Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Your Calling Doesn’t Always Look Like You Think It Should

Sometimes, all we need to find our calling is see what’s always been there. The journey of discovering my own life’s work was not a process of dreaming, but remembering: of looking backward, not forward.

Your Calling Doesn't Always Look Like You Think It Should

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Little did I know as I was pursuing one path in life that my true vocation was hiding in the shadows, watching from afar like a distant love interest.

That’s the funny thing about a calling. It can sneak up on you.

Some people wait their whole lives for the right career, refusing to begin their lives until clarity comes. Longing for a vocation to complete them, they sometimes never find their life’s work.

What I’ve discovered is that the opposite is true. While we wait for our callings to present themselves, they are waiting on us to wake up.

My first guitar

In high school, my dad bought me a used, electric guitar by trading in my neglected tenor saxophone. It was a $150 Fender Stratocaster knock-off that was blue with a white pick guard and black gig bag.

I picked it up, plugging it into the 15-watt Gorilla amp, and decided at that moment I would become a rock star.

After practicing for six months without much improvement, I got frustrated. Able to limp through only a few simple songs, I wondered why I was no Carlos Santana. Did I just not have what it took? Angry, I took my complaint to my dad.

Snatching the guitar from my hands, he showed me how to play a barre chord by holding down all the strings with one finger. He told me I couldn’t jump from one end of the guitar to the next, that I had to gradually work my way down the neck. The same was true for playing solos, he said.

I had to practice.

Shortly after, I started writing songs. With music, my love for language had a new outlet.

Words and music

Most nights in high school, I stayed up late, crafting poems that would someday have music behind them.

Sophomore year, I found two guys who liked to jam, and together, we formed Decaf, my first band. Determined to not be copycats, my two new bandmates and I played almost all original music, which was rare for other bands in the area.

Finally, I’d found my muse, a reason for living and creating,or so I thought.

In college, I continued to play music and grew more comfortable writing songs. I joined another band that played music for our weekly chapel services, and we formed a side project called The Bygones.

On weekends, The Bygones would travel, playing shows wherever anyone would have us. I was certain this was my destiny. Around the same time, I started tutoring students at the Campus Writing Center. I wasn’t an English major, it was just a job.

After college, I toured the country with yet another music group band. Other than sleeping or eating, music was all I did that year. And as a result, I got better than I ever thought possible.

I could now be as good as I wanted, it was really just a matter of practice. But now, I faced a dilemma: did I really want it?

Playing gigs was no longer exciting, and I often felt distracted. Maybe it was the lull of life on the road, but I began to wonder if music really was my calling.

How my calling crept up on me

In between gigs, I started writing. Not having composed content longer than a set of song lyrics, I decide to write a short story. The idea came to me while driving through the Midwest, surrounded by cornfields, with nothing to do but think.

So I began.

Every night, while I was staying at a different person’s place, I wrote a piece of a story I would then email to myself and resume writing at the next stop.

By the end of the year, I presented the story to my then-girlfriend.

Although no one else will probably ever reader it, there was still something thrilling in the writing, something freeing, an experience I wanted to have again.

Around that same time, I started a blog, not for readers, but for myself, for the pure act of creating.

A few months later, I was hired by a nonprofit. This was the first time anyone called me “writer.” And though it would take  years before I’d be able to say the same of myself, it was a step in the direction that ultimately led to my life’s work.

What I learned

Sometimes, despite what people say, you don’t know what your calling is. Sometimes, you don’t go in search of it, but it comes and finds you, knocking on the door when you’re too busy doing other things.

And how we respond at these moments of interruptions, these in-between times, has an effect on where we end up in life.

It’s disingenuous to tell you to go find your calling. What seems more honest is to say that a calling finds you when you’re open and conscious, willing to listen to what life, and maybe God, is trying to tell you.

For me, my calling looked like pursuing personal fame only to realize halfway down that journey that I was supposed to be doing something else. You may find the same, or maybe life will throw something else your way.

What I think is important, what we can’t forget about vocation, is that we all need some great work to commit ourselves to. We need what we do to matter, and and it needs to be bigger than us. That’s what a calling is.

This was an excerpt from my recent book, The In-Between. You can download the whole story for free via Noisetrade. Just follow this link: Finding Your Calling.

Have you found your calling? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://www.pcdettman.me P. C. Dettman

    I agree with the sentiment behind this really nice piece. I think people could add their own twists on this too, for example, I have struggled to pursue two callings – one is computer programming, or tech more generally, and two is writing. The two have more in common than most people think, and I sometimes think they are both a single calling: to write. But these days I write and present training materials on… computer topics! So maybe there was one calling all along. The final point I wanted to make is that both callings found me before I was ten, and I’ve spent the last 25 years trying other things (jobs) only to return to these callings again and again. When will I grow to accept that I am a writer, and that quick bucks in other jobs is just cheating myself? Today!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Excellent. For what it’s worth, I think your calling can be a few things, combined in an interesting way. That’s what a portfolio life is all about.

      • Katharine

        I, too, was writing early in life. Is that how we know?

  • http://www.christanperona.com Christan Perona

    This is excellent. I’m keeping my eyes wide-open today.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yes, Christan. Me, too. :)

  • http://www.trailreflections.com/ Chris Peek

    Several years ago, I took part in an online class, and the assignment involved writing out our life story. We then were asked to go back and circle the action words and list those separately. I had never written out my life story before, but the same result happened as you described above. I recognized that writing had been woven throughout my story. From that experience, I began to blog on a regular basis, something I have continued for the past three years. But I would have missed my love for writing if I had not taken time to simply write out my story.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Excellent, Chris. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

    I agree with this Jeff. I’ve found myself forcing a “calling” upon myself. It never ends well. I think it makes perfect sense that a calling is more likely to find us.

    Thank you for this.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I like one definition of a calling I heard: “it’s something you can’t not do.”

  • Joy Ezeka

    Jeff, I give you a cyber hug for this! I’ve been feeling out of sorts lately and wondering why I hated the career path I had chosen 4 year ago because then I thought- THIS IS IT! but at present I’m like “AND NOW?”. And then I am wondering why I am so in love with what I am doing now! I kept waiting for clarity and I almost didn’t start living. What I’m doing now might not be my calling but for now I am moving and enjoying the process. Thank you! How do they say it- you have given me breeze to my wings or is it air to my wings??? I’m sure you understand what I mean!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      :)

      Yes, Joy. I totally do. Clarity is a myth. The challenge is to choose to step into the mess, anyway, and make something significant with what life has given you.

      • Katharine

        But..to step into the bess without getting messed up? How do we do that?

  • http://zechariahnewman.com/ Zechariah Newman

    Yes, to restore others is what I feel called to do. This takes many forms as I have two pizza parlors, write, and speak. All of it is intertwined into this restoration. We fixate way to much on what instead of why. The why I believe though harder to figure out holds the key.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Wow. Very interesting, Zechariah!

  • http://reporterofhope.com/ Dorette Skinner

    Thank you for asking the question, Jeff. It really had me thinking… why ‘calling’? As in it must be something – or Someone – calling you… Then I read 1 Timothy 6:12. Now it all makes sense :-)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yes, Dorette. Great verse. I love that command of “take hold.” Finding our calling is not just a passive act. It requires effort on our part.

  • http://dorneawhale.wordpress.com Dorne Whale

    What a great piece. I do believe that it is better to enjoy the journey, rather than focusing everything on the arrival at the destination. On the journey is when things find you and you truly start to live.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Amen, Dorne. You said it better than I could have.

      • http://dorneawhale.wordpress.com Dorne Whale

        Thanks Jeff, I enjoyed the piece. Food for thought. Looking forward to your next one.

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          Cool. :)

  • http://robyn-campbell.blogspot.com/ Robyn Campbell

    I’ve been too concentrated on the prize (published writer). I need to enjoy the drive. I need to look out the windows and really see everything. Thanks as usual, Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Beautiful, Robyn. :)

  • http://hollyherick.com Holly Herick

    I found my calling! I just started a business to help artist with special needs. http://www.giftjoy.org/ Read my mission on the home page. Your creativeLive.com class and daily emails have been very encouraging. I just took Seth Godin’s modern marketing class on skillshare.com. I have found my tribe. Keep up the good work Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Awesome, Holly! That’s great to hear.

  • http://www.amylearns.com/ Amy Tilson

    This was just the perspective I needed to hear today! I still don’t know what that “calling” might be, but I know there are things I want to do right now. I think those are steps on the path. Thanks!

  • Pamela Black

    Sheesh. I should know better than to read your blog on days like this. I should know Id have to face truth. Why do you have always be so…right!?
    And I really didn’t want to get all teary and yet here I am. Thanks for saying what needs to be said Jeff. Again.

  • Amy Edge

    Working while waiting on the calling. Thanks for the fun post!

  • Susan Bailey

    Your story is my story almost exactly (the big difference being that you discovered yours in the prime of life and I found mine in the waning years). And in looking backwards I realized that the connecting thread between writing and music for me was the songwriting with the focus on the lyrics first. Duh!:-) And yes, my calling as a writer totally took me by surprise but revealed itself slowly, giving me a chance to get used to the idea. Sometimes you just have to allow life to reveal itself to you and that requires quiet time to ponder and observe.

  • Keith Jennings

    This piece reminds me how much I enjoyed The In-Between. A couple of comments. First, Thomas J. Stanley’s research on millionaires shows that when most discovered their business “calling,” it wasn’t love at first sight. But it was something they fell in love with as they experienced the satisfaction of using their skills in ways that led to success. Second, too many people think God points, but in the vast majority of cases, God steers. Which means we must act first, then see what opportunities present along the way.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Totally agree. My informal research has yielded similar results.

    • http://www.lisarobbinyoung.com Lisa Robbin Young

      “God steers” I love that imagery. :-)

  • Dennis Mendoza

    Hi Jeff! I’ve been searching for my calling as well. Just when I thought I would be a civil engineer, the vocation of teaching is calling me. When I was frustrated with the hustle and bustle of construction and eventually quit; I realigned my goals and objectives which lead me being a part-time math tutor now. I’m also a volunteer teacher to a kid’s church. Thanks to you, I’ve been writing as well (500 words FB page). Thank you for keeping me motivated with your posts and stimulating my passive senses poisoned with depression. I’ll keep on living, I promise you might. God bless your soul, Jeff!

  • http://KeenaCoach.com Keena

    Jeff, this is one of the most elegant treatments of purpose that I’ve encountered. I thank you so much!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Keena!

  • http://www.lisarobbinyoung.com Lisa Robbin Young

    I think it was Stephen Cope that said we often can find ourselves in a vocation that’s tangent to our calling. All that songwriting you did was the warm up for the more lengthy prose, and Godly enough (as my friend likes to say), music was the thing that kept you interested in what would ultimately become your current calling. For me, it was similar, but in reverse. I loved music and knew from an early age that I would be a performer, but when “life happened” I figured I could just write and be okay with it. I’ve done a LOT of writing – lots of practice at getting better with words, I guess, but ultimately, it’s the performance – the “execution of the elocution” that really calls to me. So I’m back at it, doing more practice in the areas I neglected while I honed my writing. And I don’t regret any of it, because it’s very much what led me to where I am today.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      It really was, Lisa. I love that idea from Cope. It’s true.

  • http://www.janellekeith.com Janelle Keith

    Yes, your story is really my story today. Substitute radio for your music gigs (LOL) and you’ve got my story. I love how God builds and prepares us “along the way” of His “in-betweens”. Wow…this is a holy moment right now.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Very, very cool, Janelle.

      • http://www.janellekeith.com Janelle Keith

        Thank you for your reply. God is so good in making His preparations teaching moments. I love His processes and in trusting Him with our dreams, He leads us through the preparing seasons. BTW, I think you are the coolest writer ever. I sooo connect with your heart!

  • Marcy Mason McKay

    Thank goodness for God’s patience as we wander around to find ourselves. I just watched your book trailer — REALLY COOL. Can’t wait to read the full story.

  • http://ryancohara.tumblr.com Ryan O’Hara

    What an encouraging piece. Since hindsight is 20/20 you’d think we’d rely on that more than when it comes to our calling. I’ve never thought of it that way till now. Thanks so much!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome, Ryan. Thanks for reading!

  • Lisa Barton

    Totally get this Jeff – after pinballing from one creative idea to the next over the last few years I simply went back to my marketing roots which had been a common thread throughout everything I have done in the last 25 years – it’s like they were there all the time waiting to be re-awakened it’s just I was too blind to see it. My work (although it doesn’t feel like that as I’m so passionate about it) as a marketing services resource base is so comfortable a fit with me that it just feels like I’ve come home :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I love that, Lisa. A calling should feel like coming home.

  • http://katelynholub.wordpress.com/ Katelyn Holub

    Great post. I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately, Jeff. I’m starting to think our calling isn’t one fixed, permanent answer to our lives.

    Because people’s needs change over a lifetime, I think our calling changes to address the unique needs around us. In other words, maybe our calling doesn’t fit into a neat little categorical box.

    It is freeing to think there’s no ultimate calling I must find. I can live and grow responding to the many callings I have throughout life.

  • Sarah Kohnle

    Jeff, I just love God’s timing! I recently returned from my fourth mission trip to Honduras. I write fiction, but now i have a non-fiction one pressing on my heart. I think i need to push through and prepare a call to action. Thanks for the jumpstart.

  • http://susannahill.blogspot.com/ Susanna Leonard Hill

    So true, Jeff! I always liked to write, but didn’t know what to do with it. So I almost became a school guidance counselor, did become a language tutor for dyslexics, got married and had kids before I finally realized, reading to my children, that I what really called to me was writing picture books :)

  • Pam Kumpe

    Thirty two years ago, a divine encounter in the baseball aisle of a store took place. I was buying my son a glove and myself one (I was a college player who kept playing after college) and I met Ann, who invited me to her church.
    I said, “No. Thank you.”
    She got my number and with the million phone calls she would ask me to come, and I answered each time, “No.”
    Then she showed up at my house. (How dare she?)
    She wanted to be my friend. (Now, I had lost my best friend to a murderer, it would be come a cold case. With my friend’s death, I had closed my heart to getting too close to others.)
    She was relentless, and invited me to play on the church softball team.
    This time, I said, “Yes. Sure.”
    Not long after joining the team and playing first base, I slipped into a service. She immediately drew me in with her invitation to help children in her class. Those first steps would prepare me for teaching Children’s Church, which lasted for 24 years at another church where my heart healed, where my teaching and sharing Jesus was honed, and this would later send me to the street to love on the homeless and to teach at rehabs with confidence in Christ. Each step, a chapter to write, a page to enjoy, a life to embrace.
    I love to sit with someone under a bridge, or wave to them and stop and get out of my car and walk awhile. I never meet a stranger, I just bring my strange-goofy ways to my world…So I guess, my calling is … talking for God, writing for God, and loving for God.
    I’m blonde and God gets all the glory because those who know me, know God didn’t bestow me with many brain cells. This way we know the miracles in my life and those I meet — ARE from Him. He gets all the glory. And I get the joy at seeing His hand.
    So what is my calling? To be in the now … to see you as you can be in Jesus, in the aisle of life … to be like Ann, to be a light that burns with hope. Right now, I think I’m a wee-little candle. But put enough little candles together and what do you get? Flames for God!

  • http://www.Socialimpressions.net/ David Pride

    Really enjoyed and can appreciate this article. As a cancer survivor I feel I have an unfair advantage to finding my calling. At age 19 I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease Cancer…it sucked. But, a few things happened. One – God spoke to me two nights after my diagnosis and told me, “I’ll Get You Through This.” The Second thing that happened, I realized I could now relate with thousands of more people because of the disease I was about to survive and it was now my responsibility to share my story, hope, and realization that life is beautiful and people are worth so much more than they realize.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Wow, David. That’s powerful. A similar thing, though not as dramatic, happened to me while I was in high school. A classmate dropped dead on the gym floor, and suddenly I realized how fragile and important life was.

  • http://www.LaBellaCoppia.com Carla MusarraLeonard

    No way! I was going to be a rock star, too! (If you click on my Discus profile and go to my about me page in my blog, you can see that I am not pulling your leg.)

    I got pregnant when I was 16. Luckily my mom didn’t throw me out. She supported me and my daughter. That was a long time ago, and by the grace of God, we turned out alright. I know there are girls that don’t have any support, and my heart hurts for them. One of these days, with the proceeds from my other pursuit, I plan on starting a home/school for teen moms in Nashville. That’s the 10-year plan.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us :)

  • Kelly

    “We need what we do to matter. It needs to be bigger than us.” Now that’s a good word for today. Thanks, Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Kelly!

  • Marlene

    Interesting! I came from a musical family but was always too shy to sing or play an instrument. After I was married and became a Christian, God put a guitar in my hands and taught me to play. (sounds crazy but it’s TRUE.) I certainly did not plan the ministry in music that He had for me for many years, but He had and the harvest was great. Just as quickly He turned me in another direction and here I am writing … a song of words! I am trusting that this harvest will also be great, for His glory.
    I have learned there is a season for all things and it is our privilege to enjoy them all!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      A season for all things. Well said, Marlene.

  • http://www.creationscience4kids.com/ Cheri- CreationScience4kids

    “That’s the funny thing about a calling. Like the girl next door, it can sneak up on you.” Love that picture!
    I hated writing as a girl, but the praise my English-teacher aunt gave me for a travel report in my teens stuck to me. If you’d asked me then what I would do if I had to earn a living (vs. raise a family), I would have said piano teaching. It wouldn’t be surprising to find a lot of writers are into music!
    When I picked science as my calling, it seemed the most natural, yet foreign thing in the world. It felt strange to see how few others were doing what was so easy and obvious to me- which I bet often goes with a calling as well!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yup. Sure does.

  • Marianne Sciucco

    What a great post. I always knew my calling was to write but I was also called to do other things – like nursing – before I could actually pursue writing as more than a hobby. Thanks for sharing Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome, Marianne!

  • http://www.finallywriting.com/ Jackie

    Jeff, I really loved this post. It points to a need to surrender and trust our own process. Also it points to trusting there is a path under our feet. When we engage in life with curiosity and interest, our calling will become clearer.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Well said, Jackie.

  • Beth Coulton

    This is amazingly simple and equally as profound and revolutionary- “The journey of discovering my own life’s work was not a process of dreaming, but remembering — of looking backward, not forward.” That definitely gets an Amen!!! I get tired of the dreaming of “one day, out THERE…I’ll find out what I’m supposed to do.” That is no way to live. You are so right – what we are meant to do is usually what we ARE doing, or something else that is right under our nose. After my picture book was published, I had NO IDEA what a blast school visits would be as an author….holy cow, I’d do it every day of the week if I could. While it’s not even lucrative enough to be considered a part time job, I’ve found something that combines my unique talents of teaching and entertaining speaking, and puts them all together to entertain a group of kids who always laugh at my jokes. Go figure!

  • dejanaru

    writing is freeing..and it makes you look badass without risking your life..mm..i think anyone who reply the calling is a badass

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Well, awesome. I’ll take it.

  • ValerieL

    This is definitely something everyone can relate to! Loved the way you put it. I personally had a similar experience with finding my calling. The first thing I got a hold of when I was little was a pencil. But, instead of writing, I used it to draw cartoons all day after being inspired by many Disney movies. I was sent to art studios to sharpen my artistic skills, and did what I was told. People around me, especially older relatives, would question if I would become an artist, but I was never sure. Something felt off. I was good at it, but never really loved it the way I used to. Later on, I dropped achieving something in the arts, and thought about the choices by parents urged me to become: lawyer, politician, architect or doctor. I would always put it off though, and continued living my life with a blurry future. Even in school, I had mediocre grades usually due to continual daydreaming about life and ” what if’s.” I found joy in watching movies even though in my parents eyes it was a bad habit, which I eventually agreed with as well. I would read books on the popular teen shelves, but was discouraged when my mom told be to read more books. Books as in anything classic like Charles Dickens. School books had an awful impression on me, because you couldn’t run with the story, but instead nitpick everything the author did and discuss why. I loathed them. So, I quite reading altogether. I somehow enjoyed all my English classes from middle school to high school, although I was a poor writer. It was one of the easiest classes and the teachers were always sweet on me. I remember one day at church a kind, old lady, moved by the Holy Spirit, told me I was going to be a writer in the future. Shocked, I kindly ignored this outrageous comment, and went along my way. I was baffled. I did horribly on writing examinations, and knew that too well that I locked it up in a rotting, unused cell in the back of my mind. I never even touched a pen or pencil to improve writing. I thought, ” What for? I’m terrible at it. So, it’s not for me.” Long story short, during the last year of high school, I had an amazing time in my advanced English classes, and realized writing was for me as I was more exposed to the field of writing. Not only did I found my calling, but also who I was. The reason I watched an excessive amount television (not an excuse) was because all along I was in love with stories. I, now, appreciate God’s perfect and good timing, and that even if someone told you what your calling was beforehand, it wouldn’t do much, but just make you laugh in unbelief. I agree that even if you don’t know your calling right now, you don’t need to go searching, because it’ll eventually find you in unusual and inspiring ways. Loved the article by the way. Couldn’t agree more! :)

  • eventer79

    I just will say — that’s the damn truth. And that comes from a 35 year old woman who just found out 10 months ago the explanation for her life is due to never-diagnosed ADHD. I always got good grades, had excellent parents, was not hyperactive (most girls manifest through “verbal impulsivity” — which explains why I could never shut up!). On the “plus” side, I was always very creative, I loved to write, draw, and read endless stories — with a boundless & vivid imagination that I suspect is related to the disorder. Just the other day I found my folder of much of my old writing and scanned in a few pieces from my 12 year old self (and giggled. and cried a little)!

    But I was lucky to grow up with a mother who believed in over-educated, insanely cultured, independent, and empowered kids. That gift gave me a phenomenal education which gave me the greatest power of all — choices. I always loved animals — watching them, being near them, learning about them, just observing them doing their thing — but I never wanted to be a vet (despite everyone telling me I should) because I knew I would have no clients after I took their pets away if I disapproved of their care!!

    For years, I wanted to train dogs, especially for search-and-rescue (4-H obedience and agility shows with our pets). In high school, I wanted to fly Apache helicopters (hey, go big or go home, ha) and pondered the Air Force Academy (I hadn’t figured out the Army uses more Apaches & they sure don’t let people with 20/200 eyesight play with them…). Oh, and I hated exercise unless it was a side effect of something fun like hiking. I entered college to be a high school English teacher. I graduated with a BS in zoology, wanting to be a grey wolf biologist (ahhh, naivete). I worked for US Fish & Wildlife on endangered birds and fell in love with birds. Then I worked for NOAA Fisheries on estuarine habitat restoration and found out aquatic systems were complicated! By accident, I ended up working on a freshwater fish in graduate school (I thought it was a bird when I applied, I knew nothing about fish) and teased the mussel guys about their boring subjects with no eyes.

    None of these ideas or experiences (and a zillion more) would ever have happened if I hadn’t been willing to take the risk of leaping at an opportunity. I very much remember the conscious decision when I was about 17 to never let a once-in-a-lifetime chance pass me by. So I never have & I’ve never regretted it. I’m pretty much broke at the moment after having built a farm for myself and my two horses (another childhood dream realized in adulthood), but I have a helluva lot of incredible stories from all over the world — and not only do I now write my own hobby blog (which amazingly, people read, although horse people are an easy crowd!), but I’ve just been presented with the opportunity to use my writing on a national level to tackle one of my other passions: translating science and conservation into a real, relate-able, accessible thing for people who DON’T read scientific journals (I don’t blame them, the writer in me finds them to be mental torture).

    If you managed to follow that maze (sorry, did I mention rambling?), the kid who read “Watership Down” on a cross-country drive when she was 7 and thought if she tried hard enough, she could hear the animals’ language for herself, ended up as a state wildlife agency freshwater rare fish & mussel biologist. And it turns out that they DO talk to each other after all — and I get the honour of translating a tiny piece of their story for the world.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Very cool story.

      • http://www.teamflyingsolo.com eventer79

        Thank you! Of course, none of the good parts have been possible without the amazing people I’ve been lucky enough to have around me. And there has been an enormous helping of loss and tragedy. The latter, though, has made the good moments all the sweeter.

  • Scott Smail

    Another excellent post Jeff! I’m probably no different than a lot of people. Maybe it’s from listening to other people tell how they discovered their calling. How God opened up the heavens and revealed some great plan to them. For years I assumed that a calling was something big – something outstandingly big and different from others, aka…grandeur. I waited patiently, prayed softly, prayed loud, trusted & all the time it was right in front of me. I couldn’t accept it because it wasn’t very impressive – at least not to me. I’ve found that most people find their calling almost by accident. When we get quiet enough and pay attention that the proverbial curtain is lifted – that aha moment.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I think that’s true, Scott. I’m working on project that has given me the honor of hearing a lot of stories from folks who have found their calling. And almost always, it was an accident.

      • Scott Smail

        Looking forward to it!

  • Pamela Taeuffer

    Jeff, this is one of my favorite blogs that you’ve ever done. As we begin our writing careers, marketing people are constantly bombarding me/us encouraging me to “brand” myself, and find a career around my books. I’m in agreement, books are a vehicle, but criminy sakes! I’ve just begun! It takes time to morph into our true calling. Thanks for this.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Heh. I imagine Yoda saying, “Patience!”

  • Melanie Fischer

    Fabulous post Jeff! How timely…wow!!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Melanie!

  • Amy Robles

    Jeff, sometimes it feels like you are talking just to me. I get it. I feel inspired by your writing and am so grateful to you for sharing that gift! Keep it coming!

  • http://www.drmarylivingonpurpose/ Mary Mkandawire

    Thank you for sharing this insight into your journey. So inspiring!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      My pleasure, Mary! Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.workyouenjoy.com/ Adam Rico

    Jeff, sometimes finding a vocation can take some time. There’s a lot of pressure, especially on twenty-somethings, to be working in their passion right out of the gate. Finding work you love is all about looking inward to know how we’re wired. Then aligning the work to who we are. That can take some time and perseverance, but it’s well worth the effort.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re right, Adam. In fact, I believe it takes your whole life. I’m reading, studying, and researching this right now — it’s fascinating what I’m finding.

  • Phumuzile M.

    Thank you Jeff ” am so frustrated by what is happening in my life this days” I cannot think straight; Sometimes I feel like putting down on paper my frustartions but I had to focus on my manuscript in hand. Thank You again.

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    There is a certain dissatisfaction with where I am, but my calling? No, don’t think so.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Sorry, Larry. I don’t understand. No, you don’t think what?

      • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

        Sorry. No, I don’t think I’ve found it. I feel like I’m hitting all around it. It’s there, just beneath the surface, on the tip of my tongue, but I’m not 100% sure what it is.

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          You’re closer than you think.

          • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

            Thanks Jeff. You’re an encouragement, my man.

  • Pablo Ellsworth

    What do we do if we still want to hustle in the meantime while we wait for our calling to find us?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Pablo, let me clarify one thing: you DON’T wait. You step into who you are.

      My story is switching from thinking I was waiting to realizing God was waiting for me to wake up to the signs all around me.

      It’s likely, I think, that you are already being called. You just need eyes to see. I would slow down and try to listen to what life is teaching you.

  • George McNeese

    I can’t say with certainty that I found my calling. I like to think that I discovered a passion for writing. Perhaps, as I write, I will discover what my calling is.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      George, I think a calling is a lifelong journey. Take heart — you’re on the path.

  • http://waltersthinking.blogspot.com/ Walter Ruggieri

    To find our purpose maybe we just need to pay attention to what is already in our lives? Maybe all we need to have an amazing life is to open our eyes and see what is right in front of them?

  • Wanda S

    Great post, Jeff! I think there are times when our calling comes calling and we freeze instead of embracing it because of fear. Especially when we know it’s real, but not at all what we thought it would be. Does that make sense?

  • John

    Reading your blog might be the accident where I realize that my calling is knocking on the door. Here’s my story: (I apologize for my wrong grammar, I still have a lot to learn and I’m not yet a pro. And it’s 4 am here in my place, i am sleepy and didn’t proofread. peace. Hehe.)

    I always wanted to become a pastor. I am always inspired by God’s Word and His amazing love and in fact I was given chances to exhort in our church. Everyone said that I was inspiring and it seems it really is my calling. I believed that as well.

    Talent in public speaking is a must for a pastor since they speak in front of numbers of people and thank God, He blessed me with that talent. In high school, I represented our school in a competition and I was hailed champion. My high school was so proud of me since it was a decade ago a representative they chose was hailed champion.

    Aside from public speaking, I also excelled in writing. Since I was a kid (I was 8 or 9 years old), I started writing short stories. Yeah, I also wanted to become a writer but in my freshmen year in high school, I hated journalism (it was the bloodiest subject for me for some reason). But then again, during my senior year (still in high school), I ended up as the Copy Editor for our school magazine. So I loved it then hated it and ended up loving writing still. I also used my talent in writing for our church (actually our editor in church suggested that i read your blogs hehe). So far, three of my articles were published online in our church website.

    But here’s the twist: last night I was watching a featurette of a certain film and all of a sudden I realized I want to become an actor… in Hollywood. Then it felt like it made sense. Acting and I would be a good couple. (Haha. There’s no risk in dreaming. I hope so. Hahaha.)

    Acting. I tried it too. Introversion helped me a lot. I can imagine things as I want them to be and I can play with my emotions. I can cast them out when I wanted to and my experience in public speaking helped me overcome stage fright. I read novels too and it gave me ideas of how to portray characters since reading for me is being in another world in a different persona. I joined plays in high school and my role was either the protagonist or the antagonist.

    People around me, my friends, classmates and family, appreciated my talent and saw my potential but then with all of this stuff going on I really don’t now where I will end up. Currently, I am taking up Business Operations Management in College and that is not in line with the world of language, literature and drama.I took it anyway since it was my dream and my parents told me I can become a Business Man and a writer at the same time. Serving in church while running my own business might not be a problem but acting? and in Hollywood? Oh gosh.

    To sum up it all up, I AM LITERALLY CONFUSED. I am turning 19 this May and I feel like I am too young to be career-minded. But I can’t just sit around and not do something or not know what I am supposed to be doing in my life. I feel stagnant. I am stagnant. And that makes me feel uncomfortable. And when I read your post I kind of think that maybe I am going to end up in acting (that’s why public speaking, writing, and serving in church feels like it’s not for me anymore). Maybe time and universe lead me here to confirm my thought last night. But then again, I really don’t know.

    Let’s see in the future.

  • http://blog.fluenthistorian.com/ Natalie

    I love this post, Jeff. A sort-of similar situation happened to me. I once wanted to be a concert violinist. That didn’t happen (I still play, though!) and I’ve found writing to be my passion, even if it’s not officially my career (yet). I will definitely have to buy your book after reading this! :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I’m interviewing people who have found their calling, and this is a common theme. You’re in good company, Natalie!

  • jvc5368

    So true…thanks man

  • http://adventuresintheballpark.blogspot.com/ Mare Ball

    I agree, we need to find what we’re put here to do. I absolutely believe God gives us gifts and skills with which to celebrate life, and share with others. I discovered I loved to write in my early 20’s, but mainly wrote for work for 20 years. Now I’m writing for myself. :-)

  • Carolyn

    On that journey…

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

    Great post Jeff. I feel like I am military crawling towards my calling and along the way I encounter people that need help. I feel compelled to help them and while doing this I feel like my calling is always out of my grasp. There is light at the end of the tunnel yet the light doesn’t get closer unless you walk towards it.

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  • http://www.gocanvas.com/ Katie Simpson

    While a very different journey, I found my calling to be a writer sneak up on me too! For a long time I was passionate about service, economic development. I thought my life had to be about others. So much so, I didn’t hear or take care of my own needs.

    I learned Arabic, lived with Bedouins and helped women gain their own bits of economic independence. It was great, but it wasn’t love. I didn’t have any joy for it. I was lonely as the lone American in a close knit small town.

    What got me through it all? Journalling. I’ve been writing in some form or fashion since I was 9 or 10 years old (I still remember my first mickey mouse journal from Disney World). Writing was a form of finding myself and gave me joy. It still does.

    It was a long road, but I learned what I didn’t want. And slowly, writing became more and more central. Now I can’t imagine going a day without it. Today, I’m a copywriter for a b2b company. And I still haven’t figured out where exactly I’m going, I know that I’m showing up to something I love: writing. And I feel lucky that it pays my bills, touches others, and gives me so much.

    Sorry for the ramble, but I love your blog and really truly enjoyed this piece. Feels like you understand atleast part of my creative/professional journey.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Our journeys are quite similar. After I was a musician, I worked for a nonprofit org.

  • Nathan Waterman

    Great post, Mr. Goins. I believe you have found your true calling when you would rather fail doing it, than succeed doing anything else.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Wow. That’s beautiful. I agree!

  • https://audacitytowrite.blogspot.com Tiffany Chacon

    As I’ve been on my own journey to discover my “calling”, one truth that I’ve held to is that I just have to keep moving forward in order to find my place. There’s a scripture in Isaiah 30 that says: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” Now, I’m not sure if this is proper exegesis or not, but I’ve always thought of this as saying that we have to be moving forward in order to hear God’s voice — something tells me that he doesn’t necessarily love it when we just stand around twiddling our thumbs, waiting for him to “speak” to us. Just an opinion, but I’ve found it to be true in my situation (and I believe that God has led me to the exact place in life that I’m at right now, albeit through an incredible series of ups and downs!) Thanks for sharing your journey, Jeff.