Nevertheless, they will never get you to your calling. You can be competent in your calling, but competency alone doesn’t necessarily mean you have calling.
And now if I can add a few irresistible postscript bullet points:
I presume that your true calling has much to do with serving others and thereby building meaningful relationships,... and little to do with world travel, warm sandy beaches, fine wine, championship golf courses, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, or finally running a (or another) marathon. (LIFE is a glorious mountain climb and a marathon. Why settle for the metaphor?)
Discovering your true calling is an inescapably spiritual journey. If you believe that you are an accidental, chance amalgamation of cells evolved from primordial pond scum, and that life has no purpose or meaning, then do not waste your time on this. But the longing within you tells you otherwise.
I once sought the counsel of Joe Handley, to whom I am indebted much more than he would ever imagine. I made some timid reference to the remote possibility of some sort of a “calling.” In his own inimitable way, Joe tenderly, but profoundly observed: “Tom, let me make this much easier for you. We are ALL called. The question is NOT ‘Am I called?’ but rather ‘To what am I called?’” And... "By whom and to whom am I called?"
Please dwell upon what must be obvious: You have been uniquely and wonderfully made, and thus your calling and your “sweet spot” are unique to you. Although others may encourage and cheer you on, “the answers” are found within you and cannot be provided by the kid sitting at the desk next to you. Remember Jack Palance's "one" finger in City Slickers?
What is at stake? Passion. Peace. Rest, even though you are likely to be busier than ever, swept forward by surprising new-found energy. The joy that is found in doing what you were uniquely created to do,… sometimes referred to as your “sweet spot.” And in time, an inexplicable sense that “If I die today, I am ready, for I have lived life as I was created to live.”
No one is suggesting that this is the easy road. It is presumed that we are not really looking for "easy," but rather significance.
“Talk to someone who is living out the kind of life you desire.” Go to Halftime Institute. Although I am an unqualfied novice, I would be delighted to offer encouragement and personal experiences, AND direct you to some people who can better guide and cheer you on “from competency to calling,… from success to significance.” My regular "go to guys" have been Dale Dawson and Tom Wilson, but they would humbly insist that they merely assist in the discovery of that which you and I already know. They might also say that they are more like your die-hard fan than an authoritative coach.
Carpe diem.