154: Vocation and Identity: Interview with Dan Cumberland

It’s endlessly frustrating when you don’t enjoy the work you’re doing while wondering what you’re really called to do. But maybe many of us have been thinking about vocation all wrong.

154: Your Calling is Not a Cage: Interview with Dan Cumberland

Some people miss their purpose in life and continue to go through the motions of life until they take the aching in their heart to the grave. As Henry David Thoreau once said:

The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.

But what if your calling was right under your nose? What if it wasn’t something you were obligated to do, but something you freely enjoyed? This week on The Portfolio Life, our guest coaches people through the process of discovering meaning in their life and work.

Dan Cumberland proposes that while calling is about identity and work, it does not contain the whole of who we are and the meaning we bring to the world. Listen in as Dan and I talk about the definition of vocation, the pitfalls of external pressure, and why you may not be surprised by your life’s work.

Listen to the podcast

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Show highlights

In this episode, Dan and I discuss:

  • What does calling mean
  • Unpacking what it looks like to coach people to help them find their calling
  • Struggling with comparison to high achieving family pressure
  • Pursuing ministry as a vocation and discovering it wasn’t a fit
  • Why a calling isn’t like getting struck by lightning
  • How to stop waiting for an epiphany and discover your calling
  • Finding alignment between what you do and what is meaningful for you
  • Imagining what it looks like to have fun in your work
  • Breaking down the dichotomy of arguments around calling
  • Rejecting the traditional models of a calling
  • Landing a client while working at a pizzeria
  • The four progressive steps of exploring your calling
  • Why most people are not surprised by their calling
  • A big obstacle that keeps many people from finding their calling
  • The gap between what you want to do and what you’re actually doing

Quotes and takeaways

  • If you hate your calling, it’s not your calling.
  • Your calling is something you choose to do, accept, and enjoy.
  • “Grow and increase the things you’re doing that already bring meaning into your life.” –Dan Cumberland
  • “The words we use to describe something shape our experience of it.” –Dan Cumberland
  • “How you tell the stories that shaped you profoundly impact the way you think about who you are.” –Dan Cumberland

Your calling is so much bigger than any one job can contain.

Dan Cumberland

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Click here to download a free PDF of the complete interview transcript.

What stories are you telling yourself about your calling? How does the prospect of enjoying your work change how you think about calling? Share in the comments.