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Guest Post: Lost My *Real* Job to Find My Real Calling

 In 2008, Grace and I were trodding the streets of Thailand, trying to enjoy its sticky humid November air and stay away from the merciless rain.

Befriending her at a conference thousands miles away from home was a gift that prepared me for the unexpected life turn.

Eating octopi and stuffing myself on never-ending rice, the unsuspecting me couldn’t predict that life would change the moment I received that email:

“The Ministry of Education hasn’t renewed our school’s license. We’ll have to close down.”

The next few weeks, hazy and blurry, saw me packing up my office, shredding reports that nobody needed, and leaving without good byes.

I would mourn my loss weeks later, and move forward into the world of online teaching, creating the kind of job I’d always wanted.

Years later I would thank God for allowing this to happen, otherwise I would never have had the courage to try out something new, creative, and original.

I’d never conditioned myself to be a “business owner,” nor do I have qualifications and degrees to impress my clients (who never once asked me for them).

However, I’ve come to believe that in order to make a small business sustainable intellectual knowledge isn’t sufficient.

There are 5 other assets that have helped me overcome the struggles of venturing into the world of business and thinking I don’t have “enough” skills.

If you have these 5, you have more than enough. Let’s take a look.

#1: Faith

Faith is the ability to step into the unknown and the unseen, with courage and confidence. Running and growing a business is a practice of faith – the choice to step out even when the future is uncomfortable, scary and unpredictable.

Nobody knows what tomorrow brings, and the easiest way to not see a better tomorrow is by keeping ourselves “safe.” But faith compels us to try out the new idea, engage with people we don’t know, write an email with an offer, and be confident that our efforts will bring about fruit (even if the only fruit is our trained faith).

#2: Perseverance

In the manifesto for the new book I co-authored with Veronika Palovska, we write this about our work,

“We fail and we stand strong. Than we do it again.”

Perseverance is a choice to show up daily and do the work that matters.

Do it when nobody seems to pay attention.

Do it when you don’t feel like it.

Do it when you’re not sure it’s going to pay your bills.

Do it because you’re not just “following the job rulebook,” but creating a business that changes your life.

Regina Anaejionu wrote in her inspiring post about consistency, “Wake up every single day and do the small, consistent things if you want to win at life… Maybe publishing and performing for crickets and doing things that no one sees ever, is the last thing you want to do. But … tiny actions all add up.”

#3: Gratitude

A grateful life is a joyful life. In a small business, gratitude is the ability to pause and acknowledge how far you’ve come instead of worrying about the never-ending to-do list.

When you work for yourself you know that your work is never completely “done.” It can be scary for neat-freaks and over-performers, but it’s also an opportunity to practice the I am enough message and to enjoy what we have now.

The opposite to gratitude is complaining about the could be and should be.

Gratitude isn’t our natural inclination because we always seek to “make things better” (thereby stressing ourselves). In the Opted Out Manifesto we summarize it this way:

We opt out of whining.

We don’t complain.

It’s one of the greatest gifts that running a business has given me — it taught me to be grateful and remain in the moment.

#4: Core.

In his book What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of our Longest Wars, David Wood writes about the concept of moral injury: a condition experienced by many soldiers when the decisions they make in combat violate their in-depth understanding of right and wrong.

On a much smaller scale, I believe many of us have experienced moral injuries in a workplace where we had to do something against our values and character. It may have been as innocent as “looking the other way,” but smaller injuries result in larger-scale frustration with our purpose and calling.

In a self-employment situation we can opt out of playing by someone else’s rules. We don’t have to work with demanding clients, we don’t have to make a “certain level” of income prescribed by the society, we don’t have to take on projects that go against our values.

But before we decide on working from the core, we need to determine what it is. How do you do that? By writing the manifesto for your business.

Your manifesto is your moral compass to navigate through the tough business decisions.

Here’s a helpful post by Henneke Duistermaat to give you ideas.

If you want to take a retreat, dig even deeper and work on your manifesto, I recommend downloading this manual developed by my book co-author Veronika Palovska.

#5: Humility

Humility says,

“I don’t know everything and still need to learn.”

“I can’t be Jack of all trades, and some people can do this task better than me.”

“Collaboration is my DNA.”

The word “humility” comes from the Latin “humus” – the organic component of the soil developed by decomposition of microorganisms.

Taking waste, disappointment, redundancy, betrayal, workplace bullying, moral injuries and using them to produce growth and vibrancy is what makes humility an inalienable asset for your small business.

——

In conclusion, at the end of 2008 I lost the *real job* that I thought had been my life-time calling and destination.

However through the process I discovered something more fulfilling and gratifying, something I didn’t have to be “qualified” to do, yet something that qualified me (yes, me?!) to create a new job for myself, to discover a world where my contribution stretches beyond a physical location, and to enjoy the new freedom and creativity that came from doing the work that matters.

The 5 things I shared with you today have nothing to do with qualifications and degrees. They come from the (vulner)ability to look on the inside, discover the unique gifts we’ve been given, and share them with generosity and courage.

If you’re running a business (or are contemplating this change), what are your challenges and how do you overcome them? Do you have other assets? Please share in the comments!