Today was the first day of a conference I regularly attend and, as always, my favorite session was the kickoff where an entire room of experienced professionals revisit the major (and minor) developments and incidents that have occurred over the past year. The presenter/ringmaster is a former Air Force RF-4 pilot, who, in his words, “…is a millennial, if you count the last millennium.” In the room, we had about 30 people, the youngest of whom, had over 20 years of experience in the field, and the oldest of whom, has pushed off retirement until next year, when he turns 75, because he still has a loves the work. In short, there were a bunch of aging, opinionated, and passionate individuals discussing current problems within the context of the collective history of the career field, which made for a delightful, engaging day. On a side note, the font size was markedly larger and several times people asked for someone to repeat themselves due to an inability to hear the speaker, but I attribute this to a desire to be precise rather than any physical degradation due to an aging population…
What was particularly interesting was the discovery/reinforcement that our individual challenges were not unique, not original, and not easily solved. Sure, we disagreed on a few points and had a very spirited discussion on privacy versus security, but, in the main, we discovered once again that there is a common fight and that there are good people fighting it all over the world. That being said, I did notice a certain resignation in the voices and comments of some of the participants. Frankly, there was a lot of concern that the problems are unsolvable and the fight unwinnable. There was concern that the practitioners are aging and there are no replacements coming. All in all, it made me think back to the episode of Band of Brothers about Bastogne.
I am in no way, shape or form trying to state that the challenges we face are equivalent to those faced by the troops in the Battle of the Bulge. Rather, I believe this group is reaching a point that every individual encounters many times throughout their lives…a point where we question why we continue when it would be easier to just cede the fight and rest, why we fight when the battle seems unwinnable, and why/if it really matters. I have felt this before myself and have many times thought about how nice it would be to just do anything else. Of course, as soon as I started thinking about all of this, the presenter made a point that motivated me and that hit the nail on the head.
We do this because we are called to do it. It took years for me to find my calling, but it IS my calling. I may only plug one hole in the dike, but it is one less hole to be plugged by someone else, and that itself is important. That resonated with me and I thought it was important to share. We all have a calling, sometimes a couple of callings. It may be that your calling is to do something so great you can’t ever believe you could ever do it. It may be that your calling is to be the person who does all of the little, insignificant things that allow someone else to do the “something great”. In either case, it is equally important that both pursue their calling…and it is equally valuable.
As humans we want recognition, to be valued, and to make a difference. Unfortunately, we tend to value style over substance, thereby minimizing substance. It is vitally important, even critical, that you pursue finding and doing what you are called to do, rather than doing what you CAN do. A calling will motivate you to get up one more time and try again. A calling will make you choose to do the hard thing over the expedient thing. Most importantly, a calling will make you take a position and defend it, even if everything is against you.
In the second Lord of the Rings movie, Aragorn is confronted with a situation where there seems to be no hope at Helm’s Deep. To him and his companions, all looks hopeless, because the enemy seems unbeatable. In an argument with Legolas, Legolas says “They cannot win this fight. They are all going to die.” At which point Aragorn responds with, “Then I shall die as one of them…” This is the response of one with a calling. It is the response of one who understands that glory, praise and honor are great, but not as important as pursuing your calling. It is the response of one who understands that wins and losses cannot truly be tallied by men.
I needed to hear this today…I hope it speaks to you. Have a great day!