Vocation: My Mission in Life

The dictionary defines the word ‘vocation’ as a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling. It can also be defined as a function or station in life to which one is called by God. Growing up Catholic, I heard this word a lot when I was in school. I think it was the Catholic Church’s not-so-subtle way of trying to recruit boys into becoming priests. “Normal people have careers, but those true to God know what their vocation is,” I recall Sister Mary Somethingorother telling me once. The way I figure it, if God wanted me to become a priest, He wouldn’t have created boobs.

Still, I believe in the concept of vocation. I believe we are all placed on Earth for a purpose; to play a specific role in His creation. I whole-heartedly believe God has blessed me with a divine task during my time here on Earth, but it has nothing at all to do with being a man of the cloth. Ironically, however, my vocation is one that still requires people to call me father. Two people to be exact.

There is no doubt in my mind my sole purpose in life is to be an exceptional dad. Not a good dad. Not a great dad. Not just an a’ite dad. An exceptional dad. A phenomenal dad. The best dad ever.

Granted, I know I can never be that. Like a perfect GPA in college, once you slip up, you can never get back to 4.0. It’s mathematically impossible. I believe my life’s journey and the transgressions I’ve experienced are akin to that, and those decisions will forever stain my resume as a dad. Nevertheless, I am resolved to make an effort every day and with everything I do to atone for the sins of my past. I am very fortunate my children were so young when my first wife and I split up, and their frame of reference continues to shift from a memory of mommy and daddy together to that of what our current situation reflects.

All that being said, I strive to be the best parent to my children I can possibly be. I like to think I don’t spoil them, yet there is not much which they lack in terms of the ‘things’ they have. By my standard as a kid growing up, my children are very rich. Still, I make sure they appreciate the value of money. I teach them to be respectable and honest, kind and unselfish. I do my best to lead by example; often times forgoing something I want to do in order to teach them the lesson of what is the right thing to do.

As they get older, I find I must give up some of the strict disciplinarian role in order to make room for the more patient and wise consultant. Gone are the days of very narrow limitations and binary choices that set the boundaries they knew as infants and toddlers. Now their choices are quite multiple, all with varying levels and parameters of depth, impact, and consequence. I find where before I would raise my voice and fall back on my trusted “because I say so” argument, I now break into mini-pep talks where the discipline is found in the lesson of the moment. Put another way, I’ve evolved from Nick Saban into Tony Dungy.

I say all this knowing I don’t do it alone. I’ve always said about my ex-wife that I would not want anyone else to be the mother of my children. She and I have always been on the same page when it comes to parenting, and I am so damn lucky that through all that happened, that aspect of our relationship never changed.

Being a dad is not always easy, but it is so incredibly rewarding. I feel it whenever I am complimented about my children. It’s a sense of validation and justification for the many trials and tribulations that come with being a parent. From a long term perspective, my vision is of two individuals who are pillars of their respective communities. Strong and intelligent leaders who are also humble and reverent human beings. That is what I want my kids to become, and that is what I feel it is my mission in life to produce. That is my contribution to my community and this planet. That is my vocation.

As a quick aside, my dad would have been seventy-seven years old today. I wish he were still around to see how beautiful, charming, witty, and fun his grandchildren have become. But I know he’s in Heaven looking down and smiling, and thankful that I never ended up becoming a priest.

Change Your Mind

It’s not your life … it’s how you choose to look at your life.

It’s pretty amazing what a little change in perspective can do. It’s really amazing what the power of thought can do. These are principles I’ve known for quite some time now, but it was only until recently that I had the opportunity to truly study them and learn to use them in my day to day life.

I’ve been a fan of the band Sister Hazel for quite some time now, and I make no secret about how their music and the community of Sister Hazel fans – affectionately known as Hazelnuts – have had such an incredible influence in my life. One of Sister Hazel’s songs in particular that has been an inspirational beacon to not only myself but to so many others is ‘Change Your Mind’. It’s a song about perspective. It’s a song about point of view. It’s a song about letting go of all the noise that tends to make blurry our priorities and finding clarity in the simplicity of taking a new and different look at our lives.

“Did you ever think there might be another way to just feel better, just feel better about today?”

Over the course of the last several years, Sister Hazel frontman Ken Block, in collaboration with his wife Tracy and his friends at 4th Street Training, Dave Neal and Ray White, has developed a workshop for personal betterment that is centered on the principles of ‘Change Your Mind’. I recently had the privilege of participating in the pilot program for this workshop, and to say it was life-changing would be an understatement.

I’ve always considered myself a very fortunate individual with a personal history void of major hurdles, trauma and catastrophic events. I am very blessed and my life, for the most part, has always been in what I would consider a good place. I did not go into the workshop feeling lost or confused or seeking some higher form of enlightenment. Quite the contrary. I was bursting with excitement and anticipation knowing how much the song has meant to me and so many others, and eager to see how the workshop would be built around the concept of positive thinking. To put it simply, my expectations were met and exceeded, and the whole experience was so positively overwhelming.

From the beginning, the workshop was an exploration into my priorities and core values; understanding what is truly important to me and how I can incorporate those values into my life journey. It was an exercise in aligning my goals and dreams with these core values, and making sure my thoughts and actions support both the short and long term vision of who I want to be and what I set out to accomplish. The workshop showed us how to dream big and then create a plan to realize these dreams. It was eye-opening, thought provoking and, most importantly, inspiring.

It was also very rewarding in many different levels. Having had the privilege of knowing Ken Block for several years, it was very cool to be able to see and appreciate the person he was during the workshop. Ken is well known for being an open, humble and approachable musician. I imagine whatever ego he has is something he displays behind closed doors. Still, during the workshop we got to see Ken Block, the man with the Master’s degree in counseling and the person who lives with a spirit of giving back and doing positive things for others. He was still his fun-loving and jovial self, but it was great to see him be also very deep and passionate as he addressed the group. Pair this with the focus and energy from his wife Tracy, the superb presentation and group management skills of Ray White, and the excellent ‘behind-the-scenes’ work of David Neal and Danny Thomas, the Change Your Mind workshop was an experience like no other.

The best part of CYM is that it does not stop once the workshop is over. The program is designed to be ongoing, with the community of CYM participants working together to support each other’s visions, and to continually make better the program as it grows and evolves over time. Whether you feel stuck in a rut or that life is good and on cruise control, the CYM workshop has something for everyone. It is a program I highly recommend. If you’re unsure about looking into the workshop, just remember that changing your life is as simple as changing your mind.

Please follow these links for more information on Sister Hazel, Ken Block (Facebook), 4th Street Training and the Change Your Mind workshop. You can find the CYM workshop on Twitter at @CYMProject