Tag Archives: career

Do You Have a Job, a Career, or a Calling?


Your answer to this question is crucial.

It can determine whether or not your life’s work is contributing to you living to your full potential. In his book Springboard, Wharton School Professor G. Richard Shell argues that this question is essential to finding personal meaning and satisfaction. And that’s not as simple as most people think.

To illustrate, imagine three people who have been working hard for several years — Alex, Ben, and Catherine.

  • Alex has a job he does for the paycheck. He clocks in for the hours he’s supposed to, and he puts in the minimum effort to get the job done. Sure, he might perform relatively well in his role, or he might go through the motions of socializing with the people he works with, but he can’t help feeling like a cog in a machine. He puts up with it though, as he’s motivated by the security that comes with having a stable job and a steady paycheck. He doesn’t view his job as much more than a chore. ‘Life’ is what happens when he gets home after work and picks up his guitar, or on weekends when he can spend time with his partner. He is always wishing that it’s Friday already, and he dreads Monday mornings.
  • Ben feels dedication and loyalty towards his career, and to an extent, his employer too. He sees himself progressing in his defined role, towards more status and responsibility. His pride in his job is apparent in how he introduces himself to others at parties: he says his name and what he does. He has spent countless hours building up his skills and knowledge within his field. He envisions himself in his manager’s position on a daily basis, and then progressing to his manager’s manager’s position, and so on. He works hard because he wants to be better, and sometimes he does things he doesn’t want to do, like work long hours, so that he can reach the ‘ideal’ future he envisions for himself.
  • Catherine wouldn’t call what she does ‘work.’ She feels lucky to have found her calling, and to get paid for it too. She’s keen to get out of bed every morning, excited about what the day will bring. She genuinely feels that she is making a difference. There’s hardly such a thing as a holiday, because she just works whatever hours she feels like to get the job done, motivated by the knowledge that what she’s doing is worthwhile. She is able to express herself though her work — using that creative spark she’s had since she was a child. She spends every day in alignment with her values, which include serving the community, even in her own little way. Instead of a cog in a machine, she feels like she is the machine.

Who do you identify most with?

Notice that there isn’t any mention of each person’s pay or profession. Research conducted by Yale University Professor Amy Wrzesniewski showed that most randomly selected groups divide themselves up almost exactly into thirds, no matter what they do, or how much they are paid. Indeed, some people from exactly the same workplace felt differently about the same job. It’s not always so clear-cut.

For example, Ben could be a trainee lawyer who feels like he has his whole career ahead of him. He’s only worked for two years, and has shown promise. Maybe he’ll make partner one day, if he just works hard enough. He’s proud of his profession, even though the hours exhaust him. He would say that his career is his priority right now. His best friend in the next cubicle feels differently. He finds the work tedious and pointless.

Catherine could be a doctor working in a ward that is always full of sick children. She works long hours, sometimes with only a few hours of sleep, but it’s worth it if she gets to save lives. She can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s her calling. Yes, she earns a fair amount, but it’s not the money that’s most important to her. Last night, she was bonding with her best friend Karen about how much they love their jobs. Karen is an administrator for the local government.

You might imagine that most people on lower incomes would consider themselves as just having a ‘job,’ but down the hallway from Catherine the doctor, the janitor finishes up cleaning the floor. Nobody really pays attention to him, but if they did, they would hear him humming away happily. Even though his job can be tiring at times, he loves it because the ward needs to stay clean so that the doctors can properly do their jobs, and the janitor gets to do his part in saving lives. It’s his calling too.

In fact, people can feel differently about their work at different times in their lives, and their perceptions can shift over time as their personal lives change and they seek different goals than when they first started in a job. Ben could focus on his law career for 10 years, and then realize that he has sacrificed a lot for the sake of it. He loses sight of why he wanted to be a lawyer in the first place, and over the years his career has become just a job to him. Now he’s just doing it because he doesn’t know anything else, and the money is good, but perhaps there are more important things in life than living hard and fast. He’ll be looking for his calling soon.

It’s not easy to work out whether you have a job, a career, or a calling. Things that matter to you now might not matter as much later, and vice-versa. In the long run, only you will know what is right for you. If you’re lucky enough to find your calling — work that you enjoy and that can support you financially — then you are better than two-thirds of the people in the workforce. And you’re well on your way to finding success and happiness.


“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

My #1 Mistake in Life

By Craig Ballantyne

“The first thing I tell anybody who’s going to be doing interviews is homework,” said Barbara Walters about conducting a great interview. “I do so much homework, I know more about the person than he or she does about himself.”

This year I’ve been interviewed on over 50 podcasts. The best interviews, not surprisingly, have followed Barbara’s formula. The best interviewers did their homework, asking personal questions specific to their audience.

Doing homework on me is not hard. I’ve shared many personal stories here at Early To Rise, and in my book, The Perfect Day Formula. It’s easy for an interviewer to draw out my struggles of battling anxiety or my goose-bump-evoking journey of how I came to be the owner of Early To Rise.

Many interviewers have also taken Barbara’s advice of saving the toughest question to the end. That’s when I’m often asked, “Craig, what’s the biggest mistake you have made in your career?”

It’s a question that I can answer quickly and without fail.

My biggest mistake was not hiring a coach earlier in my career.

I made this foolish mistake because I was cheap, stubborn, and thought I was smarter than everyone else. My hubris nearly led to me losing everything. It contributed to my anxiety attacks, caused me a lot of frustration, and fed my jealousy as I watched others in my industry come out of nowhere and surpass me. And they did so because they were not too proud to do what I should have done.

By late 2003, I was making more than enough money from my online business side venture that I could have invested in hiring a mentor. But it wasn’t until 2006 that I finally set aside my ego and hired my first coach. When I did that, his advice helped me make more money and help more people than I had in the entire six years that I was trying to do things all by myself.

I regret going it alone for so long, figuring things out the hard way, and ignoring the easier path to success that had already been blazed before me by potential mentors. As a result, I was not nearly as successful as my friends and colleagues believed. They all thought I was making more money than I was, and I felt ashamed knowing the truth.

Once I smartened up, I quickly added many mentors to my life and my success continued to grow rapidly as a result. These mentors included paid coaches such as Yanik Silver, Dan Kennedy, Tom Venuto, Matt Smith, and Bedros Keuilian.

Having Professional Accountability from a coach is one of my Five Pillars of Success. It is different than just having friends giving you positive social support.

A coach brings you three gifts that a friend or colleague cannot.

  1. Expert Advice

  2. Experience from someone that has been there and done that

  3. A level of accountability that accepts NO excuses

Your coach should come highly recommended based on these three traits. They should be able to prove their success through client testimonials. They should have years of experience, and a ‘stern-but-loving-parent’ approach to accountability. If they become more of a buddy and stop holding you accountable, you’ll never get the full benefits of their experience and expert advice.

Seth Godin agrees.

“Mentorship works for two reasons,” Godin said. “Certainly, the person being mentored gains from advice and counsel and access to others via introductions, etc. But mostly, it works because the person with a mentor has a responsibility to stand up and actually get moving. The only way to repay your mentor is by showing the guts it takes to grow and to matter.

“Interesting to note, then, that the primary driver of mentor benefit has nothing to do with the mentor herself, nothing beyond the feeling of obligation the student feels to the teacher. Whether or not the mentor does anything, this obligation delivers benefits.”

When I hired my first mentor, Tom Venuto, I was in the midst of struggling with my crippling anxiety attacks. Before each of our weekly phone calls, I had to do a few minutes of slow deep breathing and said a little prayer hoping to make it through the entire call without having a full blown panic attack.

I often wanted to skip the calls, but as Seth said, I had the obligation of showing up. Thankfully I did, because with Tom’s expert advice my business rapidly became more successful than I ever expected. Tom’s coaching was also a big reason I was able to overcome my issues with anxiety. Without his help, I don’t know where I’d be today, and frankly I don’t even want to think about it.

So if you’re struggling, the best advice I can give you is to stop being so stubborn and go get a mentor. Hire a coach today. Find one that has achieved what you want to achieve in life, and that shares your morals and ethics, and find a way to work with them. This changed my life and it will change yours for the better, too.

It’s been 10 years since I hired my first coach. And since that time I’ve come to believe this old saying is true:

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

You are ready. And I am here.

Don’t wait any longer.