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3 important lessons to help you find your calling.

Most people don't know what to do with their lives. And that's OK.

"We see in order to move; we move in order to see." — William Gibson

These days, there’s a lot of talk about discovering your dream. Now, more than ever, finding calling seems a god-given right for anyone with a brain and an Internet connection. We all want to do work that matters. But the truth is, the journey to get there can be confusing.

More and more people are unwilling to exchange their ideals for a paycheck. But how does this work practically? The place most of us begin is wrong. We search for epiphanies when, in fact, we should be learning to live with ambiguity. The clarity we seek is a myth.


I’m sure there are people who know exactly what they were born to do, who have had a vision of their life since they were six years old. I’ve just never met them. Most who have a dream struggle to articulate it. They don’t know what it is or what it should look like. Often, all they know is this thing that they’re doing is wrong.

So where do you go from there, if all you’ve got is an itch, a vague premonition of an un-lived life?

That was the question I sought to answer in my book, "The Art of Work." I interviewed hundreds of people, trying to figure out what common themes you can see in the lives of people who have discovered what they were meant to do. Here are three lessons I learned.

Lesson 1: Don’t wait for clarity.

"I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust." — Mother Teresa. Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images.

The other day, I was on a call with a young woman who was passionate about getting involved in social work — she just didn’t know where to start.

As the discussion continued, she confessed she didn’t know what her calling was. Was this her dream or just another idea? Due to her own inexperience, she was hesitant to name anything too specific. The hardest part of finding your calling, it seems, is naming it.

The problem, though, is we don’t often know what we should be doing until we start doing it. Experience leads to competence, and competence creates confidence. Until you’ve done a few things, it’s easy to hold back from committing to any certain path. It might, after all, end in failure.

But why is failure something to be avoided instead of embraced?

A calling is the accumulation of a person’s life’s experiences, skills, and passions — all put to work. It is, I believe, what you were put on Earth to do, your assignment, if you will. So you should be a little cautious in naming it, of course. But who said you ever had to get this thing right the first time?

Once you name a dream and chase after it, there are major consequences to that. But I find so many of us are wont to name it without taking any action. I’d prefer the reverse: act, then define what you’re doing. We all want clarity before we’re willing to take action, but more often than not, clarity comes with action.

Take your time in coming to the realization of what you were made to do. Hesitation is only natural. But action is not optional.

Takeaway: Clarity comes with action.

Lesson 2: Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you should quit.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." — Aristotle. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

I’m wary of people who can name their dream immediately without having had any real experience with it. The flame that is fast to light is also the quickest to burn out.

Although you occasionally encounter rare cases of people knowing what they were meant to do since childhood, most struggle with the clarity concept. But what if we at least temporarily disregarded it?

Often, I hear people tell me they would gladly follow their passions in life if they just knew what they were. Or they have too many interests in life and don’t know which one to focus on.

So where do you start?

Instead of following your passion, as Cal Newport says, maybe you should let your passion follow you. We all tend to enjoy activities we’re good at and shy away from the things we’re not. So if you don’t have something like that, don’t wait for passion. Just get so good that the enjoyment soon follows. And if it doesn’t, you can always pick something else.

Naming and claiming a dream is a popular trend these days. What’s far less popular is the disciplined practice of a craft — spending thousands of thankless hours getting great at something before sharing it with the world.

If you tell me "I want to be an author" but have never written a word, I’m skeptical.

If you say "I was born to be a carpenter" but have never lifted a hammer, I’m doubtful.

You may like the idea of being a writer or the image of being on a construction project, but you haven’t done any actual work. You don’t understand the cost of the dream, of putting yourself out there and risking failure. Therefore, it has no real value to you. You have to practice.

But not all practice is equal. In fact, most people have no idea how to do something with excellence, which leaves little wonder why we drift from one meaningless job to the next. Maybe what we need is not less work and more four-hour work weeks, but the kind of practice that demands our total presence and most serious attitude.

This is what Daniel Coyle, author of "The Talent Code," calls "deep practice." It is the kind of the activity that requires all your strength and attention but also ends up being the most fulfilling thing you could possibly do. No, it isn’t always easy, but since when did your calling have to come easy?

And if you choose to wait, to bide your time before beginning to figure out what you were meant to do with your life, well that’s a form of practice, too.

Takeaway: You become what you practice.

Lesson 3: Commit, but be prepared to pivot.

"Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek." — Mario Andretti. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The hardest part of finding your calling is naming it, as it should be. This is your life’s work we’re talking about here. It won’t be easy, and it may take time to figure out. But this constant questioning of yourself and wondering what you’re meant to do can paralyze you. You can get stuck doing nothing.

The truth, though, is you’re not really doing nothing. You’re working at Starbucks or in corporate America. You’re living in your parents’ basement or a loft in the city. You’re contemplating quitting or going back to school. You say you’re waiting for the right opportunity, but let’s be honest:

What you’re doing is stalling.

When you stay stuck in that job you hate without making any movement toward change, when you keep thinking about doing something but never follow through on it, you are wasting an important part of your life. And that’s a shame because what you need to do is not that hard.

You just need to keep moving.

So I propose an alternative, a compromise between doing nothing and picking the wrong dream: Make a seasonal commitment. Choose something that strikes your fancy based on the possibility that it could be your dream. In other words: Experiment. Not in a flaky, noncommittal way. Pick something, and commit to it for a season.

Call it a seasonal dream if you want. Iterate on it until you reach a point where you know this is what you should do or not. Then go deeper or move on. This will give you experience, broaden your skill set, and teach you the value of commitment.

Most likely, this is how you will find your dream. Not by waiting around for a sign from the heavens, but by doing something and doing it with a degree of conviction and commitment that requires you to grow.

Takeaway: When in doubt, commit.

The next step.

There’s one thing you can be sure of: You won’t find your dream by standing still. Finding your life’s work won’t be easy. You will have to work at it. It may, at times, even hurt a little. But it will be the good kind of hurt.

Discovering what you were meant to do will require action and reflection, and this is how awareness of our calling is grown. Which is what will ultimately lead to the realization that this thing you’re doing, this all-important something, just might be what you were born for.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Peter Dinklage in 2013.

Disney has taken another step toward diversifying its iconic princesses by casting Rachel Zegler to play Snow White in its upcoming live-action version of the Grimms’ fairy tale. Zegler’s mother is of Colombian descent and her father has Polish roots. The 20-year-old actress recently wowed audiences in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”

Disney has also announced that Halle Bailey, a Black actress, will play Ariel in its upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”

Disney’s big push toward inclusivity in the casting of its princesses is definitely a welcome move, but according to actor Peter Dinklage, the Mouse may be missing the forest for the trees.

Dinklage, who was born with a form of dwarfism named achondroplasia, criticized Disney on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast for being hypocritical for focusing on race while completely missing the ball when it comes to people with disabilities.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Maron.

"Really? Like what?" Maron asked. "What do you see?"


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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Metallica live in London in 2017 and Sheriff Drumman.

Anthony Eugene Sheriff, known to people across the Los Angeles area as Sheriff Drumman, had his life turned upside down last December when his truck and drum set were stolen at 4:30 a.m. outside his apartment in Hawthorne, California.

“When I got outside, I had a total panic attack,” Sheriff, 34, told the Los Angeles Times. “I fainted in front of my neighbors. I started screaming, I was calling for help like someone had shot me. It felt like the devastating news of a loved one being murdered.

“It means the world to me,” he said about his music. “Without drums, my life would have went a completely different way. There’s no other way to say it. It’s my therapy, it’s my fun, it’s my life.”

After his truck was stolen, Sheriff immediately took to social media to tell his followers to be on the lookout.

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Emily Vondy's mom fail.

Sometimes, we have to just laugh at our failures.

“Here’s a little story to allow all the moms of littles out there to maybe feel a little better about yourself,” Emily Vondy told her 1.3 million TikTok followers.

In a TikTok video that has now garnered more than 500,000 views, Vondy shared perhaps one of the most hilarious “mom fail” stories of all time: forgetting her son’s actual birthdate.
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