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.
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.
Brian 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.
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.