Jeff Goins | How to Find Your Calling (Episode 463)

Jeff Goins | How to Find Your Calling (Episode 463)

Jeff Goins (@Jeff Goins) transitioned into his own dream job as a full-time writer; now he helps others overcome common myths and misconceptions about the journey so they can find and answer their own callings.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Everyone has a calling — how do we use our own life lessons to identify and follow that calling?
  • Discovering what you were meant to do will probably surprise you.
  • Why does fear so often keep us from taking risks?
  • We’re born knowing how to dance, but we learn shame.
  • Learn how to make yourself more afraid of not trying than failing.
  • And so much more…

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Do you think of your job in terms of how meaningful and fulfilling it is over the type of paycheck it provides for you? If so, you may be among the lucky few who found your calling and stuck to it, inspiring the rest of us to follow a similarly satisfying path. If not, you might learn a thing or two from today’s guest.

Jeff Goins is a full-time author who, for the longest time, denied his own calling. Now, he spends his time writing books — The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do being his latest — and helping other people become who they really are. Join us as Jeff dispenses some of his best tips on episode 463 of The Art of Charm.

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Jeff Goins didn’t always know he wanted to be a writer. But at age 27, he was a marketing director for a non-profit — not unhappy by any means, but he definitely felt what he calls an “anticipation of a mid-life crisis” that was urging him to do something more.

“I realized the thing,” says Jeff, “amongst all the other things that I’ve done that has been consistent in my life, is I’ve always liked writing. And I realized…I think my life is telling me that I’m supposed to be a writer.”

Now Jeff is glad he found his calling — as are those he’s since helped find theirs. But epiphanies don’t happen to everyone, and he realized early on that the steps he took to get where he is today don’t universally apply to people in search of their paths. So he began interviewing others who answered their own unique callings to see if he might pick up helpful hints to share.

In conversation with Ginny Phang, the first doula (birth coach) in Singapore, he was told that she never could have planned how things turned out. It was by having everything else go wrong in her life that pointed her toward picking up an occupation that no one else — certainly not any single mothers, as she was — was doing in Singapore at the time. She saw that there was a need and she took the long, difficult path to learn how to fill it, but it’s not something she grew up wanting to be.

“And I think we think that’s the exception — not the norm — to how you find your purpose,” says Jeff. “In my experience, it is the norm…I think when we talk about ‘calling’ and ‘purpose,’ these sound like questions of privilege, and I think in a way they are…I mean, our ancestors weren’t thinking, ‘Man, how can I self-actualize?’ They were thinking, ‘How can I survive?’ Incidentally, that’s what Ginny Phang was trying to do. She was just trying to survive.”

In other words, being complacent enough in your own comfort may be the biggest barrier to finding out what your calling is. Maybe you don’t have to go through the extreme circumstances faced by Ginny Phang to get the memo, but being aware that, even when things seem pretty good, there’s a possibility you might be cut out for something completely different from what you’re doing now.

“The biggest danger for us is not to fail,” says Jeff, “but to succeed at the wrong thing.”

Jeff says one way to self-test our current situation versus our true calling is to imagine how you’ll look back on what you’re doing right now in 50 years. Will you be proud of it and the things you’re building right now, or will you be profoundly regretful and wonder what it was you missed out on? Even though he knew he could coast through life comfortably as a marketing director, it’s when he anticipated regret with this exercise at age 27 that Jeff knew he had to redirect his course.

This realization gave Jeff just the proper jolt of fear he needed to shake himself out of the trap of complacency, which is why he believes that some fear is good — like the fears that keep us motivated to change our actions in order to stay alive. But then there’s the fear that has the exact opposite effect, and that’s the fear of which we need to be most wary.

“Most of our fear,” says Jeff, “if we live in some sort of civilized area…is just this primal thing that’s preventing us from taking risks that actually won’t result in us dying.”

Jeff presents his three-year-old son as an example. While Jeff sees the survival benefit of harboring a healthy fear of crossing the street by himself at this stage in the game, Jeff doesn’t want him to grow up being afraid to do something where the consequences might only be mildly embarrassing instead of deadly. Take dancing, for instance.

“I don’t want him to be afraid of dancing like I was afraid of dancing,” says Jeff. “When he’s watching Mickey Mouse and the music comes on, he just dances. There’s no shame to it.”

But Jeff has noticed that, as his son goes to school and interacts with other kids, he’s beginning to learn the fear of shame that goes along with doing things — such as dancing — that kids (and a lot of mean-spirited adults) like to make fun of.

“We’re born knowing how to dance,” observes Jeff, “but we have to learn shame.”

So while Jeff tries to encourage his son to overcome this bad fear early enough in life that he doesn’t miss any important opportunities along the way, he also reminds us that it’s never too late to recognize how good fear can nudge us into realizing our calling. Jeff cites his friend, Jody Noland, who discovered her purpose at age 58, as a prime example. She started Leave Nothing Unsaid, an organization to help terminally ill people write letters to their loved ones before they die.

“At 58 years old she started doing this!” Jeff says. “That’s the point where you can just start coasting. And I said, ‘What made you do this now?’ And she said, ‘For years, I thought about doing this and I was afraid of failing. Things just started to happen in my life where I realized people around me were dying; I realized I didn’t have as much life as I thought I had left, necessarily. And all of a sudden I became afraid — not to fail — but I became more afraid not to try.'”

In his own story, having a greater fear of not trying than a fear of failing is exactly how what made Jeff pursue his calling. “That scale has to tip before you’re willing to actually take the next step,” says Jeff.

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm to learn how to tip your own scale and be more afraid of not trying than not succeeding, what it takes to begin following your calling once you’ve realized what it is, why you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) “go for broke” and abandon your safety net — if you’re lucky enough to have one — in order to start the journey, how pursuing your dream is more about building a bridge than taking a leap, and lots more.

THANKS, JEFF GOINS!

If you enjoyed this session with Jeff Goins, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:

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Jordan Harbinger - author of 771 posts on The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger has spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and speaks several languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and been kidnapped -- twice. He’ll tell you the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of) just about any type of situation. Here at The Art of Charm, Jordan shares that experience, and the system borne as a result, with students and clients.

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