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Naming Our Life’s Calling

Richard Leider Posted by Richard Leider, Inventure - The Purpose Company.

Richard, known to his 1 million readers as "The Purpose Coach", is a bestselling author and international speaker who writes and speaks about living a purposeful life.  He has been featured in a PBS Special-The Power of Purpose.

Naming Our Life’s Calling

Evan Blaser, Creative Commons 2.0

A few years ago, on a business trip to Boston, a cabbie reminded me of how naming our life’s calling can make all the difference.

“So, whattayou in town for?” he asked me as we pulled away from the airport.

“I’m giving a presentation to some business people,” I said, hoping to make it sound uninteresting so the driver would leave me alone.

He didn’t take the hint. “Oh yeah? What’s it about?”

I wasn’t interested in giving the speech twice, so I offered the Reader’s Digest abridged version. “Hearing and heeding your life’s calling. Doing the work you were born to do.”

My cabbie scoffed. “Your life’s -calling?’ C’mon, I drive a cab here. What’s that got to do with a calling?”

I closed my folder and caught the driver’s eyes in the rear-view. “You weren’t born to drive a taxi?”

He just laughed.

“But you like your work well enough?”

He shrugged. “I guess it has its moments.”

“I’m interested. What are those moments?”

“You mean besides quittin’ time?”

I leaned forward and put my hand on the front seat. “I’m serious. Is there any time you feel like you’re really bringing all of yourself to what you do?”

He smirked like he was going to say something sarcastic but then stopped. Gradually, his face softened. He laughed a little and said, “Well, there’s this old lady.”

I stayed silent and he continued.

“A couple times a week, I get a call to pick her up and take her to the grocery store. She just buys a few items. I help her carry them into her apartment, maybe unload them for her in her kitchen, sometimes she asks me to stay for a cup of coffee. It’s no big deal, really; I’m not even sure she knows my name. But I’m her guy. Whenever she calls for a taxi, I’m the guy that goes. And I dunno, just makes me feel good. I like to help out.”

“There’s your calling right there,” I said.

“What?” The smirk returned. “Unloading groceries?”

“You said you like to help out. That’s a pretty clear expression of calling.”

A smile spread across his face. “Well, I’ll be damned. I guess that’s right. Most of the time, I’m just a driver, but when I get that chance to help somebody-as long as they’re not some kinda jerk or something-that’s when I feel good about this job. So, whattayou know? I got a calling.”

He fell silent for the rest of the trip. But I could see his face in the rear-view mirror and even when we hit the midtown traffic, he was still smiling.

That smile stays with me today and reminds me of an essential truth: the more of ourselves we bring to what we do and the more clearly we articulate that-by naming our life’s calling in simple, straightforward terms-the more likely we are to find satisfaction and fulfillment in all that we do.


  • Ask yourself, “When do I bring all of me to what I do?”
  • Name your calling in simple straightforward terms.
  • Make a difference by living your calling.

Richard J. Leider is a founding partner of the Inventure Group, a coaching and consulting firm in Minneapolis, MN, devoted to bringing out the natural potential in people. Author and co-author of six books, including the best seller Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life (Second edition, Berrett-Koehler, 2002) and ClaimingYour Place at the Fire: Living the Second Half of Your Life on Purpose (Berrett-Koehler, 2004), Richard is also an online columnist for Fast Company.

David A. Shapiro is a writer, philosopher, and educator who finds himself drawn again and again-both personally and professionally-to questions about the meaning and purpose of our lives. David is the author of Choosing the Right Thing to Do: In Life, at Work, in Relationships, and For the Planet (Berrett-Koehler, 1999), and is co-author with Richard J. Leider of three books, including their newest, ClaimingYour Place at the Fire: Living the Second Half of Your Life on Purpose (Berrett-Koehler, 2004).