[from December 22, 2013]
I always judge books by their cover. Just like I judge wine by its label and coffee by its packaging. I read ‘The Butterfly Hunter: Adventures of People Who Found Their True Calling Way Off the Beaten Path’ based on its cover. It caught my eye (white space, modern classic font and a simple image) and the subtitle grabbed me. I wanted to know what exactly these ‘beaten paths’ were and if they could validate my path. Chris Ballard shares stories of 10 individuals who are living out unique passion-driven careers, such as a train model builder, lumber jill, ‘prosthetic eye maker,’ football kicker coach, and examines whether they are ‘doing’ their ‘calling’. Interestingly enough, none of them stopped to ask what their ‘calling’ was before pursuing their respective careers, they just did what what they were passionate about, which I suggest is a catalyst for expressing their core values.
I believe our calling isn’t what we do, rather who we are. It can play out in many different ways and the more we are able to express (execute) our values the more we flourish. I can’t say for sure what John Nehrich was created for, but it isn’t building model trains. This execution, however, enables him to tell stories of the past to impact the present and somewhere in there is his calling.
While I have been on a journey of pursuing my calling (serving others) and executing it (serving others coffee and conversation in a way that they have a positive impact on the lives of those around them) it was a thought on fear that really impacted me from this book.
“You always have to have a little fear. Always respect what you do, always be a little bit afraid. It makes you double-check.” (pg 39)
It was spoken by Spiderman. No, literally it was said by Spiderman. He is a man who climbs buildings to investigate insurance claims and evaluate building plans and he legally changed his name to Spiderman Mulholland. He repels off buildings almost daily – and absolutely loves it – but also still gets a spurt of nerves and fear before every plunge. It is that uneasiness that causes him to double check his knots and tie in. He almost jumped while completely unattached to anything once, but he heard a noise/voice that caused him to hesitate and he realized he was disconnected from any life support.
Healthy fear is something I work for and desire in my life and reading this caused me to pause and reflect on the roles fear have played. I kept coming back to two past conversations with the same friend regarding fear in my career. Replaying these conversations helped me understand the impact of fear and how without even knowing I had grown from living with highly doubt-driven fear towards a new fear I was learning to trust.
I moved to San Francisco in July of 2010 for a job. It was a promotion and it involved working directly for a friend. When I interviewed for the position I had great meetings with what felt like 90% of the company, but at the end of the day I sat down with my friend and potential boss and questioned whether I was capable of the role. I was afraid. I was afraid I was going to take a job I wasn’t prepared for and I was afraid I was going to let a friend down. Surrounded with unknowns, I chose to doubt myself. This doubt paralyzed me and prevented me from really looking at the skills and experience I bought to the table and, equally important, evaluate areas I needed to grow and learn so I could contribute more effectively. I ended up being at the company for over three years learning to shed the doubts I kept covered up. I did my job but I missed so many opportunities to learn from incredibly smart and talented people because I thought I would be ‘exposed’ and there were times where I had information and ideas that needed to be shared but then I risked being wrong. There should’ve been some fear present in these situations. A nudge of fear to double check my information, a nudge of fear that we wouldn’t deliver the best of the best because I didn’t speak up. But not doubt.
Around three years after that first conversation where I wanted to freak out, I sat down with my friend again. This time we were discussing my decision to depart from the company to explore being an entrepreneur. He asked me if I was afraid. I said no. He asked me again and I said no again. What I really should’ve said was yes, that I had a fear that told me I am jumping into uncertainty and I can’t expect that uncertainty to figure itself out. I would need to embrace what I didn’t know and seek answers and begin creating the future with the intent it would come true. I was still afraid of fear though so I was unwilling to go near it. I decided I was going to ignore any fear and hustle, work really hard and take on predicted challenges as they came, which I did.
Now I am learning what it means to double check, work smart (not just hard) and prepare to be prepared as I pursue my dream of opening my own business – serving others through coffee. As somebody who embraces the hustle and coming up with solutions to problems as they come along, planning is tough. How much do you prepare? How do you know what to prepare? Having a foundation of vision, mission and strategies is what I have come up with for now. With those, I believe, you are able to execute and embrace the challenges, using them to achieve your course.
‘The Butterfly Hunter’ helped me understand my journey with fear. Fear very well could be what keeps most from acknowledging their calling or passion, but it can also be your friend and enable you and jump knowing you won’t hit the ground. Watch out for doubt, lend fear an ear.