It’s time to change course and follow your work that matters most
I still have a day job, but I’m working hard to undo that reality. Now that I’ve found my purpose I will say the day job has become more tolerable. However, or a ten-year stretch I had such a gut reaction to my job I felt like vomiting every morning as I pulled in the parking lot.
My life needed an oil change.
The change was slow — almost imperceptible. But it was a series of downward feelings of disenfranchisement that eventually became irreversible. It’s been almost impossible for me to quit, psychologically and monetarily. Not only is my day job a golden handcuffs situation, but after doing it for 20 years, my entire adult life, I’m terrified to leave it.
Our work is critical to our well-being, because it’s a big part of our purpose — our reason for being.
Something profound helped me uncover my true purpose and that discovery has breathed new light into my craft. I found I was good at writing. As a deep introvert, this was my way to connect with others.
We all need to find our truth path no matter how long it takes.
The path towards our calling is different for everyone. Mine was later in life. Some people are blessed to be born with the right compass and tenacity. I was not, but I’m working at it every day to make my calling a reality.
Here’s a story about my take on the traditional 9 to 5:
Did the 9 to 5 Just Kill Our Creativity?
How to reignite your reason to do work that matters
Your work is really important to your well-being.
I have no data to support this, but I’d say this job-purpose relationship is large part of the mental health issues surrounding our jobless population. When we don’t feel purpose we feel lost. When we feel lost everything spirals down from there — family, health, well-being, and relationships.
Your job is what you do, but your work is who you are.
Therefore, when we pick a job from a hat, say the first job we get out of school, as I did, we get complacent and stay in said job for 20 years — this mis-matched relationship eats at us like a cancer.
We’ve got to uncover our calling
This isn’t only for our benefit, but for those around us. When we glow with our own light of purpose, the glow leaks over to those we love. This isn’t some hippy-dippy, run-for-your-passion situation. When you’re matched with your calling everything changes.
The world looks different when we do our work that matters most.
Not only do we care more about the work we produce, but we get just as excited about Monday morning, as we do Friday night.
- Our audience is better-off, because they get a product which runs deep with craftsmanship.
- Our family is better-off, because we’ll earn more money — being so committed to our work.
- Our selves are better-off, because we we’ll no longer work with the sole goal of retirement. Retirement won’t even be on the table. Purpose is timeless.
I wrote a story about uncovering your true calling here:
For many, our best work takes the form of entrepreneurship or freelancing
When we work for an employer, the agendas rarely align. The larger the company we work for, the more we get lost on the shelf. For me, as my company was acquired a few times, each time it happened I felt myself getting smaller.
Now I’m little more than a serial number amongst 80,000 others.
So, instead of giving-up I’m rising-up. I spend almost all my spare time writing and working on my craft — building my customer list to a point where my work will sustain my family.
My journey may take another five years, but I’m willing to make the climb. Now, I KNOW my calling. No one can take that from me. And this new-found purpose has given me more fire under my ass than any motivator I’ve felt before.
You can read all the self-help books you want, but until you take action, your calling is nothing but a wish.
It’s not about the money
Sure, it’s a little about the money, but the money isn’t the goal. The goal is to find our calling and get a little better at our work every day. Even a 1% improvement every day leads to a 3,800% improvement over a year.
It’s about the cumulative effort.
When we put in the daily work, following our craft, doing the work that matters most — the tiny, incremental steps begat great results. I wrote a story about cumulative effort here:
The Magic of Cumulative Effort: Overnight Success One Night at a Time
How taking tiny steps every day can change your life in profound ways
You won’t see results right away. This is the hard part of following our purpose.
It’s been really hard for me. I floundered a long time, because I wanted answers right away. Finding your calling and working your craft is a lifetime journey. This is where a lot of people get it wrong. This is HARD. But that’s the point. There’s nothing easy about doing your work that matters most, which is why so few people do it.
Because doing the hard work is so satisfying — this is the reason we follow our calling.
With cumulative effort comes cumulative results. If you develop your craft a little every day, even while keeping your day job, a day will come when there’s a tipping point. There will be a hockey-stick moment on the results graph, where your calling will bring the money.
The money is the bi-product, not the goal. The right work is the goal.
How do you know when you’ve found the right work?
No work is perfect. Even our true calling will have 40–50% of its tasks be something we don’t want to do. But the true litmus test is this:
You’ve found your calling if you can’t imagine doing anything else — if you’d feel compelled to do the work, even if you weren’t getting paid for it.
As a creator it’s important to develop a set of principles for yourself. These are binary decisions — yes/no — you make on a daily basis. I wrote a story about these daily decisions here:
There’s no single calling for any of us
This is good news. There are a basket of vocations that will give your life it’s proverbial oil change.
We look for work traits and common behaviors that help us practice our true calling.
I’m a writer. I write both fiction and non-fiction. I would also be satisfied with other creative, cumulative, and solitary pursuits. I love the combination of art, research, and mobility.
I need all three factors in my work to make me feel whole in my purpose. I can find similar qualities in a handful of other vocations. There’s no single calling for me. I chose one that I found fit me best.
Our work won’t find us. We must seek it out.
For the 50% of the working population who hate their jobs, this is a process of perseverance. We must seek our calling. Only we can be our own self-advocate. There isn’t some magic work fairy who comes down and taps us with a wand.
The work is out there. There’s a calling for all of us. But only those who are willing to put in the time and effort will be rewarded. It’s never been both easier and more difficult to practice your work that matters most.
Getting started is free. There are more tools available than any other time in history. But the playing field is ultra-competitive. You must want it badly enough to practice your craft every day. We’re waiting for you.
It’s time for your oil change. Are you ready?
August Birch (AKA the Book Mechanic) is both a fiction and non-fiction author from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make work that sells and how to sell more of that work once it’s created. When he’s not writing or thinking about writing, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.