I recently had an opportunity to meet up with some old friends from the military at a retirement for a friend. This friend was doing what he loved, the Air Force was his dream job. I was envious. I retired from the military precisely because it was not what I loved. It was not my “dream job.” My friend will be moving on to a high-powered corporate management gig, and I started to wonder how he will do outside of his “dream job.” But then I realized something about my friend. It wasn’t that he was doing what he loved, it’s because he loves what he’s doing. My friend is going to love his new gig because he simply has a great attitude about things wherever he goes. More specifically, he loves making “good things happen to people” (his words). Fortunately for him, in management (a field used in every industry and calling) it always involves people.
This retirement event was a soul-searching one for me, as I recently retired from the military as well. My former colleagues and old friends kept asking me, “What are you doing now?” Hmmm…what I am doing now is a lot: flying, blogging, teaching, trading, homeschooling my kids, making my wife happy, reading, fitness training, house-fixing, etc.,etc.,etc. What I am doing now is several things I love to do, and several others that I am not so sure that I am loving. Nearly all of them are a result of my pursuit of “doing what I love.” I may have missed the mark on some of these activities.
For example, I took a job flying for a charter company that primarily flies patients and infants from remote hospitals to medical centers where they can be taken care of, places where there are specialists and the latest equipment, etc. In addition, I fly organ transplant teams, with the organ to be transplanted, from the donor location to the recipient. The mission of the company is a good one. It is very rewarding to know that you are transporting people to better medical care and transporting teams that are giving “new life” to someone who needs it. Now, here’s the twist: this is the job I am currently not sure that I love. The hours are inconsistent usually flying in the middle of the night and the wee morning hours, I have trouble planning anything with my family, and on too many of my “days off,” the company calls me in to fly. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if this was my dream calling, right?
Moreover, the life of a pilot is an interesting one. Many on the outside of the pilot life might think, wow what a great job, to be able to fly airplanes for a living. But living the pilot’s life becomes “just a job” real fast…and it can be a tough one, not worth the effort. Your body clock is out of whack a lot, some of the legs are long just sitting and waiting to get there, and then sometimes when you get there you have to deal with weather, poor service, not knowing where you are going to park, dangerous terrain, a broken airplane, and lots of fatigue. Also, there is more paperwork than I’d like. In other words, the reality doesn’t match the dream more often than not.
So here’s the thing. Do I need to do what I love in order to be happy, or is it more important to love what I do? There is a difference, right? Doing what you love is finding your calling your passion and then doing that thing, whereas you can love what you do regardless of whether or not you have found your so-called “dream” calling. So which is more important?
What if I decide that flying airplanes is not “doing what I love?” What if I realize I just don’t love it any more? Should I just quit? Is there another way? Well, of course. Why not keep at it and change your attitude? Why not keep flying, keep doing your job and DECIDE to love doing it? Am I being clear about the difference? Right now, writing on my blog is doing what I love. I enjoy it, and I get passionate about it when I am writing. When I write I am doing what I love. But what if I have times (and I do) when I don’t love it? What can I do? Well, I propose that you can love what you do, even though you might not be doing what you love.
Ok, let’s make a long story short (too late?). The old saying of “find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life” rolls right off the tongue. It makes a great bumper sticker. Except that it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It sells the dream that there is a perfect calling, one that is easy and you love doing ALL THE TIME. This simply won’t happen. Regardless of what you do, there is no perfect existence…”Pretty Good,” “Not Bad,” and “Darn Good” are certainly possible, but never “Perfect.”
If I am right about my friend, he’s got it nailed. He finds a calling and jumps into it, then he gets to work making people’s lives better around him in that environment. That is what he truly loves to do, and it doesn’t matter whether the environment is perfect or not.
But what about you and me? Simply put, here are my “easy” steps:
- Avoid negative endeavors: I should apply my skills to endeavors that are virtuous, those that are consistent with my conscience. I would certainly avoid nuclear bomb making, adult film-making and drone flying, for example. Also, if I absolutely cannot stand what I am doing it might be a time for a switch. Sitting at a cubicle might be an example here. I think that would kill me just a little every day.
- Find positive endeavors: Even better, my efforts would be something I have a passion about: helping people live better lives, something with a lot of math (this one might be on your “avoid” list), or making products better might be some examples. Fixing cars or making quilts (see below) might be on your list.
- Do what you do with 100% effort/enjoyment: Put your heart into it. Have a positive attitude and be the guy/gal who makes it better. THIS ONE IS THE MOST DIFFICULT ONE…it requires an act of will to be consistent.
- Reevaluate: Is my endeavor really a good one? There is always a chance I got it wrong or maybe I changed (this happened to me more than once in my life, but in a big way with military service). Is it worth the effort I am putting into it? If it is, am I really putting my heart into it? Am I choosing to be that “shining light” that “beacon” of leadership every day? If not, then go back to #3 and do it!
So, you may not have found that dream calling or job. Maybe you do need to change your life, but if you go through the steps above you might realize you just need to change your attitude.
As for me, I just ran through the steps, and I know I will be loving my next flight, saving a life.