Recently I came across the quotations below, in an article on vocation, and it led me to think of the difference between career and vocation.
“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen to what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Jossey-Bass: 2000)
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Dr. Howard Thurman (1899-1981), theologian and civil rights leader.
Seeing your business as a career is seeing it as a way of earning a living, paying the bills, getting rich. While seeing your business as a vocation is to see it as a way of exercising your God given talents, expressing an inner need to give vent to a deep calling. Vocation implies that talents, desires and circumstances have led you to this business, you did not choose it as much as it chose you.
Very often as I go about training I come across persons who tell me ‘I ended up in this business’ as if to say, it was a random event, but was it, it could have been circumstances that led you here. In Paulo Coelho’s bestselling book ‘The Alchemist’ Santiago believed it was random events in his life until he learnt ‘the Universe was conspiring to help him fulfil his mission’.
Most often, our mission is not Earth shattering, that is your Ego, most of us are called to simple lives but lives that are necessary for the Universe nonetheless. As Mother Theresa said ‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’
Seeing your business as a vocation gives you a purpose, and gives you reason to persevere when the going gets tough. Be careful though a vocation is not a particular job, a particular sale, a particular month, it an overarching mission that covers small individual acts and gives them meaning.
Vocation is not pie in the sky though, it also encompasses paying the bills, making sure the advertising is done, the accounts are completed in time, and of course a profit is made at the end of the day.