Do What You Are


“A sense of calling should precede a choice of job or career, and the main way to discover calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be. Instead of, ‘You are what you do,’ calling says, ‘Do what you are.’” (Os Guinness)

At the beginning of one of my classes I like to share quotes. After reading the quote of the day we jump into discussing it. It’s a way to get the conversation going. I also do so to keep the theme of vocation, calling, careers, identity, and the like before us. The authors I draw quotes from range from naturalists to theologians, from pastors to environmentalists, and from adventurers to entrepreneurs. Yesterday in class we discussed the quote above from Os Guinness from his book The Call. For a 9 AM class it was a fun and lively discussion.

Like we were once, college students are figuring things out on the fly (we still are too). They switch majors, transfer schools, and usually work an assortment of jobs throughout their college tenure. Ultimately why they’re in school is to get a degree––the proper credentials––to land a job after graduation that resonates with who they are, their values, purposes, and aspirations. In the midst of this journey of self-discovery we talk about vocation, calling, and figuring out what to do in life. And so we wrestle.

Guinness’ quote elicited a healthy discussion. I think for many they never had really put together the pieces of (a) doing what they love and are passionate about and (b) that there have been markers along the way pointing them in a certain direction. I still recall a conversation with a missionary during a mission’s conference in college 25 years ago. We got on the subject of discerning God’s will. He pointed out that what we often fail to do as we seek God to discover his plans and purposes for us is to look back. Look back on our lives. Look back at the experiences, opportunities, and interests that have shaped us. Paul’s (the apostle) calling entailed building on the foundation he had with his education, sitting at the feet of Gamaliel, and his former life as a Pharisee. Paul would go on to be a great defender of the faith, apologist, and theologian. His calling didn’t negate who he was before he met Christ on the road to Damascus. His calling in a sense added rocket fuel onto his life and who he already was.

While I wrote about this recently, when it comes to exploring what to start in terms of a social enterprise I don’t think it is as far-fetched, nebulous, and “out there” as we assume. I also don’t believe that we’re simply grasping for ideas of what to start. Somewhere along the way in life we’ve had experiences and opportunities that have shaped us to either (a) further us on the trajectory that we’re still on today or (b) adjust our trajectory whether widely or ever so slightly. Often times these experiences build off one another.

Looking back on my life I see different threads or pieces of connective tissue woven throughout. Sometimes these threads stay separate. Other times they merge. Once we follow these threads backwards to their origins it can be enlightening. For example, in college I blew out my ACL playing basketball. That ended my very subpar basketball career as a role bench player. After physical therapy to continue to stay active I picked up a mountain bike and began riding. A couple years later we moved to Arizona and I rode more and even raced a few times. Several years after that while planting a church I picked up a side job as a mountain biking guide. Fast forward the storyline and I when I launched a coffee roasting company all of the branding and our target audience was and is the mountain biking community. The thread was there all along and woven throughout.

Guinness has it right. Do what you are. Part of it is recognizing and coming to terms with who you are. Your personality, temperament, giftings, interests, and passions are guiding realities in your life that are there … do you see them? You don’t need to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. There’s a strong possibility that what God is calling you to do and be is connected to the threads in your life that have been there all along. Recognizing this makes the process of figuring out what to start not so daunting after all.

Do what you are.

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Written by Sean Benesh

Director of Intrepid