Life Dreams, Work & Discovering Your Calling: An Interview with Jeff Goins

Last week I had the privilege of interviewing Jeff Goins, author of the new book The Art of Work, about work, calling and bucket lists. I have followed Jeff since his first e-book The Writer’s Manifesto in which he sets forth the mindset for embracing the calling of being a writer. His other (awesome) books are Wrecked, The In-Between, and You Are a Writer.


Here’s what Jeff had to say:

How did you come to focus on this idea of “calling” that you emphasize in The Art of Work?

Through personal experience. At 28 I felt like I should know more. I kept asking, “Is this as good as it gets?” Why weren’t my job and marriage good enough? I kept thinking I was missing out on something.

And then I began to take writing more seriously. I wrote a blog. I published books. And finally I moved to writing full time and supporting my family with my writing two years ago.

You say in the book, “Most people waste the best years of their life waiting for an adventure to come to them instead of going out and finding one.” That sounds risky. What do you say to parents who live in the tension of wanting safety and security for their family, but knowing finding and following their calling involves risk?

Be honest with yourself. There is risk in jumping out and doing something. But there is also risk in staying comfortable. Ask yourself, “What will happen if I don’t do this?” Maybe nothing.

The greater question is: what creates discomfort for you? Doing and failing? Or not trying?

I love how you talk about “listening to your life” when it comes to discovering your calling. What do you think makes this process so powerful?

We are unaware of our own lives. Awareness is a practice. We deepen that practice through paying attention.

We tend to look at our lives not as stories, but as scenes. We think, how do I get through this week, this day, etc. We look from scene to scene or moment to moment. And we miss the big picture story our lives are telling.

But if my life is a story, then I can ask, what genre is it? What is the conflict in my life’s story? Who are the characters?

The concept of a “portfolio mindset” in The Art of Work sounds like a great format for parents who want to be “present” for their kids, yet fulfill their own life purpose. How does that work?

It’s messy. You have to be careful. Don’t assume your calling is just work. A calling is deeper than that. The fact that I’m a dad colors and gives context to my calling.

Some things won’t get done. But a calling is more complementary to life than competitive.

So what is on your bucket list?

To go to South America. Skydive. Write a novel.

And I would love to take my son to Europe for a few weeks to expose him to the culture there – before he is in middle school.

I have travelled by myself and with people. It’s easier by yourself, but at the end of the journey there is an emptiness. You did cool stuff, but there is nobody to share that with.

There’s nothing like walking over a bridge in Venice and getting to share that with my wife. The same is true for your calling.

For more great advice from Jeff Goins about finding and living your calling, check out his blog at:

Bucket List Time Travel

Could something you loved as a kid (and then forgot about) be the source of a bucket list dream? Don’t neglect reviewing your childhood for ideas when you make your bucket list. You never know what might be possible!

When I was a young girl, I loved the Little House on the Prairie series. I read all of the books and watched the TV series (starring Melissa Gilbert & Melissa Sue Anderson and, of course, Michael Landon). My friends and I would even pretend we were Laura and Mary and imagined doing farm chores and attending a one-room schoolhouse. How I wished I could dress like girls and ladies from that era with their dresses, bustles, and petticoats.

Naper Settlement Schoolhouse

Katherine in the one-room schoolhouse

Like me, my girls have had their favorite historical characters whose stories they have enjoyed following and imitating, only theirs have been from multiple time periods in American history. The American Girl books especially ignited a love for history in my eldest daughter, Bethany. She enjoyed playing pretend about periods past as much as I did.

So you can imagine her delight when we visited our local living history museum, Naper Settlement, and she saw boys and girls dressed in 19th century clothing depicting the experience of attending a one-room schoolhouse. Bethany decided then and there, as a kindergartener, that when she reached the required grade (4th), she too would volunteer there.

Naper Settlement Juniors

Bethany as a fourth grade junior volunteer

By the time that day arrived four years later, her sisters had made the same vow. And noticing a father-daughter duo that volunteered together as costumed interpreters, I made my own promise: I would join as well when, Bethany became a high schooler and moved into giving building tours. It became a bucket list goal of mine. In the intervening years I sewed four costumes for my girls, visited them often while they volunteered, and even took my own turn helping at a Halloween event on the museum’s grounds.

But this year, finally, my turn came. As Bethany moved inside the log cabin as an interpreter, I joined the ranks of Naper Settlement volunteers as an interpreter in the print shop. I attended training and learned the basics of an 1890’s newspaper and printing business. I dove in to tag-team tour leading and even ran the shop on my own one day. But I also spent the past few months sewing all seven period appropriate garments that make up my costume. Last Sunday I made my debut in full attire.

Naper Settlement Volunteers

Evelyn & I

Two of my daughters were on the grounds that day also, Evelyn (11 years), right outside my shop on the village green, and Katherine (14), up the hill outside the log cabin. As we strolled down the walkway before our shift began, the three of us were stopped by a visitor. “Are you Amish?” she asked, looking over our outfits. I quickly explained our role as interpreters and she nodded before asking directions to the meeting house where she was attending a special event.

So yeah, you won’t see me wearing my costume outside of my volunteer time. Which makes it all that more precious for a historical clothing geek like me. I still love pretending I live in a different time period as much as I did as a young girl. I enjoy talking to others about what the experience would have been like. And I especially relish the swish of petticoats under a long, full skirt. Thankfully I’ve found an outlet for my passions. This is one of those bucket list experiences that keeps on going.

If you visit Naper Settlement over the next six months, poke your head into the print shop. You just might find me there, living my bucket list dream!

Talk About It: Post-Adventure Family Conversations

What kind of conversations do you have with your kids after you’ve reached a bucket list goal? What does your “debriefing” look like?
Chez Kent 411bOver Spring Break our family took a few bucket list adventures. Our eldest daughter spent three weeks on a school-sponsored exchange trip to Spain. The rest of us visited the LEGO Discovery Center for the first time. And I worked on a big project preparing for my next bucket list goal.

As much we enjoyed those adventures, we found the conversations we shared afterwards equally important. We heard stories about the differences between Chicago and the Spanish city of Santiago de Compastela. We talked about why we all agreed that it the LEGO trip would have been better for younger kids. And my family gave me feedback on my progress with my project.  We had these conversations not just for the fun of swapping stories (which is a huge part of it), but also because we’ve learned that processing our experiences helps us to appreciate, and deepen, the value of them.

When it comes to bucket list goals in your family, I hope you take the time to talk about them when you have accomplished them. Here are some ways to make the most of your family’s post-adventure chats:

  • Celebrate. Talk about how fortunate you were to be able to accomplish this particular goal. Ask your kids what made it the most memorable for them.
  • Reflect. Encourage your family to think about their individual roles in the experience. What did they do that worked well? What would they have done differently? What would they suggest to someone else approaching the same experience for the first time?
  • Applaud. Have family members exchange words of appreciation and affirmation. If it was a shared experience, ask each one to observe something positive they witnessed about another family member. As parents, share your positive observations.
  • Extract. Point your children toward the growth aspects of the experience. Where did they exhibit new skills or build on character traits? Ask everyone to talk about what they felt they gained from the adventure.
  • Commemorate. Discussing the adventure offers the perfect opportunity to seek your family’s input on how they want to mark the experience. Will you be putting together a photo collage? Or do you plan to display a souvenir? How might your family help you with these projects? Do they have ideas on how to observe or remember reaching that goal?

You may be surprised about what you learn from your kids during these conversations. Their perspective can be refreshing, and allowing them to process for themselves will internalize those experiences in significant ways.

Remember, it’s never too late to chat about the adventures you’ve taken. Make it the topic of your next family dinner and see where it leads!

Photo credit: Chez Kent 411b by Nathan LeClair on Flickr via CC License.

Abundance: Bucket List Goals in Community

Members of the Redbud Writer's Guild at our 2015 Retreat

Members of the Redbud Writer’s Guild at Our 2015 Retreat

I recently had the opportunity to gather with more than 30 other members of the writer’s guild I belong to for our bi-annual retreat. We held workshops, learned from industry professionals, and heard the stories of published members about their road to publication. But more than that, we shared our lives – our hopes, our dreams, our heartaches. And we left profoundly changed by each other’s presence that weekend. I think I can safely say that each member on that retreat has a renewed courage for stepping out to achieve her next writing dream.

In the past week I’ve watched different members chime in on our FaceBook group with blog posts they finally gathered the nerve to write and book proposals that they are at last drafting and submitting. The energy is palpable and it is extending into our group beyond those who attended the retreat.

I’m also part of another online group of writing professionals. We share our career challenges, swap feedback & critiques, and are emboldened by each other’s risk-taking to step out into our own new ventures. And we eagerly champion the works of all the members in the group.

A common theme in both of these groups is a spirit of non-competition that sees the pie as being big enough for everyone to have a piece. In the world of publishing, this attitude of abundance is, unfortunately, extremely rare. Yet it is inexpressibly valuable.

Think about your bucket list. How do you react when someone you know accomplishes a goal that is on your list? It’s hard not to be a little jealous. In fact, I think it’s a natural first reaction. But what do we gain by that? And what instead could we gain by celebrating others’ successes with them? How could we learn from what they are doing that could translate into our future success?

Similarly, who do you know that is pursuing a goal you’ve reached who might benefit from your skills, resources, and knowledge?

It’s easier to take risks and try new things when we have someone beside, behind, and before us. It’s easier to reach our goals when we don’t waste our energy competing with others, but instead lend a hand to lift them up with us or give them our shoulders to stand on.

In what way could your world be better through linking arms with another instead of hoarding your experiences for yourself? What could you do this week to help another person get closer to reaching one of their bucket list goals? Look for ways to foster a spirit of non-competition among your fellow bucket list adventurers. Because abundance begets abundance.

Photo credit: Redbud Writers by Dorothy Greco, used with permission.

From Bucket List Wish to Legacy: A Review of the new book The Art of Work

ArtofWorkRecently I had the opportunity to read an early copy of a new book by Jeff Goins called The Art of Work (coming out next week, March 24th). I have followed Goins’s writing for the past few years, but what impressed me about this book was how well it dovetails with the concepts in my book, Bucket List Living For Moms. For any mom looking to reshape her work life or find a new career, The Art of Work makes the perfect companion to Bucket List Living For Moms.

In it, Goins emphasizes the need to listen to your life for cues about your purpose and calling, a process familiar to readers of Bucket List Living. “The trick is to find your vocation hidden in your life,” Goins says. He goes on to outline the stages involved in finding and fulfilling that vocation, with examples from the stories of how others worked through these stages in identifying their callings.

What readers will find most helpful about The Art of Work are the chapters about how to progress toward turning your aspirations into a lifelong legacy. As Goins notes, “A calling is not merely a moment; it’s a lifestyle, a constant progression of submitting to a larger purpose.”

Use the questions from Bucket List Living For Moms to explore your personal calling and create your unique bucket list of dreams. Then read The Art of Work for a road map to turning some of your bucket list goals and longings into a purposeful work life and meaningful legacy.

Right now Jeff Goins is offering a free paperback copy of The Art of Work. Simply subscribe to his email list and pay $6.99 shipping. You will receive the book, along with a pdf copy, video mini-course and more. Learn about his offer here (note: this is a limited time offer and will probably disappear once the book officially releases on March 24th).

Because of its value in helping chart a fulfilling work life, where vocation and bucket list converge, I have also added The Art of Work to my list of Books & Magazine for Bucket List Living. Check it out for other great works to inspire you in making your bucket list dreams a reality.