I first considered engineering out of envy. I was 4 years old, my neighbour showed me a flamboyant Hot Wheels track. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. We had a classic fight about turns ("it´s my turn; no it's MY TURN.") I left the scene thinking: I don’t need your track, I can build one myself. If I could engineer stuff, I wouldn't have to envy anyone. 5 years later I was gifted with the best thing I could have ever dreamed of and my engineering dreams took a more concrete form.
The race track fight at 4 years old is one of my first memories. The exact events are blurry in my head, but the I-can-build-one feeling is pretty crisp in my heart.
Does a true calling actually exist? True calling is hard to define, I admit. The way people think about it falls under a spectrum of possibilities:
- Nihilist. We're an animal species evolved from apes. We inhabit a disposable planet orbiting a negligible sun, clustered in one of millions of galaxies. We will die, our race will vanish, Earth will burn to ashes, our sun will explode, and the universe will eventually die. We don't matter. Our lives don't matter. Nothing we can do matters. True calling? Really? (If this got you depressed already, check this out... or keep reading.)
- Skeptic. Don't waste your time following any passion or calling. Be practical and choose an occupation to make a living. Then learn to love what you do. You do this by learning as much as possible, improving everyday and mastering your job. (You can find a clever guy advocating for this here.)
- Humanist. We're born unique in a unique time. Our unique conditions predisposes us for some activities and not others. If you listen to yourself, and prevent noise from distracting you, you will find what those unique skills are. Make sure you spend your life in alignment with that life's task so you reach fulfillment and max your contribution in your lifetime. (You can also find a clever guy advocating for this here.)
- Believer. We're sons of God. We carry something divine within us. We are part of a Plan that we cannot understand. We do have a mission in life. Faith and prayer can reveal your purpose or at least enlighten our most critical crossroads. (While not very explicit, this stance permeates this classic book.)
For a long time, I was a solid 3. I heard my calling loud and clear. I learnt my craft. I spent those clumsy first years of my professional life practicing it. In my late 20s, though, I sold my soul to the devil. I craved big money and public laurels (uninspiring bosses helped too). I moved to business management positions. It felt the right direction when you aim for checks and pats. I drifted from my calling right into skeptic territory. Guess what? It turned out pretty well. I learned to love what I was doing. Stepping out of your comfort zones gives plenty of options to get absorbed in challenge after challenge. No time for regrets. I stepped up the ladder, networked with the big names, got the payroll. I’m a lucky guy. But…
But I cannot help flirting with the question, specially because deep in my soul I know that I feel prouder of the things I did being a 3, than any of my achievements being a 2. I guess this is one of those questions you don’t get to answer by thinking. One thing is clear: the higher you move in the spectrum, the more risks you take, which is why so many of us get inspired by courageous believers. The unknown awaits on the other side, and all we have to hold on to is the faint sound of a distant song. Should you dare? Will you dare?