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Do you have a job, a career, or a calling?


LAST UPDATED: 07 March, 2024

Consider that there are three kinds of relationships you can have with work: you either have a job, a career, or a calling.

Someone who sees his or her work as just a job tends to be stuck in money-making survival mode. Those on a career path get recognised for their achievements, and their indicators of success are mostly extrinsic rewards such as money, position, and recognition by others.

More and more people are finding though that they need something that feels more internally generated, and these are people who have a calling. They do what they do because it’s their purpose, it’s who they are, and the rewards are intrinsic.

Maslow wrote on this subject over 50 years ago when he said:

Too many organisations engage us in hollow work, to be enthusiastic about small-minded visions, to commit ourselves to selfish purposes, to engage our energy in competitive drives. Those who offer us this petty work hope we won’t notice how lifeless it is.

In reality, all work contains drudgery – the stuff you have to do, not the stuff you love to do. That’s life. But even the stuff you have to do doesn’t feel like drudgery when it has meaning and purpose.

This reminds me of the story about the three bricklayers

A passer-by came upon three men working. He asked the first man what he was doing, and he said he was laying bricks. He asked the second man the same question, and he said he was putting up a wall. When he asked the third man, he said he said he was building a cathedral.

All three bricklayers were doing the same thing. The difference is that first man had a job, the second man had a career, and the third man had a calling. The first man was simply doing a day’s work for a day’s pay. The second man had higher aspirations and wanted to be the best in the business.

The third man had a broader and bigger vision and purpose. For him the very menial work of laying bricks had become part of a far larger undertaking – a spiritual as well as a physical construction that aspires to the heavens, transcending the earth bound as well as the time bound, since cathedrals are built not in months or even years, but over centuries.

The third bricklayer reminds us that we want to make a difference in and for the world.

And so my question to you is this: “Are you laying bricks, putting up walls, or building a cathedral?”

This post was originally published on the Firebrand Ideas Ignition Blog.