The Ups and Downs of Following a Calling

Finding your calling: Tom King interview photo.In this special edition we interview solar energy professional Tom King. Tom has a very interesting story to tell about finding and following a calling, and the ups and downs this can involve. Along the way he has worked in a variety of fields — coaching college sports, construction, information technology, a small food start up, produce distribution, and now solar energy. Tom has picked up several important insights which he shares with us.

This is our first interview; let us know if you like the format and we will do more.
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Liberate the Human Spirit!

Photo of smiling business womanHave you ever worked in an environment that seemed to be designed to crush the human spirit? To eliminate any sort of initiative or creativity?
Maybe you have also seen working environments that seem to liberate the human spirit, workplaces where people seem to be more alive, more purposeful, more engaged — and also happier.
This raises the question: how might we encourage more of the latter? How might we create environments that liberate the human spirit rather than suppress it?
We discuss this important question in an article that you can find here. We also offer a related podcast episode you can find below.
Listen on: (Time: 11:42) iTunes / Stitcher / Google Play or

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Building Collaboration and Collaborative Relationships: The Role of Personal Values

Woman on phone
Collaboration and collaborative relationships are often the key to success in business and most other professions.  These relationships are in turn heavily dependent on the values we bring to our work — values like honesty, compassion, humility, transparency, patience, and courage. These values are also the ones usually taught by the church and most other religious institutions. In this episode we talk about these values, and why collaboration is so important to the production of value in business, properly understood. (Time: 9:08)
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The Quest for the Sacred: The Story of King Herod and the Wise Men

Photo of Wise Men sculptureThe story of the wise men – – also known as the Magi – – is one of the great stories of the Bible. The late James Dittes of Yale saw in the story a battle between two conflicting aspects of our human nature, a drive for stability and control, and a drive to forsake stability and control in order to pursue a quest for the sacred. In the story, the desire for stability and control is represented by Herod and the quest for the sacred is represented by the wise men.
Both are necessary and contribute to human flourishing.
The drive for stability, in its uncorrupted form, is important to us. It provides the foundation for the coherence that helps us make sense of daily life. It enables us to make decisions regarding our work, our family, and other areas of our lives. Too much turmoil makes it almost impossible to make clear decisions and to build effectively for the future.
But the quest is important too. What I am calling the quest has to do with our search for the sacred, for transcendence, for meaning. We can think of the quest as the natural outgrowth of the intuitive human desire to connect with something deeper than ourselves – to experience a deeper sense of connection with God. It is as though over the course of our lives we are being drawn to God.
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Carrying Too Much Stress?

Photo of stressed woman

Maybe your body can help.

There’s a lot of talk about spiritual practices, especially prayer and meditation, that can help us deal with stress.

But there’s another approach that might help — connecting with our bodies.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Leah Weiss of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Hope Lab, recommends some things to help us become anchored in our bodies, as a way of dealing with work related stress. She recommends things like paying attention to a single intentional breath, noting our physical response to stressful situations, and magnifying small, physical pleasures — like the first sip of coffee.

There’s more and the article can be found here.

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Can Your Work Be Your Calling?

Photo of man working

Finding Purpose

No matter what we see as the primary purpose of our work, it is clear that if we can find more meaning in it, then we are likely to be more effective, more purposeful, and happier. For some people, this means seeing their work as their calling.

In this episode we talk about what it means to have a calling, and how we might develop or find it. While people have used several very different definitions, we will focus on what we see as its key aspects.
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(Time: 11:59)

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Michael Novak, 1933-2017

Michael Novak photoI received the sad news that Michael Novak died Thursday.

Novak was an outstanding scholar and the author of numerous books, among them The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and Business as a Calling. He was also a kind, thoughtful person and had a gift for entertaining conversation.

A few years ago, shortly after the founding of the Center for Faith and Enterprise, I invited Michael to speak in California. To my complete surprise, I received a call from his assistant accepting my invitation; the result was a speaking tour (three formal lectures and two dinner meetings) sponsored by the CFE. I will always remember the almost two and half days we spent driving from venue to venue, engaged in conversation the whole time. It was a great time — he was an excellent conversationalist, a source of important insight, and an encouraging voice.

(His friend the Rev. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute has recorded a moving tribute.)

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Going Backwards

Photo of depressed manMost of us have had times when we seem to be going backwards in our career or in our work life. Or maybe times when we seemed to be dead in the water while everyone else was moving forward.
But in these situations are we really moving backwards? Or might there be something going on, out of sight – – something that is laying the foundation for new growth – – something of which we might be completely unaware?
There is hope.
We might not be able to change our objective circumstances, at least in the short run, but we can control our response. . .
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Societal Complexity and Human Well Being

Abstract image of complexityThree weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speak at the Western Positive Psychology Association conference. Csikszentmihalyi is one of the founders of positive psychology (with Martin Seligman) and is well known and highly regarded for having developed the concept of flow.

Csikszentmihalyi provided a preview of a paper on which he and Daniel Gruner are working called (as of now) Complexity: Towards a New Measure of Societal Well Being. He presented data that showed a correlation between societal complexity and various measures of societal well being.

The topic surprised me. Before hearing the talk, I probably would have been more inclined to associate well being with simplicity rather than with complexity. When I think of societal complexity, I think of burdensome policies and procedures and a regulatory system creating complex rules faster than they can be understood. But Csikszentmihalyi and Gruner mean something quite different.

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Bad Seeds (Meant Literally)

Photo of Uganda farmerThis month’s Reason Magazine (March, 2017) has a very interesting article by Francisco Toro on the bad seeds of Uganda. He means bad seeds literally – – seeds that do not germinate when planted.

I have a special interest in what Toro has to say about this because I have been involved in a small way in several small agribusiness ventures in Uganda. I can vouch for what he is saying – – the bad seed problem is real and awful. Farmers can buy apparently good, certified seeds, and then have very small crops because a high proportion of the seeds do not germinate.

The fundamental problem is counterfeit seed. . .

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The Examen: A Practice for Becoming Spiritually Alert

Photo of man looking out window.There are spiritual practices that might help us become alert to the spiritual aspects of our daily lives; one especially powerful one is called the Examen.

The Examen was developed by Ignatius of Loyola about 500 years ago. He developed as a way of knowing when we seem to be moving towards God, and when we seem to be moving away from God. The practice involves looking at our recent life (perhaps the most recent day or half day) in considerable detail, and being alert to spiritual clues. Join us as we discuss how this practice might be helpful to us today.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson on Vocation

Drawing of Ralph Waldo EmmersonFrom a sermon preached by Ralph Waldo Emerson at the Second Church, Boston, October 21, 1832:

How many men now regard their business as so much interruption, as so much injury to their religious life? Their religious character is something separate from their daily actions. If instead of this each man worked in his favorite calling in the way and according to the principles of his own inward Teacher – and therefore with love – if he saw in every day’s labor that he was thereby growing more skillful and more wise; that he was co-operating with God in his own education, so that every dollar he earned was a medal of so much real power, — the fruit and means of so much real goodness; if neither his working hours nor his rest was lost time, but all was helping him onward, — would not his heart sing for joy? Would not the day be brighter and even the night light about him? Would not company be more pleasant and even solitude be sociable and his life reveal a new heaven and a new earth to his purer eyes?

The concept of calling can mean different things to different people, and in fact there are several different definitions in use by scholars of the subject. But I think Emerson points to something that should not be left out —

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Work Related Stress Part 1: Can Faith and Spirituality Help?

Photo of sleepless man with stressWork related stress is a big problem. We all know how painful and dysfunctional it can be. It can damage our health and limit our effectiveness. But there are some things we can do.

In this episode, we will begin by focusing on the work of psychologist Richard Lazarus and the importance of how we appraise potentially stressful situations.
We also draw out possible spiritual and religious connections. (Time: 13:23)

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Leaving Work: Might a Ritual Help?

Some of us have trouble leaving our work behind at the end of the day and have an unfortunate tendency to bring our stress and other pre-occupations home with us. This not only makes it difficult to recharge our batteries, but can also hinder our non-work relationships and activities.

Jackie and John Coleman (“Don’t Take Your Work Home with You”) offer a number of ideas that might help. For me, one in particular stands out: “have an end of work habit”. I would like to explore this idea further.

Perhaps we could develop a ritual of some sort to help us make the transition from work. . .

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Passion and Our Work

Photo of woman concentrating on work
We sometimes hear that we should “follow our passion”. But what happens when we actually do have a passion for our work – or maybe for some aspect of our work? Is this positive? Or is it negative? Actually, according to psychologist Robert Vallerand, it could be either one — depending on the type of passion. Vallerand has written a very interesting and valuable book called the Psychology of Passion: A Dualistic Model in which he proposes that there are two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive. This has important implications for our work lives, which we explore in this episode.
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