This is part of a series on Robert Greene’s Mastery. You can read my review here.
Millions of people make their way into work every morning. And for 99% of them it’s a slog.
Whether they’re doing hard labor or sitting in a cubicle it’s unlikely that their line of work is what they want to be doing with their life.
Few are fortunate to be able to actually pursue what their heart desires, as well as what they’re good at doing—their ‘Life’s Calling.’
Finding Your Life’s Calling
Learning how to discover your life’s calling does not happen at random. It requires a concerted effort to try new things and expose oneself to challenges and unfamiliar circumstances and surroundings.
Take for instance the voyage of Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle, as discussed in Mastery. The idea of spending 5-years aboard a ship traveling around the world may at first glance sound exciting, but the reality of 19th century travel was that it was bereft of modern comforts. Darwin went aboard in spite of this and has been solidified in the history books for that voyage.
Like Darwin’s time abroad, you must also put yourself in unfamiliar and uncomfortable circumstances.
In general, you must expose yourself to different ideas, activities and disciplines. Doing so will allow you to gauge your interest and ability for these different things.
Your Career is Not (Necessarily) Your Life’s Calling
Many people today equate pursuing a career with their life’s calling. They think because they were promoted once or twice that they should dedicate their lives to this path. This is a gross misunderstanding of one’s purpose in life.
Greene discusses the pitfalls of a traditional office career:
The career world is like an ecological system: People occupy particular fields within which they must compete for resources and survival. The more people there are crowded into a space, the harder it becomes to thrive there. Working in such a field will tend to wear you out as you struggle to get attention, to play the political games, to win scarce resources for yourself. You spend so much time at these games that you have little time left over for true mastery. You are seduced into such fields because you see others there making a living, treading the familiar path. You are not aware of how difficult such a life can be.”
We live in a world where you are told to go to school, get a job and work hard. Happiness is not part of this equation—nor is mastery. It is a path of supposed security, but most certainly one of assured mediocrity.
The best route would be to find a career in a field that is related to your life’s calling. Work that job for as long as it takes to a.) Fully develop your life’s calling and b.) Have your future financial situation secure, such that you can leverage your life’s calling for money. Have no qualms about leaving your position for:
You are not tied to a particular position; your loyalty is not to a career or your company. You are committed to your Life’s Task, to giving it full expression. It is up to you to find it and guide it correctly. It is not up to others to protect or help you. You are on your own.
You Owe It To Yourself to Find Your Life’s Calling
A career won’t bring you fulfillment. Nor will unchecked hedonism. Material wealth is short lived. And following the crowd like everyone else blunts your uniqueness:
At your birth a seed is planted. That seed is your uniqueness. It wants to grow, transform itself, and flower to its full potential. It has a natural, assertive energy to it. Your Life’s Task is to bring that seed to flower, to express your uniqueness through your work. You have a destiny to fulfill. The stronger you feel and maintain it–as a force, a voice or in whatever form– the greater your chance of fulfilling this Life’s Task and achieving mastery.”
I wonder: Does everyone in life have a calling?
The idealist in me (which is rarely to be found) tells me that yes, there is.
From a young age it is clear this uniqueness exists. Yet, over the years it is buried deep within the mind. It is covered over by societal programming, bad memories, hedonistic pursuits, financial woes, emotional and physical struggles, and more.
Bringing Your Life’s Calling to Fruition
If you haven’t discovered your life’s calling, which few of us truly have, then you must continue to expose yourself to different ideas, activities, places, people etc. in order to find what it is your life’s purpose is for.
Greene writes that to master a field, you must have profound love and connection to it: “Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.”
There are plenty of people out there like this. They are so wholly committed to something that virtually nothing can stand in their way.
On the path to Mastery, let alone discovering your life’s calling, you will certainly face setbacks and have doubts. To forge ahead, you must:
Ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be more like others…direct yourself toward the small things you are good at. Do not dream or make grand plans for the future, but instead concentrate on becoming proficient at these simply and immediate skills. This will bring your confidence and become a base from which you can expand to other pursuits. Proceeding in this way, step by step, you will hit upon your life’s task.
The road to mastery is a long and arduous one, but a road that all men should set out on.
Click here to get your copy of Mastery by Robert Greene.