What's Your Calling? | Beth's Blog

What’s Your Calling?

Instructional Design

Flickr Photo by SMEXbeirut

At SXSW and facilitating a panel called  A Global Discussion About Networked Nonprofits and Free Agents,  I introduced myself with this photo of me and Lena, the master trainer from Yemen for the E-Mediat Project.   The photo shows us modeling “shoulder to shoulder” learning.  Told the room that nonprofit capacity building was my calling.

Later,  Michael Hoffman, who was in the audience,  introduced me to his friends at “The Calling” and they suggested  I write a guest post about anything I’m passionate about!    So, here it is …

Last summer, at Craigslist Foundation Nonprofit Bootcamp, Chip Conley was the keynote speaker.   He is the author of  of ‘PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow’, and founder and CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality
He spoke about leadership from the heart.    He applies Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to his career in business and his leadership style.

One of the many inspiring things he shared in his talk was the phrase:  “You can have a  job, career, or calling.”    It resonated.

His comment made me reflect over the past 32 years of working in the nonprofit sector.   I had not planned to work in the nonprofit sector.   In 1979, I was in music school as a classical flute performance major.    I found myself more interested in what was going on backstage and than on stage – and followed my passion to working as an arts administrator of  large and small nonprofit arts organizations in all different areas, including executive director of a small chamber orchestra.    My passion was the opportunity for learning and that’s what motivated me.

In 1992, I discovered the Internet, Well, and was hired by the New York Foundation of the Arts to be the Network Weaver for a network for artists, Arts Wire.   In my interview,  I shared that I didn’t know a modem from microwave, but that I had the passion and curiosity to learn and teach others.  They hired me and it turned into a decade of learning and teaching others (artists, arts organizations, and arts educators) how to integrate this technology into their work and organizations.

I had a chance to collaborate with every type of art form, arts management programs,  arts education, and individual artists.   It was always peer learning – I’d share about the technology and they’d teach me about their work.  I learned an incredible amount from collaborating with arts teachers.

Since I believe that it is important to learn from adjacent practices,  I started engaging with the nonprofit technology community in the late 1990’s when it was just a handful of people.  In the early days, the nonprofit technology community  was a small community of that was generously shared its knowledge and skills.  (The same values hold true today over at NTEN).

In 2000,  a nonprofit technology colleague introduced me to blogging and set up a blog on his server.     Later,  he introduced me to Typepad where I started Beth’s Blog in 2003.     My blog started as my Trainer’s Learning Journal – a place to jot down practice and content related to building nonprofit technology capacity!

I feel blessed that what I have gotten paid to do over the past 32 years is something that I love, I’m passionate about, and highly motivated to do.

The above photo is one of my favorites.  The E-Mediat project where  Zoetica was hired to design and deliver the train the trainer’s session.   It was a pleasure to work with experienced trainers – the energy and new ideas were fantastic.  The photo captures a improvised moment in one of the sessions of modeling  “Learning Over Each Other’s Shoulders” as Nancy White likes to call it.

I first heard the phrase ten years ago from a long-time nonprofit technology colleague, Andrew Gianni.  He described the method as an alternative to technology lab classroom skills-based trainings.   His definition:

A style in which the trainer acts as a peer to the student, physically sitting with the student and explaining technical concepts simply. There is a great psychological benefit to this style of training because it helps eliminate notions of superiority and inferiority, and brings the teacher to the same level as the student.

Sticky Note from TechSoup Global Summit (click on image for wiki)

As a trainer and coach,  my experience has been in the “doing” or delivery.   Now, I finding my interests more in the “being” or  train the trainers or process vs content.     This lends itself to a more networked way of working, although it isn’t easy.

Is your work a job or career or is it a calling?

Note from Beth: This post is from the blog tour on the What’s Your Calling? Facebook Page You can subscribe for a chance to win a Calling Dream Kit including $200 in Amazon.com gift credit to buy supplies you’ll need as you pursue your calling, a DVD and poster of The Calling, and an hour of coaching to help plan your project and the chance to share your calling with the community.   This post is cross posted on the site here.

9 Responses

  1. Wow you’ve come a long way baby! Great blog and congrats on doing what you love for 32 years. Your progress with all things technology is inspiring. Also a chip fan… have his book on sales its great

  2. stacey cook says:

    Excellent post, and the article’s links are terrific..will be coming back to explore all of them further. You speak for us when you write “I feel blessed that what I have gotten paid to do over the past 32 years is something that I love, I’m passionate about, and highly motivated to do.”

    That is exactly how we feel….although like you, our first years we lived mostly on “hope and tuna fish sandwiches.” The calling we felt was 100x more powerful than any fiscal common sense. We just kept going. Fitness in education IS our life’s work and passion and not a day goes by that does not bless and enrich us for this journey. Again, nice post Beth! Thx

  3. Heidi Massey says:

    Hi Beth,
    Oh baby is this ever a big topic for me! Incredulous at the number of folks who don’t even know what their passion is. I was fortunate (yes, that is the word I mean) to be let go from my nonprofit position 2 years ago. Add to that, the lousy economy in which I couldn’t find a job and I was forced to reinvent myself. Tho I think what I really did was become more true to who I really am. So now, as a nonprofit community builder and technology evengelist (accidental techie!) I am definitely doing what is my calling. I didn’t know what I was heading toward over the past 2 years. I just knew that my gut just kept propelling me forward. And now, as clients seem to be materializing out of nowhere, I am blissfully happy doing this work. I get paid to help nonprofits build their communities, to engage and to use the tools that are so delightfully suited to engagement for nonprofits. I am regularly pinching myself that I get to do what I do and feel eternally blessed. (And interestingly enough, Michael Hoffman and See3 is one of my wonderful clients!)

    Thanks Beth, for a post that reminds me once again just how lucky I am to be living this life!

  4. When I graduated from a Washington state college in the late 1980s, Microsoft was heavily recruiting journalism majors, especially bilingual ones like me. Not only did you get a very high starting salary for a writer at Microsoft, you got a free desktop computer too. Microsoft was not huge at the time, and I thought working for the company would be boring and uninspiring (there was no Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation back then). Twenty plus years later I still think I made the right choice, even though I suspect with stock options I could be close to a millionaire now. Like you, I see a career as a calling, something that you should feel passionate about (and something that makes the world a better place). You are the perfect example of the saying, “success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Thanks, Beth, for such an inspiring post sharing your path to success, so others can learn and follow suit.

  5. Beth says:

    Hi Stacey: Great to find a kindred spirit. I couldn’t help but notice that your work related to fitness. Would you happen to know of any research about the relationship of movement/fitness and learning?

  6. Beth says:

    Heidi: It’s really funny, I’ve always followed my gut. I’m off the charts myers-briggs intutitive. I had a similar experience as you … I think getting let go from a position or job is a blessing in disguise .. while painful at the time, it is like compost – it gets more valuable as time passes. It also forces reinvention.

  7. Beth says:

    Monica: My happiness comes from learning – even if it isn’t always pleasant or learning from success. It’s what drives me.

    I also find that I have to reinvent myself every five years …. and I don’t always know what the next five year cycle will bring. It usually surfaces in themes or topics and then slowly, but surely a metamorphsis occurs. I’m in that process right now.

  8. Thanks for sharing more of your secrets to success. Reinventing yourself every five years and learning from failure is great advice. We’ve all had our failures and hard times (did you read about Danny Brown’s? Wow!!?!!!), but I don’t think my Microsoft choice is one (I’m sure that’s not what you meant). Hopefully, my life choices since aren’t about cognitive dissonance!!! P.S. I am a strong N on the Myers-Briggs too. Perhaps, that’s yet another reason I love your blog.

  9. I agree–that’s a wonderful photo! And I’m so glad to know more of this story. Thank you for sharing, and for the reminder that there are many paths to one’s true calling (in social work, we call that “equifinality”, and it’s one of my all-time favorite concepts!).