Who decides which dreams are worth dreaming?
Who decides when it’s time to stop seeking and accept one’s place?
I personally got my first job in the midst of the financial crisis in 2010. In consulting. During times when all consulting firms stopped hiring.
It is only years later that I realised why: I had a credible story.
Not following my calling had ever since been a pain I could bear living with.
So I couldn’t help it but to do what I love. At the time it was working with students across Europe and the world, training them in how to make their local NGOs work (that’s a long story cut short, but more or less the gist of it). And when that position in consulting opened, that position where they looked for someone to run consulting projects in public, especially in youth welfare, I hit it. It was the first application I wrote after uni. And it converted into my first job.
I don’t feel particularly proud of this. But it showed what I nowadays consider one of the safest pieces of career advice:
Knowing your calling is an asset. Following it is an even bigger one.
I like to say: Following your passion is never a bad idea. Although I like to do so in a sensible manner. Being reckless is just plain stupid. Being blind to the competition if you want to become a singer, is stupid. Being ignorant of the fact that starting out as a young artist might deprive you of any financial income for a significant amount of time, is stupid.
I am not talking about mindlessly turning your hobby into a profession and then being surprised if it doesn’t rain money.
I am talking about CALLING. To me that’s where your passions meet your purpose. Where what you are great at and what you love doing meets what is needed around you and what you wanna stand up for.
Your ecosystem is part of this equation. I like to say:
Reality is what puts our vision to the test.
It is so easy to make plans, to complain about the world and to believe we know better. And yet we only know when we stepped up and took responsibility its implementation. When we were hit by the wave of problems and pains that come with cash drain, angry team members and partners that choose to quit you.
After having run dozens of projects, it just never turned out the way I planned it.
Yet, the practical realisation of an idea, the unique experience of witnessing its turnout in practice, has a magic to it that no unimplemented idea can ever have.
Like the difference between dreaming of a kiss and kissing for real. No fanfares and glittery butterflies around us. But the smell and the taste of another person – that is most of all: real.
Is it vain to follow one’s passion? Is it arrogant to say no to opportunities that don’t fit us?
No. These are choices.
Choices that tell us how we really feel about certainty and purpose.
Choices that tell us how willing we are to surrender or to keep on fighting.
Choices that are neither good nor bad.
Just the feedback we give to ourselves.
Following our calling consciously. And by consciously I mean: With full attention to the question “How is my calling relevant for the ecosystem I am in? How does it contribute? Whose lives better as a result of me following my calling in this one specific way? And are they willing to spend the resources (like: money) THEY control to finance me a lifestyle that I love? Or am I falling victim to the illusion that “me doing my hobby” should automatically entitle me to be worshipped by the world around me? Am I becoming delusional by glorifying and getting frivolously attached to the idea that I must do what I love and otherwise my life has been worthless?”
Following our calling consciously I think is safe career advice.
If we do what we love, and we do so in a way that stays relevant to our surroundings, we become entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs of our own happiness that is.
And the moment a niche opens up, we have a story.
A credible story of why we love so much what we do.
Because we did it.
Without being asked for.