Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sent to my nephews last month

Something that I sent to my teenage nephews last month (the oldest might be in his early 20s). I sometimes wish I had thought more about these things when I was their age. No idea whether it'll help but, well, I've put the bug in their ear anyway.

27 January 2007

Dear nephews,

It was a great blessing to see you guys last month. You're bright and energetic with a lot of potential. You've got your whole lives ahead of you (as they say), but it's not too early to think about what you're going to do with them.

Jenny has been thinking about this lately, as she considers her college options. To help her with this, I picked up a copy of What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. This book contains a lot of tips for finding a job, but more importantly it has some terrific exercises to help figure out what kind of work you're suited for.

I did (some of) the exercises a couple of times, once way back in the 1980s, and once in about 2001. The latter time, when I was in my 40s, I got a real surprise: I learned that I loved to communicate – something I hadn't really recognized before! It would be hard to overstate how much this book has helped me.

For that reason, and more, I want to offer to send you your own copy if you'd like to read it. (If both Anthony and Benjamin want one, I propose to send just one at first; if after looking at it you each want your own, I'll happily send another.)

Recent editions have something that I don't remember seeing before: a section on finding your mission in life. I'll summarize it briefly for you here, so you can get a taste of the guy's thinking. Basically, in Bolles's view, you have three missions in life:

First is to try to stand, hour by hour, in the conscious presence of God -- the one you get the rest of your mission from.

Second is to do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, etc., to make the world a better place, following the leading and guidance of God's Spirit in and around you.

Those first two missions are shared with everyone else. The third one, he says, is yours alone:

  • to exercise that talent which you particularly came to Earth to use -- i.e., your greatest gift, which you most delight to use
  • in the place(s) or setting(s) which God has caused to appeal to you the most
  • for the purposes which God wants most to accomplish in the world

That's it: you have a mission from God, three of them actually. The third one especially takes thought, introspection; it takes some real work. And it's your responsibility. Your parents and friends can help, but ultimately it's up to you.

True confession: at your age I didn't think much about this. Actually I just sort of did what others expected of me for my first, oh, 25 years or so. You know - I went to the next level of school; when I graduated from college I got a job and did what they told me. (At one point, when I was about 22, I decided to follow Jesus. I'd be delighted to tell you all about that.) But otherwise, I tended to choose the path of least resistance.

So what do you think? Does this "mission" stuff seem reasonable to start thinking about? A lot of how you go about finding your mission has to do with stories. Your stories. Bolles gives a lot of help in figuring out how to find, write, and learn from them.

Are you ready to start? Let me know and I'll send you a copy!

your uncle,


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