Find Your Calling

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This article first appeared in the Hindu on December 19, 2020.

Does what you do matter? Or is one job as good as the other?

How does it matter what you do? Just find the job that pays you the best; as long as it is legal. In fact, why work at all? The luckiest people are those who are so rich that they never have to work. What is all this stuff about finding your calling? Engineering plus MBA is the best combination, okay?

When I started working in career guidance 15 years ago, my only response to all this was a weak smile. The idea dismissed my entire line of work, but I plodded on, guided by my need to follow my calling. Well, what do you know? Now I have the answer and here it is.

Let’s begin with the second question: why work at all if you don’t have to? The answer can be found easily on an extended holiday, like this double-edged pandemic. As Netflix loses its charm and the bed becomes a boring place, we look for ways to generate engagement from work, hobbies, and relationships.

We have people cooking, gardening, painting, creating music… because the human consciousness appears to be designed as a dynamic system — one that is balanced only when it is moving. Doing things that engage us gives us a sense of being and makes life worth living. When Masaru Ibuka co-founded Sony, it was with a vision “to establish a place of work where engineers can feel the joy of technological innovation, and work to their heart’s content.” Of course, he also made money.

This idea of “working to your heart’s content” seems to drive many multibillionaires who could well put their heels up. Elon Musk has reportedly managed to scale down his 90-hour weeks and Bill Gates whose day is scheduled in five-minute intervals washes dishes to wind down at night. 

Work seems to be a source of a lot more than money. One of these is “Flow”; a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose research is based on 8,000 interviews of people who enjoy their work ranging from Dominican monks, blind nuns and Himalayan climbers to Navajo shepherds. He defines flow as an ecstatic experience of losing yourself in your work — one that drives people who have found the source of their flow to seek it repeatedly.

So let’s get back to the first question: does it matter what you do, or is any work as good as the other for you? Is there such a thing as calling? Well, yes, there is. I have met many people who would fit in a wide range of work areas from banking and software to marketing and appearing to defy this idea. But you simply have to fit them into counselling, acting, the armed forces or active sports to see that they too have a calling.

Then there are those of us who are blessed — and cursed — with passion. Like Body Shop founder Anita Roddick whose success mantra is to “Look for your passion. What makes you excited? What turns you on?”

Many such people self-select themselves into our offices every year, driven by their inability to do just anything that brings in the moolah. If you are one of these, well, follow your instincts and be ready for a long, gruelling but exciting journey.

Our fast-paced technologically dynamic world offers you viable alternatives across almost any field — from edtech to music management, film editing to UX design, robotics, and more.

48 thoughts on “Find Your Calling

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