A Millennial's Take on Calling (And Why It Matters)

A friend recently admonished me for not living true to my calling. For striving to reach success with my own strength and skills and determination. For forgetting who I was before the world told me who I should be.

And for that admonition, I’m grateful. I didn’t realize that I was sleep walking until I was abruptly woken up.


Self-reflection is important, but inspection by others is critical.

Have you had a moment like this? We all have these rude awakenings, I think. The more stubborn and thick-headed ones, like me, need to have one every so often or we get off track and start chasing the wrong dream or climbing the wrong mountain. Having friends, mentors, and counselors in your life who can call you out on your crap and get you back on track is one of the most important things we can ever do for ourselves.


Below are a few painful and stretching things I'm learning about purpose and happiness and success.

1. purpose is important (but it's not)

Nothing in life will matter unless we can get to the heart of the matter. Meaning, until we know our purpose on this earth. We can be the most successful business men and women, the most liked people, the most praised people, but if we’re not living according to our purpose, it’s all for naught.

But this does not mean that we need to strive, struggle, scratch and sweat to "find our purpose" every minute of every day until we someday magically "find it." I don't believe it works that way. But, we can always live with purpose while on the journey to finding our purpose. This may seem like a paradox, but it just works. 

This is an open ended question that we’re all just trying to answer. And it’s okay if we don’t have the answer yet, because it takes a lifetime of digging to unearth this purpose. It’s okay to not have the answer right now (note to self).

2. Success is stupid

The world gives you a million different versions of what success is supposed to look like. But guess what? I get to ignore all that. Because the world doesn't know Japheth. The world doesn't know my calling, my dreams, my desires, my talents, my fears. The world doesn't get to tell me what to do. Only God does.

Sometimes we begin to think that success looks like something that it's not. We try to force the version of success that we want to have. We try to copy the success someone else has had. But to me, the definition of true success is when we are living out our calling. That's it. It might not be what we think we want, but in the end, it will be the right thing.

Success doesn't always look like what we think it's supposed to look like.

When you think of some of the more well-known people who lived true to their calling and ended up changing the world, you don’t see many glamorous lives. You think of Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa, or Nelson Mandela, and none of these people had easy lives. None of them did what they did for fame or money or recognition, but simply because it was what they were born to do. And they changed the world because of it.

We can chase success with all our heart and strength, and we’ll probably get there if we work hard enough, but we must be super careful that the version of success we’re chasing is true to our calling and purpose.

3. your insides matter more than your outsides

Unless your insides look good, it doesn’t matter how good your outsides look, I’m learning. We can so easily create a false image of ourselves so that on the outside it looks like we have a perfect life, but really, we’re dying on the inside because we feel like we have no purpose.

What's inside of us is always more important than how we look on the outside.

Our outside appearance and success always reflects our inner appearance. If we work on becoming a beautiful person on the inside - becoming self-aware, mature, and disciplined humans - then we will also become a more beautiful person on the outside.

Work more on having a happy inside instead of a happy outside. And until we can get this in our heads and hearts, we’ll keep chasing empty success and praise and sabotaging our calling until we burn-out and crash and are forced to go back to the beginning.

4. don't try to do it all yourself

This is a really tough one for me, because I love being in control of everything. I'm a recovering perfectionist and a radical control freak. And I hate when any detail of my life feels like I'm not in charge of it.

When it feels like I'm no longer in control of my circumstances, I feel panicked and start doing stupid things. I reach out and try to get it back to where I'm comfortable, where I'm the one pulling the levers and turning the steering wheel.

But it's times like these where I have to step back, take a deep breath, and just let it go. I have to remember that you can't always control what happens to you, but you can always control what happens in you. And that is so so easy to forget.

But here's to trying.

Practical Next Steps

Take a break from striving for your calling. Take some time to forget about it. Breathe, get alone, have some fun. Do things you enjoyed when you were a kid, when you didn't wake up every day thinking "What's my purpose?" Go camping. Get outside your little box of a world, and get a larger perspective on life.

Start living with purpose, instead of striving to find it. Chill out friend.

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