Une vocation, une passion, une vie

I recently returned from a trip to Paris. On our last day, it was beautifully sunny and warmer than usual and we walked for miles (or kilometers). We decided to rest in the Jardin des Plantes to eat lunch. The Jardin des Plantes has a zoo, natural history museum, and scenic paths to stroll. We sat on a bench near the gazebo to eat our picnic lunch, when I noticed a memorial plaque affixed to the bench. It had two names, and listed the department these people worked in for this fabulous park and zoo. Underneath that information was the following: une vocation, une passion, une vie. You don’t have to know much French to understand the translation: A vocation, a passion, a life. A perfect description of a calling…

I wonder how many of us have the opportunity to live in such a way that our work is our passion and the passion, our life. Not many, I suspect. Most people I know, both professionally and personally, have a career, as defined by the work of Amy Wrzesniewski and her colleagues. A career is focused on achievement and advancement, whereas the focus of a calling is the enjoyment of fulfilling work that benefits others. It is this kind of work that brings the greatest life and job satisfaction, according to research.

Many professionals do not feel they are in a position to “indulge” in work that is their calling. C’mon! This is the real world and there are bills to pay! True. Perhaps, though, your calling happens later in life, seemingly by happenstance. This is what happened with Ken Wood, of Maryland. Ken owned a water-drilling business for years and now drills wells for villages in Ghana. Watch this short video for a truly touching and inspiring story of how he turned a job into a calling later in life.

Alternatively, you can pay those bills now based on your career and start planning for your calling at the same time. This is what my friend William is doing. William owns a company that produces and sells safety products. He oversees both a sales force and a manufacturing plant. He is married, the father of two pre-teens, and active in his community. Sounds like a busy life, right? While his work provides a nice living for him and his family, by his own admission, it is not his calling.

For the past few years, William has prepared for his calling by working toward a Ph.D. The focus of his research centers on how people with physical disabilities become leaders. His research includes focus groups conducted with “followers” and interviews done with leaders in business and politics. Currently, his research benefits others by raising awareness regarding this topic – especially those in the focus groups. At some point, William will have an even bigger impact. He plans to sell the current business and eventually consult, conduct seminars and teach. As a hard-of-hearing person, this work is his calling. He brings passion to his research and work with those who have physical disabilities. His work will continue to benefit others in whatever capacity his career path takes him.

Ken Wood did it later in life. William prepares for it while he has a career. Une vocation, une passion, une vie. What would be on your park bench memorial plaque?