I’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately, as the date for the new book launch comes closer and closer. And in every interview, I’m always asked The Question. There are variations on it, of course, but they all come down to this: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
For a long time, I’ve struggled to give an intelligent answer. How do you chase a dream? It’s complicated.
My last day of working a day job also happened to be the day I became very sick, which made it a milestone in many ways. But the truth is that the day itself, as climactic as it was, was less significant than the process it took to get there.
How I came closer to my vocation
For years, I wanted to write. I kept a journal and wrote for friends and myself but never took it too seriously. When my daughters came along, all that changed. I wanted them to believe what I myself had been told growing up: you can be anything you want to be. Astronaut, fireman, cowboy, whatever. If you believe it, you can achieve it. And the thing I had always wanted to be was a writer. So I became determined to make that happen, to show my daughters that if they were willing to work hard, to make sacrifices, to be disciplined and committed, they could indeed be anything they wanted.
For years, I stayed up late and got up early, squeezing in a few extra minutes of writing whenever I could. I didn’t quite know what I was doing or even how I would do it, but I just kept writing and sharing my work and trying to grow an audience. I knew that if I could get people to pay attention to my work, I’d find a way to make a living off my words.
I was so focused on the goal that I wasn’t paying attention to how much momentum was building. It took a wake-up call from a friend for me to realize what was really happening.
My wake-up call
“What’s happened to you is rare,” my friend Chris said to me one day. We were debating whether or not I should quit my job. “Nobody saw it coming. Other people love you, Mike, but I know you, and I didn’t see this coming. You have to consider the possibility that if you don’t do this now, you might never do it.”
After that conversation, I stopped thinking of this as an opportunity or even a dream and replaced it with a much weightier word: vocation. And a month later, I met with my boss to tell him what I had been working through. I said I was afraid of disappointing him.
He smiled at me. “Mike, I’m not disappointed. The truth is I’ve been waiting for this conversation. I think it’s time.”
So I worked my last day at the last “real” job I ever had, and began my career as a professional writer.
But that’s not the whole story…
This is the story I tell when people ask me how I got here. But there’s so much more to it.
Like the two years of learning about marketing and business while working as a freelancer. Or the unintentional practice I got in college as a writing tutor. Or how my mom used to read the encyclopedia to me on long road trips.
The experience of finding your vocation is both mysterious and practical. It takes effort but also seems to happen to you at times. What I’ve come to understand is that finding your purpose is more of a path than a plan: it involves unexpected twists and turns that at times look like accidents but actually are a part of the process.
Everyone, I think, is searching for a purpose, for something to satisfy their deepest desires. I believe that “something” is a vocation. What does that mean? To me, a vocation means the reason you were born. It’s that thing you were meant to do.
And finding it is never as simple or as easy as we’d like it to be.
What I learned
When I began working on my new book Hedge King in Winter, I thought I knew what the process of finding your vocation looked like, but what I learned surprised me.
Discovering your life’s purpose, it turns out, isn’t quite so simple. The journey looks different for everyone, but there are also common themes that tend to appear.
So I had a thought: What if what happened to me wasn’t so rare? What if everyone has a vocation? So for a year and a half, I’ve been trying to answer that question. And after reflecting more honestly on my own story, here’s what I’ve learned:
- You can’t do this on your own. You need help. Chris was one of many guides who helped me understand my life and what to do with it.
- You’ll have to practice. It won’t be easy. If you want to discover your life’s work, you’ll have to fight for it.
- You won’t “just know.” Discovery happens in stages and clarity will come with action. The most important thing you can do is take the next step.
In the book, I feature the story of some everyday people. They aren’t great kings of mighty empires, nor bowel-shaking wizards with neither doubt nor remorse. And this was intentional. I wanted to communicate that vocation is not something for “the chosen ones,” but for everyone. And in this seemingly ordinary story, I think we understand our own lives a little better.
At times, I think we all feel like our own stories are a little too ordinary for our liking. But what if in that ordinariness, there was something extraordinary we could tap into? That’s the idea of the book.
Get the book!
I hope Hedge King in Winter entertains you. I hope it helps you make sense of your life. I hope you gain a greater understanding of your purpose, and what you should do next to achieve it.
When was the last time you discovered something about yourself that surprised you?
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