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Day 17: Called to live beyond ourselves

"God has plucked you out of eternity, positioned you in time, and given you gifts and talents to serve Him in this generation" - Christine Caine

To borrow Oprah Winfrey's phrase - What I Know For Sure is that whatever our purpose on earth is, we are specifically called (all of us without exception) to live beyond ourselves and in service of other people. This means that a critical part of our vision for our lives should be to find ourselves in a position to serve others, give back to our communities, and give of our talents, gifts, skills, and expertise for the benefit of others. For this reason, I believe that one of the objectives of our goal setting for the year should be to take one step closer to choosing how we will be of service to others in our lifetime. So, let's answer the question of "how do we get there?" that I know many of you will have at this point.

Firstly, I believe we cannot give what we don't have and cannot give from an empty cup. Therefore, the first responsibility we have towards ourselves, if we wish to live a life of value to others beyond ourselves, is to work on ourselves first. This means that we must spend the early parts of our lives and careers developing ourselves, acquiring skills, honing our talents, and getting the experience we need to be helpful at a later stage of our lives. From experience, I have learned that – depending on your background – trying to be a hero to people when you have nothing yourself can be frustrating to you as a person, can cause you to hate serving, and can be counterproductive to your efforts to give. Therefore, a critical part of positioning yourself to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or solve a significant problem in your generation is to spend a part of your life working on your personal and professional development.

According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory, a person can only reach the self-actualization stage (the stage where one can desire to be a responsible citizen) once they have met their basic psychological and biological needs, safety, love, and belonging as the need for esteem. Furthermore, in the book – the 6 seasons of calling – Brian Sanders suggests that the season of giving (back) for all of us happens in our late careers.

Secondly, understand that living a meaningful and impactful life is more than just about pursuing your passion. I am one of the people who bought into the idea that we ought to follow our passion promoted by quoting famous people who might have achieved their passion. However, four years ago, I stumbled upon Benjamin Todd's TEDx talk on "to find work you love, don't follow your passion," which challenged that thinking for me. I started following Benjamin's work on 80,000 hours and fell in love with their idea of building a high-impact career. The idea behind 80,000 hours is that you will love your work if you are good at what you do. Furthermore, if you apply your skills – what you are good at - to solving some of the world's most pressing problems, then you will have the privilege of doing work you love while having a high social impact.

Through following 80,000 hours, I realized that following your passion was not a good strategy on which to build an impactful career for various reasons such as:

· Sometimes your passion does not pay the bills (which will result in you disliking your passion once you grow to have more financial responsibilities),

· Sometimes your passion may make you happy but result in a low level of impact, making you feel like your career is not worth pursuing.

Therefore, once again, what is essential is that we develop specific skills and apply those skills to high-impact areas. Developing the wrong abilities won't be helpful to us, no matter how passionate we are about those skills. Using the right skills in the wrong areas will also not be valuable and impactful.

In the past, I used to think it was necessary to give back as early as possible in your career, but I have now bought into the idea that the early parts of our career are about serving – while learning, and then we will have the opportunity to give back later in our jobs. Of course, we all come from different backgrounds; therefore, if you are in a position to start giving back very early in your career, then, by all means, do so. But I think too many of us are so burdened with giving back too early that we don't focus sufficiently on building a solid foundation – and that this can be detrimental to the solidity of our future careers and even sabotage our efforts to be in a position to give back at a later stage. And I say this as someone who spent a lot of time giving back at various associations and even at church in the very early stages of my career.

Strength is given to us for service, not to convey status – Lisa Bevere

I recently read Indra Nooyi's – former CEO of Pepsi Co.'s memoir – My Life In Full: Work, Family, and Our Future – and thought it was interesting to observe that the timeline of her career followed the same trend of learning and developing herself, serving under various leaders in the organization and helping them achieve their vision, creating her vision for the organization and leading others to attain it, and now focusing on giving back to the business world by advocating for work environments whose policies prioritise families after having a rewarding career.

Finally, I believe that allowing ourselves to grow and evolve before committing ourselves to a specific cause for a lifetime too early in our careers gives us time to understand ourselves, what we can provide and what the world needs. While we can give in small ways as we develop in our careers, we should also allow ourselves the flexibility to discover more areas where we can give of ourselves and our resources in a more meaningful way as we continue to grow. Once the long-term vision to live beyond ourselves has been developed, we should trust ourselves to get there once we complete the different cycles that we have to go through as we continue to grow as people. I also understand that some needs are more urgent than others, and in this case, I advocate that we should – if we can – give back while building ourselves at the same time. Whether the need is urgent or not, our effectiveness in giving back depends on how much capacity we have within ourselves to give. Once again, we cannot give what we don't have and cannot give from an empty cup.

While I have focused most of my writing today on giving back from a professional perspective, the same insights can apply to various dimensions of our lives.

I look forward to hearing your views on this one.


Journal Prompts

  1. Reflect on what your belief around pursuing your passion is?

  2. In what ways do you desire to give back in an impactful way to society? Can your passion lead you there or will you have to work on developing your skills to have this significant impact?

  3. Who are your role models in impactful living?

  4. At the end of the goal setting challenge, follow 80,000 hours's 8-week course on developing a plan to have a high-impact career. Do this as part of your goal-setting for your career.




Video: Benjamin Todd's Tedx Talk - "To find work you love, don't follow your passion"

Video: Cal Newport: So good they can't ignore you

1 Comment

Jan 28, 2022

This is a transformative piece, and totally share your sentiments on this one Dk. Thank you


Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a passionate leader, accomplished professional and a mentor. I believe that nation-building depends on how well we build people. Therefore, my mission is to contribute to the personal, professional and leadership development of people to empower them to reach their highest potential.

I do this through a mentorship program that I founded and through this blog where I share principles I've applied and insights I've gained in the past twelve years of my career and leadership journey.

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