Do you think that most people ever find their life calling, their "sweet spot," as you call it in Cure for the Common Life— or even know that they have one?
I was really surprised by some of the statistics, like one out of three people hate their jobs, 70% of people feel ill-equipped and ill-prepared for [their] job. Many people do not exploit their uniqueness and their ability, and that creates a lot of dissatisfaction. This whole idea of each person having a unique place, a unique design, is foreign to many people, as well. I think many people have bought into the myth that if I try hard enough, I can do anything I want to. My contention is, you can, but you won't be happy at it, and you may not be equipped for it. I don't think we can do anything we want to do, but I do believe we can be anything God wants us to be. My angle is to urge people to really explore who they are and try to access that as much as they can.
I imagine a lot of our decisions about jobs are based on what seems to be prestigious and not necessarily what makes us happy.
That's exactly right. Many people get promoted right out of their sweet spot because of prestige, because of a good salary. And I can understand that. I mean, we all have bills to pay, and yet my contention is that we really pay a high price when we allow ourselves to be promoted out of what we do best. I refer in the book two or three times to my father. He was an oil field mechanic out in west Texas. He loved his work. He was the happiest man I've ever known. And two or three times he was offered the chance to be a foreman, to leave the outside work and come indoors and sit at a desk. He wouldn't even think about it, even though that meant more money for the family. He knew he was happiest working with his hands.
In the book, you talk about your own discovery process. What was that like?
When I got into church work, I thought I was supposed to do everything. I think this happens to pastors all the time. The lowest point of my 18 years at the church was after we built our new church building. I was exhausted, and I had worn myself out because I had involved myself in everything from picking out the color of the carpet to choosing the builder [and] determining how much we were going to spend on a foundation. I had no business in those meetings. But I thought I was supposed to be there. I've since discovered that there are certain things in church life that I have no interest and no ability in. It makes more sense to me to focus the most on what I do the best. It's a fresher way, I think, focusing on our sweet spot and trying to live out of that.