The Seven Stages of Finding Your Calling

Finding your calling usually isn’t a defining moment of clarity. It’s a hard, long process to discover what you were meant to do with your life that usually involves failure.

The Seven Stages of Finding Your Calling

Failure is inevitable. It’s also a gift. When you fail, it’s a chance to learn how to move forward, overcome, and take that lesson to the next thing you do. Failure forces you to grow. And those opportunities help you find what you are called to do.

Each step of a calling is difficult in its own way. To find your calling you must walk through seven different stages: awareness, apprenticeship, practice, discovery, profession, mastery, and legacy.

In this week’s episode of The Portfolio Life, join my co-host, Andy Traub, and me as we walk through the seven stages of pursuing your calling I outlined in my book, The Art of Work.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you’re reading this via email, click here).

You can also listen on iTunes or Stitcher.

Highlights from the show

  • Your life is speaking; you just need to be able to recognize the signs.
  • Every story of success is really a story of community. We don’t get to where we’re going alone.
  • Practicing is how you learn what you’re supposed to be spending your time doing.
  • Pick one thing and do it for the rest of your life so that you can become a master at it.
  • Our calling is not complete until we begin to share it with others.
  • Pursuing your calling is a process of awareness, accidental apprenticeship, painful practice, discovery, profession, mastery, and legacy.
  • Download the full interview transcript here


This podcast is only an overview of the process of finding your calling. In The Art of Work, I go into more details on each of these steps and help you look at what they look like in your own life. You can pick up your own copy of the book at

Pick up a copy of The Art of Work and submit your receipt at the book site to get $250 in free bonuses. Visit now to get started.

Where are you in your journey of finding your calling? Share in the comments.

36 thoughts on “The Seven Stages of Finding Your Calling

  1. I’m still trying to determine if you’re just another among the ginormous crowd of “coaches” who don’t really have anything new to offer but have failed at other ways to make a living,….but I really did enjoy listening to your podcast. There are some good, thoughtful nuggets there. I’m open to hearing more from you.

    1. Hah! Thanks? I actually don’t think of myself as a coach at all. I guess you’ll just have to see for yourself. I try to keep it real on the blog, so let me know what you think. 🙂

    2. Kristin, I can confirm that Jeff is in fact a failure at every aspect of life.

      Kidding! Jeff’s a great guy who quit his last job working at a non-profit to pursue a growing writing career. He’s helped ME personally become a writer (and make more money from my first book than I did the entire prior year).

      Your concern is legitimate but I can assure you Jeff’s legit, a great guy and a good friend. I co-host the podcast with him so I’m biased but I’m also being honest. So glad you listened to our show and were brave enough to comment with honesty. Bravo.

      1. Thanks, Andy! It sounds like you can appreciate how much we are bombarded by people saying they are experts at this or that and can help us achieve our dreams and goals, blah, blah. I don’t know why I was compelled to take the time to listen to the podcast, but I really did find it interesting…enough to want to hear more. It is humbling to take the path of being a writer, and even though I’ve been a professional writer for nearly 20 years, with hundreds of published articles and an award-winning newspaper column under my belt, I still feel like I’m working at “becoming” a writer. It’s a profession you have to love and most likely, for most people, won’t pay the mortgage. Thanks again for your nice comment.

  2. And, there is also the value our lives and presence bring to the various people we interact with all along our/their journey. It isn’t always what we can get or learn. Often, WE are doing the giving for someone else’s journey. Adding value to their steps-like you did today for mine. Enjoyed it.

  3. Jeff – thought this was a great podcast and a nice way to “open our eyes” to what we may not be seeing in front of us. I look forward to getting and reading your book!

  4. Wow. This had a lot of impact for me, Jeff. I think I’m in this cycle of appreticeship/practice/discovery right now. Very exciting times, but way harder than I ever thought. As I move closer to practicing my calling as a profession, I get motivated to step into it all the way. Thanks so much to you and Andy for sharing this wisdom!

  5. Hi Jeff, I actually just watched this week your Mixergy course. I loved the story about the girl you wrote a song for. Very cute and such a learning experience. I’m starting a new blog series for authors in the next two weeks (I’m on a quest to publish 5 books this year) and I’d love to spread the word about the book. I’ll be at the very least linking to it, let me know if you have more ideas.

  6. Good question. I’ve gone up through mastery, i.e., I’ve made a living as a writer for 31 years. Now I’m adding a new sideline, also writing-related but unlike anything I’ve done before. I suppose that comes under “painful practice.”

  7. Very informative podcast, Jeff. I also like how you have broken down the process into steps.

    I have been on an intense journey of figuring out my calling. Since October, I have sandwiched listening to podcasts (yours and others) studied blogs, artists and writers inbetween duties and freelance work.

    You are exactly right about having to find your calling for yourself. You prepare, prepare, prepare, then the calling seems to reveal itself. Almost like it is blurred out in front of you, and slowly comes into focus.

    I have always known I was born to be an artist, but I was surprised to learn that I have this desire to be a writer. I didn’t ask for it, but it’s like it won’t leave me alone until I get busy and write.

    The next piece of hard work comes with the action steps. Just figuring those out are tough, but I really have no choice.

    I appreciate your story, your blog, and your calling, Jeff.

    1. “I have always known I was born to be an artist, but I was surprised to learn that I have this desire to be a writer. I didn’t ask for it, but it’s like it won’t leave me alone until I get busy and write.”
      Michael, that is just how I felt/feel. It’s good to read how many people feel the same way. Sometimes it can feel like we are the only one going through this.

      1. Glad to hear that, Edward. One of the best things about online connections is to have discussions with like-minded individuals on subjects that seem to fit into a too-small niche.

  8. In a world where everyone claims their get rich quick schemes are not, in fact, get Rich quick schemes, your words are always a breath of fresh air. The reminder that painful practice is purposeful was much needed empathy to my soul today. Thanks for bringing up that combining our many areas of expertise into something interesting is the way to truly succeed. I have downloaded your book to my kindle but haven’t started reading. After this podcast I know what I’ll be doing tonight!

  9. I have read “The Art of Work” and cannot recommend it highly enough. If I could, I would carry copies with me wherever I go and hand one to each person who expresses dissatisfaction with their job. I felt hope while reading the book, hope that one’s life’s work could be more than 40 years down in the coal mines. Work can be a noble venture. It may not guarantee 100% happiness, but it can be ‘worth it’.

  10. Following your blog and reading your other books has helped me find my calling. I actually wrote a brief story this week about Florence Nightingale and how she found her calling. It’s never easy to follow, but it’s more fulfilling.

    Thanks for the encouragement Jeff, and for the tips on making your calling a reality.

  11. I like how you talk about picking one thing and doing it for the rest of you life! I feel like I’m relatively good at multiple things that interest me, but I know I need to pick one and master the craft.

  12. I agree that not everyone knows what their calling is. In many cases, they’re not listening to their lives, as you put it. I do think, though, that God does provide us with exactly what we need to discover it, if we’ll stop being blind and open our eyes.

    “Delight yourself…in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).

    “Rejoice…in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. (…) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil” (Eccl. 11:9 & 12:13-14).

    In other words, unless they are sinful, the desires of our hearts come from God and he desires to give us those things (he won’t give us a snake if we ask him for bread, as Christ so aptly put it). So, we do have an objective standard by which to judge the desires of our hearts: God’s law.

    I pray about what I want every day, and I work towards accomplishing those things six days per week, and every day I see prayers answered — sometimes in unexpected and wonderful ways.

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