It’s Never Too Late To Find Your Vital Vocation

It’s Never Too Late To Find Your Vital Vocation

posted in: Essays | 24

This week’s guest post is by Brian Cormack Carr of Birmingham, England, who decided he would write the book he always knew was in him by his 40th birthday…and told everyone.

I’ve loved telling stories and conveying information for as long as I can remember. Even before I could form words, I just did what came naturally to me.

One of my earliest memories is inventing a superhero called BAM! and telling his adventures by drawing picture after picture of him on my toy blackboard. The blackboard was small, so I had to rub each picture out in order to draw the next one.

To my young mind, those pictures were like panels unfolding in the world’s best comic book, but since each one had to be destroyed to make room for the next, no remaining evidence of BAM! exists — except in my memories.

Like many of us, for years I “put away childish things” and got on with the serious business of making a living. I still wrote occasionally — even winning a couple of short-story competitions whilst at school and university — but by no means consistently.

I eventually put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) again in 2009, when I started a blog to promote my new career coaching practice. I had trained in private sector management and, having made a successful transition to the charitable sector (which was a much better fit for me), I was ready to help others escape their corporate cage. So I trained as a coach, and set about letting the world know that I was open for business.

Blogging was one of the first marketing methods I used, and it proved to be an important turning point for me and my work. As much as I loved (and still loved) coaching, I discovered something that was at once revelatory and blindingly obvious. I was a writer.

I quickly received at least as much positive feedback on my writing as I did on my coaching, and I increasingly found myself putting this talent to use in my coaching work.

I designed and wrote an online career-design membership program which proved popular (but hard work to maintain). The program contained a mixture of audio, video and written resources — and again, it was the writing that most struck a chord with participants. Several of them actively encouraged me to turn the process I had created into a book. “We want to read more of your writing,” they said. When I was going to take the hint?

I finally took the plunge in the run-up to that universal significant milestone: my 40th birthday.

Ten months before the date itself, I (somewhat rashly!) set myself the target of writing two books by the time I hit 40.

And just to ensure the solidity of my commitment, I announced this target to the world on my blog, on Twitter and Facebook, and in conversations with my friends and family.

How to Find Your Vital Vocation

There was no turning back.

Nor should there have been. After several years of guiding others to find their own “vital vocation” — the work that chimed most with their hearts — here I was, the physician healing himself.

I achieved my target; or most of it, anyway. I wrote and self-published my first book just four days short of my 40th birthday in June of this year, and I had the outline of the second one set out in draft form.

Appropriately enough, that first book is called How To Find Your Vital Vocation: A Practical Guide To Discovering Your Career Purpose And Getting A Job You Love. In it, I set out a number of tools and techniques designed to help a reader listen to his or her heart’s calling.

And here’s the thing: that calling is always there.

It may be more of a whisper than a roar, and you may be studiously ignoring it, but you’ll never be able to shut it up entirely.

Whenever I meet a person who has finally found their ideal work (very many of them are later bloomers) I’m struck by something: even if what they ultimately became is something they never imagined, they can always trace a golden thread back through their life to signals present from the very beginning.

One of the exercises I outline in the book is a perennial client favourite. It asks readers to think back to sometime in the past, whether that’s childhood or early adulthood, and to list all the things that they once thought they wanted to be.

Nothing is out of bounds.

The only condition is that every item on the list must describe something that they wanted to be, not something someone else told them they should be.

You might like to try it right now. Go ahead and make your list.

Now look for the golden nugget at the heart of that original ambition. What was it about that particular profession or life role that most made your heart sing? What does that golden nugget tell you about what your vital vocation might be today?

In my case, whether on a blackboard, in an online membership program, or in a book — I love to put things together and to communicate them. There may not be an obvious link between How To Find Your Vital Vocation and the adventures of BAM! the blackboard superhero; but there is a link, nonetheless.

The Jungian scholar Marie-Louise Von Franz once wrote “simply to fulfil one’s destiny is the greatest human achievement.” How wonderful it is to know that everything we need to become who we truly are is inside us, or always within our reach.

Sometimes, we just need to get out of our own way and listen to that inner voice that has been whispering to us all along.

What did you want to be? What were you told you should be? Where are you now? Please let us know in the comments.

Cormack CarrBrian Cormack Carr is a writer, certified career coach, and chief executive of BVSC The Centre for Voluntary Action, one of the UK’s leading local charities. He trained in personnel management with Marks & Spencer plc and gained an MA (Hons) in English Literature and Language from the University of Aberdeen.

Brian has nearly 20 years of experience in the fields of personal development and leadership, and has helped hundreds of clients, readers, and workshop participants to find fulfilling work and a renewed sense of purpose.

You can find Brian at his blog or on Twitter. How to Find Your Vital Vocation is available at Amazon and on Smashwords

Thank you to all my interwebs compadres (including Brian) who’ve shared their stories while I was getting my health together. I hope to be back to more-or-less regular programming in July. 

24 Responses

  1. Marla Martenson
    | Reply

    Great post! It is never too late to do anything. I became a published author at the age of 45. I had always dreamed of being an author. It is a great feeling of accomplishment.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Love your story, Marla! And you’ve had so much success with it. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Brian Cormack Carr
      |

      It sure is – and congratulations to you Marla, I can see you’ve found your vital vocation and run with it!

  2. Bob F.
    | Reply

    Encouraging words. But I have – sigh – come to accept the fact that I’m never going to be James Bond. 😉
    Other goals, however, may still be within reach.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Maybe not James Bond, Bob, but you get to blow things up for the movies — pretty close 🙂

    • Brian Cormack Carr
      |

      Good point Bob – I feel the same about being Spiderman (I had a bit of a thing about superheroes, as you can see…)!

      That’s one of the reasons I suggest looking for that “golden nugget” at the heart of what we once wanted to be. It always has a message for us about the kind of things we might enjoy. If you’re blowing things up for the movies, there may be a connection there…Now I just need to figure out how to stick to walls….

  3. Stan
    | Reply

    Well, as kid I wanted to be lots of things -Indiana Jones, an FBI Agent, an Actor, a Writer and a Musician but, due to a variety of factors, I went to law school. And finally, at 43, I am back in acting class, writing every day and taking guitar lessons. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am doing the things I am meant to do and not what I should be doing.

    • Brian Cormack Carr
      |

      That’s wonderful, Stan – I know how great that feeling is. Comfortable, for a start – even when it’s hard work. Congratulations!

  4. Kassandra Lamb
    | Reply

    I too was late coming back around to writing, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each of my careers (this is #4). If we live long enough, we can end up with more than one “vital vocation.” For me, variety is indeed the spice of life!

    • Brian Cormack Carr
      |

      Thanks Kassandra, that’s a great point – we can certainly have more than one vital vocation in a lifetime. Sometimes they run in serial, and sometimes they run in parallel in a portfolio career. Options aplenty!

    • Debra Eve
      |

      So true, Kassandra. Actually I think the idea that we all have just ONE calling a passion dowser. I like Brian’s term “vital vocation” or vocations, as the fancy strikes us 🙂

  5. Jennette Marie Powell
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing Brian’s story with us! I think that’s something many of us writers can relate to. Yes, I’ve always wanted to be a fiction writer, but because it’s something that’s not a guaranteed living, was told to do something else I’m good at – graphic design. That, and later software, has indeed made me a good living, and now that I’m an independent author, those skills have been a great asset. It all works out!

    • Brian Cormack Carr
      |

      Great point, Jennette. I trained as a manager in the private sector and came close to believing that I wasn’t cut out for management until I made the transition to the charitable sector. In the right environment, after putting my talents and skills to work to further the values I really cared about, I discovered I loved being a manager.

      Your innate talents + your genuine values + the environment that suits you + the skills you enjoy = your vital vocation.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thank for stopping by, Jennette. It has worked out gorgeously for you! I love your author site, and plan to “borrow” your ideas for a entry page one of this days 🙂

  6. Brian Cormack Carr
    | Reply

    Thanks for all the comments – it’s nice to be in such good company 🙂 I love the fact that writing and publishing options are so many and varied these days. It’s certainly a great time to be a beginning writer, whatever your age.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks for visiting Later Bloomer, Brian, and congrats on your 40th birthday book. A great gift to yourself!

    • Brian Cormack Carr
      |

      Thanks Debra – it’s a privilege to be part of Later Bloomer, it’s a wonderful site. Wishing you continued success and good health!

  7. florence fois
    | Reply

    Ah, Debra and Brian … I will be known to all as the Grandma Moses of fiction. And it matters not. Since I’m going to live a long time, I will do as I predicted twenty years ago (BTW on my 40th Birthday) … simply that … writing would be my last and best career. I did it all, raised the kids and now is my time. We tend to look at time as a linear equation when in fact infinity is a spiral that has no beginning and no end … for after this life who knows what adventures awaits us 🙂

    Thanks for a very inspirational and uplifting post !! And Debra, we all want you to be 100% when you return, so take care.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      “The Grandma Moses of Fiction.” Love this, Florence. I agree with you about time being a spiral. A few times I had to circle back to learn the same lesson again, but I always found myself at a higher place after 🙂 Thanks for your kind wishes.

    • Brian Cormack Carr
      |

      Thank you florence – the spiral is a wonderful symbol, and I agree with you. In almost everything I’ve done, I’ve found myself coming round to the same places again and again, each time bringing something new and each time learning something different. And I love the notion of writing being your “last and best career” – what a great aim!

  8. K.B. Owen
    | Reply

    I’m a bit late to the party, but I really appreciate your inspiring experience, Brian!

    My first “career” was teaching college lit, but after a decade-plus I became disenchanted with academia, and realized that, while the teaching itself was incredibly worthwhile, the jockeying for tenure-track positions (the publish-or-perish mentality) was not. I thought, wow – all that work for a Ph.D. in 19thc British lit, gone to waste.

    I’ve always LOVED mystery stories. Even as a kid, I don’t know if I wanted to be Nancy Drew or Carolyn Keene. When circumstances gave me the opportunity to try my hand at writing, there was no doubt that it was going to be a mystery. And guess what? That Ph.D. and my teaching experiences didn’t go to waste, because I used them as a backdrop for a series set at a women’s college in the 1890s! It took me until age 50 to publish my first mystery novel (a few months ago). I’m definitely a later bloomer. I wish I could have done it sooner, but maybe the time wasn’t right for me back then.

    One thing I always wished I had the talent for – art. When planning my book cover art, I had these ideas in my head that I tried to communicate to the artist who I hired, all the while wishing I could do it myself. Alas, I lack that ability.

    All the best to you in your future endeavors, Brian. And Debra – best wishes for a speedy recovery! 😀

    ~Kathy

    • Brian Cormack Carr
      |

      Thank you Kathy, it’s great to hear your story too. I love that your Ph.D. turned out to be useful. Sometimes we only discover why we were meant to do something years after the event. Nice to know nothing’s wasted, isn’t it?

      I know what you mean about book cover art. I enjoy doodling and had some very specific ideas about my cover. Luckily, I worked with a designer who helped me explore various options. I even ran a “choose my cover” competition for the readers of my blog, so it turned into a real joint effort 🙂

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, Kathy! I didn’t get quite as far as you before the whole publish-or-perish mentality derailed me. I did archaeology, supposedly one of the most exciting fields. But recently I told someone, “Getting an MA in Archaeology almost killed my love of archaeology.” Yes, creative writing is definitely more fulfilling.

      Looking forward to the next Concordia Wells adventure!

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