Calling vs Job

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A few years ago I took a break from full time ministry. During that time, I worked on my dad’s farm and served part time at a church. This week I have been reflecting on one of the conversations I had with my dad toward the end of my time farming.

My wife and I were wrestling with returning to full time ministry. We thought it was maybe time to send our resume out and see what happened.

I remember pulling up to the barn, turning the key off, and sitting in the pickup for the conversation that followed. As I talked with my dad about the transition, he told me “I can tell your heart isn’t in farming. When I was your age I spent spare moments dreaming what I could do to make the farm more successful. You don’t do that.”

My dad wasn’t belittling me, but he was pointing out something he saw in me: Farming wasn’t my calling. Ministry was my calling.

He was right. I didn’t spend my spare moments thinking about the farm. On the contrary, I spent my spare moments thinking about church. Farming was what I did for almost 3 years so I could serve part time at a church. Farming was where my paycheck came from. It was how I provided for my family.

So, what’s the difference between calling and a job? When we find our calling (ministry, farming, teaching, etc.), we are able to throw ourselves into it. We do what we do out of love for the opportunity, because we couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

When we have a job, we leave work and start thinking of something else. That something else is likely your calling, and it’s not limited to ministers and farmers.

I have a friend who over the past few years has worked in the oil field, then as an aviation mechanic. Just recently, however, he seems to have found his calling. Last summer, he finished police academy and has been serving as a police officer ever since. He loves it. He knew his calling for years after finishing the military, and finally got the opportunity to pursue it, and I couldn’t be happier for him.

What’s your calling? Is your current occupation your calling? Or, are you working a job until you can pursue your calling? This isn’t an easy answer, but my hope for you is that you will find the joy of fulfilling your calling.

Where We Are With 3 Questions

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About 2 years ago I stumbled onto what I consider a pretty simple concept. It actually happened on a Sunday I took off, and was the result of evaluating a story I heard. Kind of crazy how things like that happen.

The bottom line is this: about 2 years ago, the 3 questions were born. This entire blog revolves around these three question, so click here to read a more in-depth explanation. But, as a refresher, the 3 questions are:

  1. What needs to be done?
  2. What can I do?
  3. Who can I get to help?

Today, I thought I would share where I am with these three questions. I have spent the last two years teaching these questions to my student leadership team, taking time after each mid-week program to evaluate how they did at answering the 3 questions. One of the key things I learned this year was the redundancy of asking the 3 questions.

Growing up I ate the same thing for breakfast about 90% of the time. My dad would make a batch of waffles at one time, and I would eat waffles every morning. There’s a rhythm in eating the same thing every day.

There’s also a rhythm in answering the 3 questions. It takes discipline, focus, and a desire to make a difference.

For working with teenagers (and I’m guessing the same would be true for adults), the challenge is finding a way to keep the  3 questions fresh. After all, not everyone wants waffles everyday for breakfast.

So, this summer, on our leadership trip, I plan to sit down with a couple kids and re-evaluate how to implement the 3 questions. Even this is the 3 questions in use (what needs to be done-evaluation, what can I do-evaluate, who can I get to help-student leaders who have put the questions into practice.)

The bottom line is this: when I ask myself (and answer) the 3 questions, my leadership grows. It may not be flashy. It may not be exciting. But I see results. The 3 questions lead to leadership results. But everyone’s context is different.

There’s not much application today other than to say: learn to ask and answer the 3 questions. Your context may be different than mine, but I still believe whole heartedly you can expand your leadership influence when you regularly invite people to help you accomplish what needs to be done.


Learn From Your Mistakes

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Learn from your mistakes. Seems like a simple concept, right?

But when was the last time you stopped to ask yourself if you’re truly learning from your mistakes? When was the last time you admitted you made a mistake?

I think there’s a fine line in here. I never want to wear a badge of “proud to make mistakes” on my chest, because mistakes are embarrassing. But I also never want to wear a badge of “mistake free since ’93” either.

Mistakes come from 2 places. New mistakes and mistakes of comfort.

New mistakes happen because we are trying something new. We step out of our normal routine, maybe swing for the fences with something, and make a mistake along the way. Whether the something we tried is a success or a failure on the whole, the mistakes we make are all part of the learning process.

Mistakes of comfort, on the other hand, happen because we are too lazy to correct them. Sound harsh? It may be, but that doesn’t make it less true. Mistakes of comfort are the result of knowing we are making a mistake, but we’ve made it so many times that we know the outcome and think we can live with it. Mistakes of comfort are dangerous and damaging to our leadership.

If you want to grow as a leader, take some time to evaluate the last few months. What mistakes of comfort keep popping up? My tendency is to laugh them off, but I know they need to change. What about you?

The bottom line is this: if you desire to grow as a leader, you need to learn to eliminate mistakes of comfort but maximize new mistakes. Taking risks can aid growth, but accepting mediocrity kills it.

The Last Little Bit

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I am very excited about what’s coming up in April. Last year I did a series I called “Lessons from the Farm”, and starting next week, I am going to revive the series with new posts and leadership lessons.

But first, let’s talk about pushing through.

Last summer my wife and I bought a house just outside the city limits, down a country road. It sounds more majestic than it really is. We live about 1/2 mile off a paved road, but almost all of it is either caliche or some kind of gravel. The last 50 yards, however, is straight dirt.

There are benefits to living outside of town, but there’s also one draw back I was reminded of this week: dirt plus water equals mud.

We have gotten somewhere north of 2 inches of rain this week. My yard is greening up nicely. My trees are starting to show signs of growth. But my road is a mess.

I think this happens in leadership, too. We can have things around us going well: our team is clicking, our projects/events are rocking, and our communication is top notch, but there always seems to be the last 50 yards of mess.

Part of this is natural. Rain plus dirt equals mud. But vegetation plus moisture equals growth. A muddy road (and filthy vehicle) mean growth is coming.

Part of the mess, however, is because of a choice. Someone chose to stop putting caliche down 50 yards before my driveway. There was a choice made to stop at a certain point, and I live with the results.

So, let me ask you this today: what steps have you taken to offset the 50 yards of mess in your life?

In other words, are you content simply living with chaos in one area because you’re seeing growth in others?

Or, are you willing to address the chaos in the hopes of being able to enjoy the success?

Get More From a Phone Call

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Have you ever done Amway? Or something similar?

Years ago, when my wife and I were fresh out of college with a baby in diapers, we found ourselves in a group of people selling Amway (or the North American branch). The experience was what you would expect. We had no problems with any of it, but after a while decided it wasn’t for us.

I will never forget, however, one of the meetings. It was in a hotel conference room, and we were listening to a guy give a speech to encourage and recruit. One of the things he said was profoundly simple, yet incredibly powerful.

When you call someone to have what could be a significant conversation (let’s say 2 minutes or more), first ask if they have time.

Asking such a question may seem counter-intuitive, but here’s my experience employing that simple concept over the past almost 10 years: it works. It communicates I want to respect how someone else uses their time. It gives the other person a chance to say “Let me call you back in 5 minutes after I finish my current task” or “I’m busy at the moment, but you can call me back in 30 minutes.”

But most importantly, it allows the other person to be fully engaged with our conversation.

Over the years, I have found the times where I take for granted someone is free to talk and skip past the question, are usually the times  when I get cut off in mid sentence and they ask to call me back in a little while.

So, for the rest of this week, when you make a phone call, I want you to start by asking the other person: do you have time to talk? See what happens. Be okay if they’re busy at the moment, the engagement you’ll get back when you finally talk will make a difference.

And at the very least, you will communicate a respect for the other person’s time, and we all win when we show respect.

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