What Color is Your Parachute?


This is going to be a long WotD but it’s a good one, so I hope you’ll read it!  Turns out living from your “being” instead of your “doing” is key to your job search…

I recently picked up the perennial best-selling job-searching book What Color is Your Parachute? and started plowing through it as a complement to my on-going job search.  I had never heard of the book, and was turned onto it by a Straus adjunct who got her MPP and JD at Harvard. She informed me that Harvard recommends this book to all its students.  Upon starting the read, I cannot believe nobody has ever pointed me in its direction before!  (Side Note: If you haven’t read it, go get a copy.  I have no idea why Pepperdine isn’t following Harvard’s lead.)

The first appendix is titled “Finding Your Mission in Life” and I am going to reproduce a section of it below for your convenience.  It speaks for itself.

There are usually three stages also to learning what your Mission in life is, and the two earlier stages are not to be disparaged. It is all “Mission” – just different forms of Mission, appropriate to your development at the time. But each stage has to be mastered, in turn, before the next can be approached… [The stages are] defined generally as follows:

1. Your first Mission here on Earth is one that you share with the rest of the human race, but it is no less your individual Mission for the fact that it is shared: and it is, to seek to stand hour by hour in the conscious presence of God, the One from who your Mission is derived. The Missioner before the Mission, is the rule. In religious language, your Mission here is: To know God, and enjoy Him forever, and to see His hand in all His works.

2. Second, once you have begun doing that in an earnest way, your second Mission here on Earth is also one that you share with the rest of the human race, but it is no less your individual Mission for the fact that it is shared: and that is, to do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place, following the leading and guidance of God’s Spirit within you and around you.

3. Third, once you have begun doing that in a serious way, your third Mission here on Earth is one that is uniquely yours, and that is:

a) to exercise the Talent that you particularly came to Earth to use – your greatest gift, which you most delight to use,

b) in the place(s) or setting(s) that God has caused to appeal to you the most,

c) and for those purposes that God most needs to have done in the world

The Two Rhythms of the Dance of Mission: Unlearning, Learning, Unlearning, Learning

The distinctive characteristic of these three stages is that in each we are forced to let go of some fundamental assumptions that our culture has taught us, about the nature of Mission. In other words, throughout this quest and at each stage we find ourselves engaged not merely in a process of Learning. We are also engaged in a process of Unlearning. Thus, we can restate the above three Learnings, in terms of what we also need to unlearn at each stage:

We need in the first stage to unlearn the idea that our Mission is primarily to keep busy doing something (here on Earth), and learn instead that our Mission is first of all to keep busy being something (here on Earth) (emphasis mine). In Christian language (and others as well), we might say that we were sent here to learn how to be sons of God, and daughters of God, before anything else. “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

In the second stage, “Being” issues into “Doing.” At this stage, we need to unlearn the idea that everything about our Mission must be unique to us, and learn instead that some parts of our Mission here on Earth are shared by all human beings: e.g., we were all sent here to bring more gratitude, more kindness, more forgiveness, and more love, into the world. We share this Mission because the task is too large to be accomplished by just one individual.

We need in the third stage to unlearn the idea that the part of our Mission that is truly unique, and most truly ours, is something Our Creator just orders us to do, without any agreement from our spirit, mind, and heart. (On the other hand, neither is it something that each of us chooses and then merely asks God to bless.) We need to learn that God so honors our free will, that He has ordained that our unique Mission be something that we have some part in choosing.

In this third stage we need also to unlearn the idea that our unique Mission must consist of some achievement for all the world to see – and learn instead that as the stone does not always know what ripples it has caused in the pond whose surface it impacts, so neither we nor those who watch our life will always know what we have achieved by our life and by our Mission. It may be that by the grace of God we helped bring about a profound change for the better in the lives of other souls around us, but it also may be that this takes place beyond our sight, or after we have gone on. And we may never know what we have accomplished, until we see Him face to face after this life is past.

Most finally, we need to unlearn the idea that what we have accomplished is our doing, and ours alone. It is God’s Spirit breathing in us and through us that helps us do whatever we do, and so the singular first-person pronoun is never appropriate, but only the plural. Not “I accomplished this” but “We accomplished this, God and I, working together…”

So there you have it! First, we need to unlearn the idea that we are here to do something, and relearn the truth that we are here to be something – Sons of God! Second, we need to allow that ‘being’ to issue into ‘doing.’

Men of eNgage, I hope you’re as encouraged by reading this as I am! This is exactly what we have been focusing on for the beginning of this year! This is exactly what we are learning to help each other do.

And to have it reiterated by a secular job-searching book, written by a Harvard/MIT grad, and further recommended thereby… Who would have guessed!?!

– Jer


1 Response to “What Color is Your Parachute?”

  1. 1 Daniel Robertson
    October 4, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Good stuff! I’m often overwhelmed when I think about everything that I hope to accomplish in life: Have kids, buy a home, have a successful career, be involved in church ministry, evangelize, send my kids to college, influence American politics, etc. Then I remember, God is in control. It is not my mission, but His. He will provide as long as I align myself with His mission. Praise God!

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