Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22
Laura and I began the journey of truly finding our calling right after college. Graduating with humanities degrees and thus the ability to parse the difference in style between Gustav Flaubert and Albert Camus, or the sociological influences of Emile Durkheim or Robert Bellah—in other words, not entirely marketable skills—we tested out an interest in business. We opened a retail tennis store, in Mill Valley, California, a beautiful city, nestled at the base of Mount Tamalpais… where, by the way, they play a lot of tennis.
The result? We loved being together, finding ways for the business to stay profitable, and engaging in that most basic form of capitalism retail sales—where supply and demand met right in our shop.
Nonetheless, the test proved that retail was not our passion. Because of that, other interests showed up in strange ways. At night—and sometimes on slow days—I found myself reading philosophy and theology. Laura began to volunteer at a local soup kitchen and muse about how her life might help others less fortunate.
That brought us to the point, after about four years, where we asked ourselves, “Does Top Spin Tennis meet a passion for me?” With mused on this question for quite a while, but in the end, it didn’t. But we didn’t realize that fact until we tested our interests. In other words, after we think hear something, we need to test our yes.
There are a few key steps to take in this process of testing. And this process is where things become more concrete, where the intuitive spark begins to meet investigation and analysis.
First of all, talk with your community and especially wise voices. Receive good counsel. The wisdom of the proverb I cited above is still apt: we need good counsel. Some people have undoubtedly gone before you in whatever road you’re seeking. Ask them, what are the twists and turns? What brings real excitement in your work, in your life? Where’s the drudgery? Remember also those good friends who build you up, who make you feel more yourself. It’s a little corny, but the expression rings true: “I like myself best when I’m with you.” That’s the kind of person to be around when you’re testing your yes.
Then, ask some tough questions about the constraints on you: What other calls also direct you, what other yeses have you already said? Marriage? Family? Where are your natural or situational constraints: Finances? Age? Physical limitations? Places you want to live? There may be some yeses you’ve already said.
Or conversely, there are often fears and restraints we put on ourselves unnecessarily. Why can’t you say yes to that call? Is it reasonable? Sometimes that’s framed in another form: “If there were something we knew we could do and not fail, what would it be?” Does it involve making less money? Doing something that others consider impractical? Do you feel a little foolish even considering the idea?
We often resist certain yeses because of our fears—fears of embarrassment, of not being prudent. Let’s clear those out, or at least let’s take a test drive to see if those fears are really significant.
On the way to grooving with the right rhythm of yes and now, but we first need to test the yes.