I heard an interview recently with the writer Robert Greene who wrote the book Mastery. The interviewer asked him what he says to people who tell him that they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.
My ears really pricked up when I heard that question because this question has been on my “Top 10 List” for most of my life. And his answer shocked me. And chastised me. And embarrassed me.
He said: “This question always disturbs me because it tells me that this person hasn’t been paying attention to his life. Because if they had been, they would know what they should do, or be.”
I felt embarrassed for thinking for so long that my vocation would somehow be “revealed to me.” I felt stupid for mistaking “calling” for something you were supposed to “hear” in your mind, rather than something you were supposed to be continuously “noticing.”
Calling isn’t something whispered in your ear; it’s the continuous watching of how you act, what you do in your spare time, what you avoid, and perhaps most telling, what you do when you procrastinate.
If you started paying attention to those kinds of things you would know exactly who you are, what your talents were, and what you should be doing for work.
But most of us have not been noticing. We have been sleepwalking through our lives. Either that, or just allowing ourselves to be flippered from thing to thing like some pinball, hitting bumpers, racking up points in some game we aren’t even aware we’re playing.
As a result we can get to a pretty advanced age without knowing who we are and what we ought to be doing.
And this is pathetic. And a waste. And totally unnecessary.
I know so many people who are on the brink of retirement and still don’t know what they should be doing with their lives; they don’t know who they are, or what their gifts are. They are getting close to the end of their lives and they haven’t even come close to maximizing their full human potential.
And that is why they fear death. Or at least the next birthday.
But it’s never too late! Never! Start making lists. List everything you love and everything your hate.
Why do this?
Because these lists will show who you are. If you keep adding to these lists you will notice trends, and how interesting and complex you are, and where you are a totally unique blend of character traits, and propensities, and weirdnesses. That’s your gift. Then all you have to do is figure out how you can add value to the lives of other people with your special brand.
And when you can add value, you hit the jackpot. You then start living a life of value and purpose. And that’s the whole game.