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How do you follow your call in life?

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We all have an inner voice whispering about a higher work, a giving of self to something beyond our own small world, to something significant.  Stephen Covey has written a great book about cultivating our voice called The 8th Habit.  I like it so much I think I’m going to require our Wo…
By Seth Barnes

We all have an inner voice whispering about a higher work, a giving of self to something beyond our own small world, to something significant.  Stephen Covey has written a great book about cultivating our voice called The 8th Habit.  I like it so much I think I’m going to require our World Racers to read it before they return home.

I recently received a blog from my business school dean, Robert Bruner.  He talked about cultivating this inner voice and asked the following three questions:

1. Are you listening? 
Finding your life’s serious work begins with a readiness to hear.  This requires a suspension of disbelief that you could be doing anything other than what you are up to.  And it requires that you pay attention to what is being communicated.  Let’s face it: this is work; active engagement, not passive observation.  Peter Kiernan says he was “at war” with himself.  He described a senior partner who challenged him: “What have you ever done for anyone else?”  The deaths of Christopher and Dana Reeve also propelled him.   Peter could have walked away from these and others; but instead he engaged.

2. How can you turn up the volume? 
This question is a trap.  I don’t think you can turn up the volume.  Instead, I think you have to turn down the background noise.  In one of the most famous callings in Western literature, a man named Elijah was called to action not by earthquake, wind, and fire, but by a “still, small voice.” Peter Kiernan notes that the “tiny…whisper” was drowned out at times by family and work.   This is to be expected for high-performing individuals.  One can hear some promising things, but be so distracted by whatever else is happening that the message gets fuzzy.  Some distance may help.  For instance, this is the point of vacations: to increase the ratio of signal-to-noise by dampening the noise.

3. Once the voice gets through, is that it? 

Maybe so, but I doubt it.  There is always room for fine-tuning over time.  Psychologists tell us that people change over the course of their lives.  And times change.  The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said that you cannot step twice into the same river.   Therefore one’s vocation is bound to change in ways that are age- and circumstances-appropriate.  This implies that the skills of listening and managing the noise need to be sustained through time.

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