When things are hard, when you’re not making enough money, when no one seems to understand what you’re going through, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
I sometimes wonder how people get up day after day and go to jobs they hate for years. My father-in-law did it from the 70s until just a couple of years ago and while I admire his ability to stick to something, I know he didn’t see any meaning in it and wanted to get out at the first chance he got. He’s not alone, though. Maybe you don’t get the point of why you do what you do.
Maybe your parents said that nursing was a good job, so you started it and now you’re twenty years in, not sure why you’re still there. Maybe you feel like your law career was something you stumbled into, but you hate it. Maybe you feel like anybody could do what you do and you’re an interchangeable cog in the machine, more a number than a person.
Whatever your story is, the solution isn’t necessarily a job change. It might, instead, be a perspective change. It really matters that you know why, how, what, etc.
The why behind the what
Why are you going after your dream? Why not let someone else do it? You need to answer that question because that answer is what propels you through the tough times. No one can answer it for you; only you can.
I’ll tell you what I don’t think it can be. I don’t think it can be fame or money. If you’re driven by money, it can be difficult to come by. If you help a lot of people, but don’t make much money, are you okay with that? What about if you make all the money in your wildest dreams, multiplied ten fold? Do you think that will be enough?
What about fame? If you are known by every man, woman, and child in the world, but they all despise you, is that valuable? What if you’re known to and loved by many, but no one knows the real you? Would you be happy with that?
I’ll tell you my “why.” It might sound so lofty that you would think it sounds more like the answer a Miss America contestant might give than the motivation for a guy to get out of bed, shoot videos, write books, speak, teach, etc. I’m doing this to change lives and eternities.
I realize that I tipped my hand a bit with the title of the book, but I really, really think that we can all achieve this lofty goal. To me, it’s sad that people spend their lives wishing what they did mattered, that they’d be remembered for generations, but they mostly waste their lives on the couch, watching TV.
I think of my life as a resource that only I can steward. I didn’t created it; it was a gift. I can choose how I spend it, though and I choose to impact people. That’s why I’m writing a 10:11 pm on a Friday night. I’m trying to reach into wherever you are and motivate you not to waste your life watching one more rerun that you’d really prefer not to watch. I don’t want you to get to the end of your life and wonder why you never did your dream, why you never took up your calling.
So, that’s my “why.” It’s big enough that when I don’t understand how I got into the circumstances that I’m in and more importantly when I don’t know how to get out of them, I can look to my “why” and say, “if this helps one other person, I’m happy to do it.”
So what’s yours? You might have thought you knew. Let me challenge you, though to make it big. I don’t want you to have a why you can fully accomplish. For me, there are always more lives and eternities to impact. If your “why” is more like a goal to be profitable or to be the biggest ________ in the world, you can hit it. No, a “why” should be something that’s not quite possible, but not so big that you could never accomplish any of it.
Take a moment and write down your “why.” You might want to frame it, have a calligrapher write it on parchment, or make it your computer’s wall paper. Whatever you do, look to it when it’s hard and when it’s easy to make sure it’s still your focus.
Having a big “why” isn’t enough if you don’t start formulating a plan to accomplish it. So, you want to wipe out AIDS in Africa or cure a disease in developing nations that’s nonexistent in the US and Europe? Great! Those are noble goals. Saving lives is an important “why.”
Now, how are you going to do this thing you’re dreaming of? It might be possible to do what you want to do, but how can you go about doing it? What resources do you need to raise? Who do you need to help you? What obstacles stand in your way? How can you overcome them?
My friend Sandra has a big “why.” She wants to save women from the poor choices they’ve made. How? She’s leading an organization called Beloved which goes into strip clubs to meet and become friends with strippers. That’s a how that I can’t accomplish, but she can.
How? She’s partnered with XXX church to reach out to adult entertainment industry. She started a branch first in Kentucky, where she’s from, then in Miami, and now she’s in Maryland. She starts branches, raises support and leaders, and moves on to repeat the process.
You might be wondering why she’s chosen this ministry. It’s personal to her. She used to be a stripper. She’s seen it from both sides and can speak to the ladies in these clubs like few others can.
How is she doing all this? She can’t stop herself. That’s powerful.
Now, you know why and how, but you need to refine it further. What exactly are you going to do? What steps should you take?
Imagine that you could only do one thing to accomplish your calling. What would that be? This month, for me, it’s writing. I sometimes go on a writing binge that’s followed by a writing fast. Right now it’s binge time. I’m writing like crazy, while still trying to do what I normally do.
Make a strategy and embrace it. Try and do the most effective “what” first, the one that flows from the how and why most effectively. Don’t get side-tracked. Do what you’re supposed to do in the way you’re supposed to do it, whatever that is.
Who are you? Who? Who?
With apologies to “The Who,” that song seems to always bounce around in my head when I think of the word “who.” Part of it is because of the fact that the original CSI show uses it as their theme. Theirs is the search for a person and you need to be the same way.
Very few of us can accomplish what we’re called to do on our own. If you’re thinking, “I can,” then you definitely need help. Others help us fill in our weaknesses (remember that I’m not great at bookkeeping) and also enable us to do the things that only we can do.
In my time making writing, I’ve learned that I really do need help. When I wrote my first book, I formatted it and sent off for a proof convinced that while it wasn’t perfect, it was pretty close, until I found the first mistake, and then another, and another. I revised the whole thing and went through it one more time. Yep, more mistakes. Finally, I felt pretty confident, but just to be safe, I sent it to my wife’s cousin Jenny (hi Jenny) who put herself through grad school proof-reading term papers.
Guess what Jenny found. A ton more errors. So now, before I publish a book, I make sure Jenny fixes it.
I used to say that I loved editing video more than anything, but now that I do it every day, I’m starting to wonder if my time isn’t better used in shooting the videos and letting someone else cut them together.
I’m starting to see more and more places where I need to figure out how to include others in what I do. I can’t pay anyone just yet, but maybe I can get help that will turn into a paying job or maybe people will want to help if I ask.
Either way, if your vision is large enough, you need help. Don’t feel bad asking for it. You’re not Jesus. Even if you were, you’d have disciples. You’re not Moses, but if you were you’d have Joshua. A great team that works well together will always accomplish more than a single individual, even if the individual has exceptional talent.
To use a sports metaphor, Michael Jordan was great, not only because of his talent and determination, but also because when he was with the Bulls, he was surrounded by a great team. Sometimes, he’d have a bad night and the others would fill in the gaps. Other times, they’d play as one and it would seem as though five guys were playing against one who could be in five places at once. That’s teamwork.
Where do you do this?
It’s possible that the answer to “where” is right where you are. Maybe it’s not permanently the case, but it might be the case now. I recognize that if you’re supposed to dig wells in Africa, it’s hard to do that while standing in Arkansas, but you can still lay groundwork where you are.
You might need to raise money at home to go to the other side of the world.
You might need to live a “location independent” life, so that you can go wherever you’re needed for as long as you’re needed there.
Perhaps your “why” for your current job is to make as much money as possible (wait for it) so that you can quit and move to South America to do what you really feel called to.
The where question can really have a few answers. You might need to be where you are for the rest of your life. You might need to live location independent, moving around a lot. You might need to move from time to time to position yourself for the best advantage for your calling.
Jesus spent most of his life in Judea. Paul moved around a lot, going from town to town. Which is better? They were both right for their situations.
Perhaps your calling is where you are. You need look no further than your own back yard (metaphorically speaking) for where you should serve.
Maybe you need to raise money to build a well in Kenya and then move one to Zambia and then rural India.
It’s also possible that you’ll travel a lot, but return home each week to recharge before going somewhere else next week.
Answering them all
Whatever you do, you should put together all these questions into your own plan of attack. Perhaps the “who” question isn’t immediately fully answered, but the “why” question is. Whatever that web of answers looks like, take a moment and see if what was a little fuzzy in your mind, begins to roll into focus. Keep asking them, keep refining the answers and whatever you do, take action…today.