Why Work Is Broken

The Changing Face of Vocation and Why It Matters

Photo Credit: Daquella manera via Compfight cc

At some point, you entertained the idea that you were born to do something significant with your life. But then high school happened. Or college. And your parents talked you into becoming a lawyer instead of a baker. Or a professor convinced you that med school was a smarter move than relocating to San Francisco to start an art career.

And here’s the worst part: you believed them.

When “real life” began, you gave up, but called it “growing up” instead, and abandoned the dream altogether. But even then, you knew you were wrong.

No matter how noisy the world got, no matter how busy you became, there would always be a calling deep inside you. And it would be up to you to listen.

Every day, everywhere we look, we can find excuses for why people aren’t pursuing meaningful work. Some say they are “a work in progress,” while others shrug with indifference, saying they’re still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

Such phrases sound harmless, but they are anything but.

Most of us, if we’re honest, feel stuck, aimlessly wandering from one job to the next, unsure of what to look for or even expect. We’ve accepted our lot in life. It is what it is.

But even though we do our best to embrace reality, we are restless. We daydream and distract ourselves with thoughts of a better life. And what comfort do we have other than the vague notion that we’re not alone?

You were told to follow a series of steps.

You were told there was a defined process.

You were told we could be whatever we wanted.

You were lied to.

As we enter a new era in human history, as the average lifespan increases and the world becomes an even more efficient place full of technological solutions, people are asking deeper questions.

We now realize the way we’ve been doing work no longer works. Factories are getting smaller, not bigger. The forty-year career is dead. The world demands a fresh approach to vocation, and we need something new — or perhaps, something very old.

There is a way to live that brings meaning to your work and life. It won’t look like any class you’ve ever taken and won’t resemble your parents’ retirement plan, but it can be trusted.

There’s more to life than what happens to you and more to work than punching a clock.

The journey back to your purpose is an ancient path. It’s the way of master craftsmen and carpenters, a centuries-old road to meaning that requires perseverance and dedication. I call it The Art of Work.

On this journey of vocation, we follow in the footsteps of ancient samurai and Renaissance sculptors; we journey along with world-famous cartoonists and industrious entrepreneurs. It’s a way that marks the resurgence of purpose, hope, and abundance in any era. And it’s what we need today.

At times you will have to trust your gut, and at others you will need to do what is uncomfortable and even painful. But as you go, there will be signs along the way, markers ensuring that you are headed in the right direction.

This is the way life works.

Without such a process, you might get started but never finish, ending up with little to show the world. Or you might never know there was a way out of this rat race at all. But for those stick to the path and persevere through the pain, they will find something that money can’t buy and history won’t erase: a legacy worth remembering.

Most people think a calling is what you do, but it’s more than that. It’s who you become.

And after talking to literally hundreds of people who have found meaningful work, it seems to me that the rule, not the exception, is to figure it out as you go. The process is one part mystery, one part action. And your job isn’t to get clarity before you move. It’s to take action and trust the process.

There is a way to find your life’s work. And though at first it may feel chaotic, there is an order emerging from the chaos. If you commit to following it, paying attention along the way, you will have something rare, something you can be proud of.

This was an excerpt from my new book, The Art of Work.


Jeff Goins is the author of four books, including The Art of Work. For thoughts on writing and life, you can join his free newsletter.

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